Sunday, August 29, 2010

Interpreting Showerheads

Plumbing code enacted in 1992 restricts showerheads to a maximum of 2.5 gallons per minute (GPM). The plumbing industry has always interpreted the code as applying to a single showerhead. As we in the plumbing industry understood it, showering systems featuring multiple showerheads, handshowers, and body sprays conform to the law as long as each showerhead or spray is limited to 2.5 GPM. However, the Department of Energy (DOE) argues that this was not the intent of the original water conservation regulation. The intent, according to the DOE, was to limit the entire showering compartment to 2.5 GPM. As is often the case with plumbing code, application and enforcement is left open to interpretation and, in this case, interpretation did not match intent.

In June, the DOE set out to clarify its definition. The proposal defines all showerheads in a single showering compartment as a single showerhead. The 2.5 GPM limit applies to the entire showering compartment regardless of the number of showerheads. This stricter limitation could take effect as early as October.

Multi-head shower systems aren't common in old homes. The average old home owner is either unaware of, or unconcerned with, this impending change. However, even old home remodeling projects may be impacted. While a clawfoot tub shower does not typically feature multiple overhead showerheads, many clawfoot tub shower enclosure sets do include a handheld shower in addition to the showerhead. Under the new proposal, shower enclosures that offer the convenience of a handheld shower in addition to the stationary showerhead may not conform to the new code.

The plumbing industry and the Department of Energy continue to debate the proposal. If it goes as plumbing code typically goes, the final proposal will still leave much to interpretation.

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