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How Can Water Efficiency Be Improved in New Homes?

Posted by Jamie Mascarin


Green building entails more than just using eco-friendly construction materials or improving energy efficiency. Increasingly, it’s also encompassing water usage. In fact, it’s now possible to build a certified water-wise house or multifamily unit from the ground up.


In 2014, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency established criteria for WaterSense Labeled Homes. These criteria apply not only to single-family homes and townhomes, but also to residential units in buildings that are no taller than three stories. These units can be in mixed-used buildings as well, provided the residential units have their own separate heating, cooling and hot-water systems.

A new WaterSense Labeled Home must be built by a WaterSense builder partner. Contractors, program managers and inspectors can also become WaterSense licensed certification partners (see the EPA's website for more information).

A WaterSense home checklist

The goal of a WaterSense Labeled Home is to use at least 20 percent less water than a conventional home. In order to achieve this, the home must be inspected to meet the following criteria:

  • No visible leaks
  • Static service pressure that’s tested to be 60 psi or less
  • Hot water temperature changes of 10 degrees within 0.6 gallons or less, and storage of no more than 5 gallons between the hot water source and any fixture. The EPA has a guide to help you learn which plumbing design option—demand-initiated recirculation, a trunk and branch system, a core system or a whole-house manifold—is best for various types of homes.
  • WaterSense-labeled toilets, bathroom faucets and showerheads
  • Kitchen faucets with a maximum flow rate of 2.2 gallons per minute
  • ENERGY STAR®–certified dishwashers and clothes washers
  • Evaporative cooling systems that use a maximum of 3.5 gallons of water per ton-hour of cooling
  • Landscaping that complies with WaterSense’s Water Budget Tool
  • Sprinkler systems that are installed and audited by WaterSense-licensed certification partners, use WaterSense irrigation controllers and are independently metered for multifamily units
  • Covered pools and spas in single-family homes. In multifamily dwellings, pools and spas should be independently metered, use a gutter or grate system, and have sorptive media (pre-coat) or a cartridge filtration system.

Help from partners

The EPA has a Partner Directory to help you find approved WaterSense home inspectors, product manufacturers, retailers, distributors and trade associations in your area.

Home Depot, which received a 2016 WaterSense Sustained Excellence award from the EPA, has an Eco Options tab on its website that includes a water conservation page. Along with links to WaterSense-certified fixtures, the page also includes links to do-it-yourself home-efficiency audits and savings calculators for water-efficient hot water heaters, washing machines, dishwashers, faucets, showerheads and toilets.

Lowes has a direct link to its WaterSense product offerings.


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