December 2008

Volume 17, Number 12

Get the PDF

By downloading this digital content, you agree to BuildingGreen’s terms and conditions of use.

Article Contents

Innovations in Water Conservation Products

Printer-friendly versionSend to friend

The first annual WaterSmart Innovations Conference in October 2008 brought 1,200 attendees to Las Vegas, the driest and one of the fastest growing major cities in America. The exhibition featured 120 companies showing off their water conservation products. We review ten of the most exciting here.

Eco-Vac Waterless Alternative to Pre-Rinse Spray Valves


Pre-rinse spray valves are huge water users in commercial kitchens (see EBN Vol. 17, No. 2). A Seattle company has introduced an alternative that uses no water and allows food waste to be collected for composting. Eco-Vac EV-200 is a pre-cleaning station with a vacuum tube that sucks food waste off plates and cookware, sending that compostable waste to a bucket lined with a biodegradable plastic bag. For heavy build-up, there’s a button that releases a small amount of biodegradable degreaser.

The EV-200 retails for $25,000. Company president Mark Arnold says it should pay back in 18 to 24 months based on energy savings alone, though EBN was unable to verify such dramatic savings (Arnold’s assumption for water-heating cost, 8¢ per gallon, or about 2¢/liter, seems unreasonably high). Another benefit may be reduced drainline cleaning by keeping food scraps and grease from going down the drain. The 230-volt vacuum pump draws about 4 amps continuously but is configured to shutoff after a user-set period of inactivity.

The Eco-Vac’s introduction at WaterSmart marks the conclusion of eight years of development, including two-and-a-half years of testing at a restaurant where the system handled 300 to 500 racks of dishes per day. Eco-Vac is approved by UL, NSF, and CSA. While the manufacturer hasn’t shipped a commercial unit yet, it says it can deliver in six to eight weeks. When more units are in use, we will be interested in learning whether the need to pre-rinse plates singly—as opposed to pre-rinsing a full rack—may be a drawback.

For more information:


Clinton, Washington


Watermiser Faucet Flow-Control Valves and Waterbrooms


This San Marcos, California, company offers significant water-saving opportunities with quite different products. Watermiser flow-control valves can be installed on kitchen or bath faucets and spigots to reduce water flow. Unlike low-flow aerators, these are installed by a plumber on the cold-water and hot-water supply lines under the sink. According to Watermiser president John Schommer, the removal of faucet aerators is a big problem in schools because kids remove the screens to use in pipes for smoking marijuana (who knew?). Faucet aerators are also increasingly prohibited in hospitals due to concerns about bacteria thriving there.

For faucets with separate hot and cold controls, a pair of these flow control valves is needed (they’re sold by the pair); for single-handle faucet valves just a single valve is required. They are available in any flow-rate desired, from 0.5 gallons per minute (gpm; 2 lpm) to 10 gpm (38 lpm). In multi-story hotels with significantly different water pressures on different floors, Watermiser has been able to achieve uniform 1.25 gpm (4.7 lpm) faucet flows throughout by using slightly different flow-control valves on different floors.

Watermiser’s Waterbroom is a low-flow, high-pressure broom for cleaning driveways, hospital floors, and other places where powerwashers are typically used. Available in both residential and commercial models, these waterbrooms use about 2 gpm (8 lpm), compared with 8–18 gpm (30–68 lpm) for conventional power-washers. When the broom is operated at walking speed, this water use translates to about 1½ tablespoons (22 ml) of water use per square foot.

For more information:


San Marcos, California


PermaFlow Replacement P-Trap


PermaFlow is a clear acrylic replacement for P-traps under sinks. The trap is engineered to generate turbulent flow to minimize clogging, but if clogging does occur, there’s a rotating mechanical rubber scraper integral to the trap. As an added feature, if a ring or other object falls down the drain, the scraper can rotate to divert flow and keep the ring from going farther. With the clear acrylic pipe, the object should be visible and can be captured with a hook without removing the P-trap.

The chief benefits of the PermaFlow P-trap are reduced need for expensive drain-clearing maintenance and avoidance of highly caustic and environmentally dangerous chemical drain cleaners. It also may reduce the entry of sewer gases and harmful bacteria into the living space, both because of reduced build-up of bacteria-laden biofilm and because the P-trap is less likely to be removed for cleaning or object recovery. If a higher flow rate would otherwise be provided to prevent clogging, then it can also lead to water savings.

For more information:

PF WaterWorks

Houston, Texas


Leak Beeper


The Leak Beeper, a little gizmo that fits in a toilet’s overflow and refill tube, detects leaking flush-valves, faulty fill-valves, and other water-flow problems in gravity-flush toilets. After the product is installed, the toilet is flushed to calibrate it to the normal refill time for that toilet. After calibration, any water passing over the detector after that time is flagged as a potential leak. A battery-powered unit installs on the outside of the tank, where LED lights blink when a leak is detected. The Leak Beeper, which was just unveiled at WaterSmart, is intended for the hospitality industry, where there are hundreds of toilets and custodial staff who regularly check them. The cost is $45 retail and about $36 for high-volume purchases.

For more information:

Leak Beeper

Brentwood, Tennessee

800-848-0617, 866-961-5558

Effishower Controller for Showers


The Effishower is an automatic shutoff for showers designed to reduce water that is wasted while shampooing or lathering. The product, which is installed on a conventional shower without replacing the existing valve, allows the shower to operate for 45 seconds, then turns it off. To get another 45 seconds of flow, the user pushes a button; the temperature mix is maintained. The idea is to wet the body during the 45-second flow, lather up after the water shuts off, then use one or two additional cycles for rinsing. There is no limit to the number of cycles. The unit attaches between the stem and showerhead, with flexible metal tubing diverting the flow through a re-start control unit, which attaches by suction onto the shower wall.

The European developers of the Effishower, who introduced the product at WaterSmart, experimented with different shower lengths and found 45 seconds to be about right for rinsing. They claim water savings of up to 85%, though this is a brand-new product without a base of user experience. (The company has a simple calculator on its website to estimate savings.) It is currently available only through the Effishower’s website (priced at $48.95). It seems particularly appropriate for gyms.

For more information:


Louisville, Kentucky


Evolve Shower Valve and Showerhead from ShowerStart


The Evolve Ladybug showerhead adapter is a unique product that helps people reduce water and energy waste while waiting for hot water. When most showers are first turned on, users have to wait for hot water to reach the showerhead; the length of the wait depends on how far the shower is from the water heater, the flow rate of the showerhead, and the diameter of the hot-water piping. Adding to this waste, a lot of people leave the water running while they do something else—letting hot water flow into an empty shower. For these people, the Evolve Ladybug shower valve or the Evolve Roadrunner showerhead can reduce this waste.

A user turns on the hot water, and when 95°F (35°C) water reaches the shower a wax-activated valve reduces the flow to a trickle. To restart the full flow, the user twists the knob on the unit or pulls an attached cord. After each use, the showerhead adapter resets. The Evolve Ladybug adapter, which retails for $29.95 in chrome, is installed between the shower stem and the showerhead. The Roadrunner showerhead, with an integral Evolve shut-off valve, has a water-conserving flow rate of 1.59 gpm (6.02 lpm). It retails for $39.95 in chrome and $45.95 in brushed nickel.

For more information:

ShowerStart, LLC

Scottsdale, Arizona


Bushman Water Harvesting


An Australian manufacturer of rainwater storage tanks, Channel Commercial Corporation, entered the U.S. market in 2008 through its subsidiary Bushman Rainwater Harvesting. The California-based company offers a wide range of polyethylene tanks for either above-ground or underground installation. Slimline tanks, which have a thin profile and are designed for residential applications, are available in 130-, 305-, or 620-gallon (500-, 1,150-, and 2,350-liter) sizes. Larger tanks with a round footprint are sized from 660 to 2,825 gallons (2,500–10,700 liters). Multiple tanks can be daisy-chained together for custom-sized storage. The company will also be introducing tanks designed for below-ground installation.

Bushman tanks are manufactured in California using rotationally molded, food-grade polyethylene. The company provides a full rainwater collection kit with leaf catcher, first-flush unit, and pump. Although Bushman’s parent company, Channel Commercial, makes boxes for outdoor pumps and electrical boxes using 90% recycled polyethylene, the Bushman tanks themselves do not contain recycled content. The company has ten distributors in the U.S. and seven in Canada, and the tanks cost from about $500 to $4,000.

For more information:

Bushman USA

Temecula, California


Bushman Canada

Mississauga, Ontario




Unlike other water-savings devices for showers that modify the flow in some way, the ShowerMinder aims to influence user behavior using LED indicator lights. Set for three, five, or eight minutes, the ShowerMinder displays a green light at the start of a shower. Thirty seconds before time is up, the yellow light comes on. Then a red light comes on—and starts flashing. The unit has two nickel metal hydride batteries that are kept charged by five photovoltaic cells that operate with as little as 50 lumens of light.

Because the ShowerMinder is installed up at the showerhead level, a user has to glance upward to see it, which may limit its effectiveness. The retail cost is $119, with volume discounts available for commercial applications. Samples of the ShowerMinder have been out for testing for about three years; the first full production run of 10,000 units will be available in 2009.

For more information:

ShowerMinder, LLC

Ventura, California


Zurn One-Pint Urinals


EBN covered the launch two years ago of Zurn’s pioneering EcoVantage ultra-high-efficiency urinal, which uses just one pint, or 0.125 gallons (0.47 l), of water per flush (see EBN Vol. 15, No. 11). Now, Zurn has expanded its line of one-pint urinals to at least seven models to allow replacement of the wide variety of urinals currently in place. They are all sensor-controlled (battery or hard-wired), and have a manual button override.

For more information:

Zurn Industries, Inc.

Sanford, North Carolina


– Alex Wilson

Comments (0)

Post new comment

Welcome !
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Glossary terms will be automatically marked with links to their descriptions. If there are certain phrases or sections of text that should be excluded from glossary marking and linking, use the special markup, [no-glossary] ... [/no-glossary]. Additionally, these HTML elements will not be scanned: a, abbr, acronym, code, pre.

More information about formatting options

November 24, 2008