Delivering savings in water usage and tenant bills

A big consumer of water in social housing is the bathroom. Here, Stuart Reynolds from AKW discusses how inclusive sanitaryware and showers are now being designed to promote water and energy-saving, delivering long-term savings that ultimately benefit tenant bills

With water bills seeing their largest rise in England and Wales in almost 20 years, many social housing providers are looking at incorporating water efficiency into their energy saving and fuel poverty agendas. Starting with the bathroom.

The design, construction and management of buildings is key in delivering savings in water usage and associated energy bill reductions for tenants. However, the way in which the building is managed and maintained to ensure efficient operation and the minimisation of leaks is also important, along with the specification of low water consumption products and encouraging responsible use by tenants.

Obviously, it is easier to deliver water efficiency in a new build, compared to refurbishment projects, however there is still an argument for replacing some water-using fittings with ones that deliver net savings over their lifecycle period. Also, for those existing fittings where it isn’t practical to replace them, there is an increasing wealth of retrofit devices that can deliver cost-savings by improving the performance of the original fitting.

Step-by-step water efficiency

When it comes to water efficiency, WRAP recommends three ‘practice levels’ of efficiency for procurement requirements: Baseline practice – fittings and appliances that meet legal requirements but do not offer appreciable water savings compared to others on the market; efficient practice – fittings and appliances offering reduced water consumption in comparison to baseline practice products, without materially impacting cost or performance for most types of use; and highly efficient practice – fittings and appliances offering reduced water consumption in comparison to efficient practice products, but which are not necessarily comparable in cost or performance.

Looking at the levels of efficiency in practice, moving from one level to another can deliver significant savings on high water usage fittings. Taking the mixer shower as an example, using WRAP’s figures, it has a 12 l/min at baseline, but in efficient practice this can drop to ≤10 l/min and ≤6 l/min in highly efficient practice. With baseline showers having a flow of 12 l/min and the average shower being 10 minutes long – that’s up to 150 litres of water with every shower. It is no surprise therefore that reduced flow mixer electric showers that can monitor water usage, frequency, and energy consumption are increasingly being specified in social housing.

The popularity of mixer showers is due in part to the water and energy savings they can deliver. A case in point is an eco-save mixer shower, which is ideal for social housing, as it is a thermostatic and pressure balancing mixer shower that has been designed to deliver anti-scald, anti-legionella, efficiency, and value for money benefits. The environmentally friendly design of this shower also means it achieves water and energy savings of up to 70% compared to typical mixer showers, while ensuring that there is no compromise in comfort for users.

Although a lot of today’s sanitaryware is being designed with water efficiency in mind, adding water saving products to existing sanitaryware and ensuring that leaks are resolved quickly can also save a lot of water. Using a toilet cistern displacement device for example, saves up to 5,000 litres of water per year and fixing leaking toilets and taps up to five full bathtubs of water per day!

Inclusive bathrooms & water saving

Energy- and water-savings can also be achieved with the right choice of showers in inclusive bathrooms too. For example, the flow on AKW’s SmartCare Plus care shower can be reduced via audible and illuminated indicators, making it easy to use, even for those with visual impairments. It also has automatic shut off after 30 minutes in case the user forgets to turn off the water.

Some tenants need toileting aids such as bidets. It might seem counter-intuitive, but it takes more water to manufacture toilet paper than it does to operate an efficient bidet. This might not mean a direct reduction to water bills, but bidets do reduce consumption of toilet paper and contribute to environmental savings. There are also now a wide range of options available, from free-standing to built-in and over-toilet seat attachments. Over recent years there has been an increase in demand from social landlords for non-permanent solutions, such as AKW’s Side-Entry Bidet, as they are quick to install, and cause minimum disruption to tenants. 

Sanitaryware and shower design is evolving to suit today’s needs, and contemporary and water efficient designs are on the rise. Now is the time to make sure that your new or refurbished inclusive bathrooms meet the tenant’s financial as well as functional needs.

Stuart Reynolds is UK marketing and product management director at AKW