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The basic idea behind water-saving devices is to restrict water consumption rates where heaviest use occurs. Indoor water usage runs at about 40 percent for toilets, 30 percent for baths and showers (more for baths), 15 percent for clothes washers and 15 percent for cooking and kitchen use.


The first target for water conservation is the toilet. A number of devices are designed to reduce the amount of water used to flush a conventional toilet.

One such device is a dual-flush mechanism that allows about one-half tank flush for liquid waste by depressing the tank lever handle in the normal manner and full-tank flush for solid waste by depressing the lever and holding it down. These devices can save from 40 to 50 percent of normal water consumption.

There are also water-saving toilets that have smaller holding tanks and use less water to flush.

Leaks in the toilet tank can also be a source of excess water usage. These are usually due to worn out parts. Leaks can be detected by adding dark food coloring to the tank and checking about 20 minutes later to see if the toilet bowl water has turned the same color.


Showers and baths are the next target for water saving. The most common devices are flow-control valves, flow restrictors and aerators that can be added to existing fixtures. New showerheads can also be installed that feature water-saving capabilities.

There is a distinct difference between a flow-control valve and a flow restrictor. The flow-control valve restricts the flow of water to about 2.75 gals. per minute, automatically making adjustments for water-pressure changes.

A flow restrictor does not make an automatic adjustment if the pressure changes. Therefore, more water is used as the pressure increases.

Some of these devices have manual controls to adjust water flow from flood to shutoff. Many include a weep to help prevent back pressure in the pipes.

Many of these showerheads also have manual controls to adjust the amount of water flow so less water can be used for soaping and more for rinsing.

These devices help restrict the flow of water from a typical rate of seven gals. Per minute to about two to three gals.


The third target for water saving around the home is the bathroom and kitchen faucets. Like the shower or bathtub, water is consumed at the rate of about 7 gals. Per minute. A restrictor (or aerator) can reduce the flow to 2- to 3- gals. Per minute.

There are models which automatically adjust the flow to 2- to 3- gals. per minute. There are models which automatically adjust the flow rate according to water-pressure changes and other models which do not make automatic compensations. Some have manual controls for the consumer to preset the amount of restriction.

Several states, such as New York and California, have code requirements on faucets and showerheads. Since these water-saving devices also control the proportion of hot water used, they have the additional selling point of being a fuel saver.


Garbage disposers fit standard 3-1/2″ to 4″ sink drain openings and are installed under the sink drain. Garbage is deposited in the sink opening; it drops into the disposer hopper onto a high-speed rotating table powered by a sealed motor.

Impellers fling the waste against a stationary shredder, cutter or grinder; this action, together with a full flow of cold running water which must be used while the disposer is operating, reduces the garbage to fine particles and flushes them down the drain to the sewage system.

Cold water congeals grease and prevents it from coating the drain line. Hard particles, such as bone and eggshell, actually scour the drain line as they whirl down and help keep it clean.

Continuous-feed disposers are just what the name implies-garbage can be fed while the machine is in operation.

These disposers are controlled by a wall switch and operated with a continuous flow of cold water. A flexible splash guard at the disposer opening stops back splash and helps to catch nonfood items that may accidentally fall into the opening.

Batch-feed disposers grind or pulverize food wastes one load at a time. The hopper is filled and cold water added. When the cover is put in place, the unit begins operating. Some models have a magnetic switch control in the cover; others require a locking turn of the cover to activate the unit. No other switch is necessary.

Most garbage disposers are powered by a sealed motor requiring an electrical hookup; there is one type, however, that uses water pressure to power the impeller and flush away refuse, eliminating the need for electrical wiring.

Disposers will grind most garbage, but they are not intended for glass, crockery, leather, metal, newspaper, paper cartons, rubber or plastic.

Persons with septic tanks should not grind cigar and cigarette stubs or lobster, crab and shrimp shells. Tobacco will impede the bacterial action in the tank; seafood shells cannot be decomposed by bacterial action and will sink to the bottom of the tank, adding to the sludge.


Copper-, stone- and glass-lined water heaters perform better than unlined aluminum or galvanized steel heaters. However, a stainless-steel alloy called HWT is designed to resist corrosion as well as the lined models.

Unlined galvanized steel tanks perform least well, but they are the least expensive and may prove satisfactory in localities where the water supply does not have adverse effects on equipment.

Internal tank corrosion can be appreciably inhibited by an anticorrosion device which is not required for copper-lined tanks. A magnesium-coated metal rod is hung inside the tank 3″ or 4″ away from the bottom. Because the magnesium paper eventually will be eaten away, the rod should be inspected from time to time and replaced when necessary.

Better-grade, nonmetallic gas water heaters are also entering the market. The tanks, although more expensive than metal models, are light, easy to install and corrosion-proof.


Hot water insulation kits contain enough insulation to cover up to an 80-gal. hot water tank, a lid and the tape needed to install the “blanket” of insulation. No special knowledge is required to install the hot-water tank insulation. There are simple “how-to” instructions on the package.


Tankless water heaters are small heating units that are hooked into plumbing lines and heat water only as needed. They do not store water but heat it as it moves through the unit.

Larger tankless heaters are installed at the point where water enters the house; smaller units are installed at the point where water is used, thus requiring more than one in a house. Some operate on house current, others on gas.

Some of the larger units require different-sized plumbing lines and different-sized flue vents than do tank-type heaters. If gas fueled, the heater must be properly vented; if electric, it may need to be wired with two units in series which may not be practical for existing home wiring. Larger units require a 220V or 240V line; smaller ones will operate on standard 110V lines.

Tankless heaters are more expensive than tank types; the small ones retail for upwards of $200 and the larger models cost $500 or more. They do, however, produce savings in annual energy consumption and cost.

Although tankless heaters will deliver continuous hot water, they are limited in quantity. The central units cannot support hot-water demands from several points at the same time; obviously, the smaller units will heat water delivered only at the points where they are installed.

Because of the high initial cost and the fact that American consumers are not used to the limitations these heaters place on the availability of hot water, recommended use is to supplement existing tank-type heaters or in summer homes or locations where demand for hot water is light.

How to Select the Right Size Water Heater
No Home Laundering # of People in Family 1 (in gal.) 1-1/2 2 3
2 30 30 30 40
3 30 30 40 40
4 30 50 50 50
5 40 50 50 50
6+ 50 50 50 50
W/ Automatic Washer 2 40 40 40 50
3 40 50 50 50
4 50 50 50 50
5 50 50 50 50
6+ 50 50 50 50
# of People Using Hot Water* W/ Washer W/O Washer
3 66 52
5 82 66
7 82 82
* Count each child under 7 as two persons. Note: In homes with more than one bathroom, order high-speed model or one size larger.


Water softeners help remove minerals (magnesium, calcium, iron) that cause “hard” water.

Quality water softeners have either fiberglass linings or steel tanks which have double coatings of epoxy for guaranteed rust-proofing. Fiberglass tanks prevent electrolytic action, which causes excessive rust and corrosion, because there is no metal-to-metal contact.

Operation of the typical home water softener is simple. Water enters the home and is directed into the water softener. Water passes over a mineral bed, with minerals holding the lime and magnesium present in the water. It is the presence of lime and magnesium that makes water hard.

Depending on hardness of the water, the rate of consumption and the unit’s capacity, there comes a time when the chemical must be regenerated, cleaned or replaced.

Regeneration is accomplished by reversing the flow of water through the softener tank and adding salt, which is instrumental in the process. The reversed water flow quickly flushes accumulated minerals from the chemical.

Quality water softeners have solid brass and copper parts, such as valves and bearings. Iron or steel parts are seldom used in a quality softener because salt can cause rust.

Another quality feature of a water softener is an automatic bypass. With this feature the water is never shut off, even during the regeneration period. This prevents the possibility of the customer drawing brine water into the house line or water heater during the regeneration period.

Better-grade water softeners have a daily capacity of about 30,000 gals. or a weekly capacity of about 210,000 gals. The flow rate is about 11 gals. Per minute, while the backwash rate is approximately 1.8 gals. Per minute. The brine tank usually holds about 250 lbs. of salt.


Water filters are used to remove bacteria and/or chemicals, improve the taste and smell of water and remove sediment. Most filters install under sink or at the point where the water supply enters the building.

The basic types of water-filtration devices are activated-carbon filters, reverse osmosis, distillation and aeration.

Activated-carbon filters are the least expensive water-filtration devices. They can remove impurities and improve water taste and odor, but do not eliminate dissolved minerals or bacteria. One solution is to combine a carbon filter with a chlorination system.

Reverse-osmosis systems take out dissolved lead, mercury, cadmium and other heavy metals that are present in the water, but will not eliminate microorganisms. They are also relatively expensive, ranging from $300 to $5,000.

Distillation removes most impurities in the water system. Distillers work slowly and must be cleaned regularly. Aeration reduces, but not necessarily eliminates, the levels of iron, chlorine and other gases in the water. It works best when combined with other treatment forms.

How bacteria/sediment/taste/odor filters work: water flows through a silver-impregnated ceramic wall, which traps particles down to one micron, then through a granular-activated charcoal liner, which absorbs chemicals, unpleasant tastes and odors. Bacteriologically pure water then passes through center hole and out of the filter.

How chemical/taste/odor filters work: Water enters the filter, and completely surrounds a cartridge inside. Water then passes through the hole at the bottom of the cartridge and flows up through a bed of granular-activated carbon, which absorbs chemicals, tastes, and odors, and then out of the filter.

How sediment filters work: These are installed at the source of the supply. Water containing sand, silt, algae and rust enters the filter and completely surrounds the cartridge, which is tightly sealed at both ends. Water passes through the cartridge well, which traps sediment particles. Relatively free of solid matter (depending on micron rating of the filter), the water flows up through the center hole and out of the filter.

Some filters, based on ceramic technology, will remove up to 100 percent of bacteria as well as chemicals, tastes and odors. Some have proven effective in removing such chemical contaminants as algae, chlorine and detergents found in many urban water supplies. Testing has proven some to be 100 percent effective in removing bad tastes, odors and color.

Some filters feature cartridges that can be cleaned and reused several times before replacement. Even if they cannot be cleaned, cartridges are replaceable; some filters are disposable, for one-time only use.

It is important to remember that cartridges should be changed regularly. Once they have reached their filtering capacity, they can begin to release previously filtered substances or block water passage altogether.

With the increase of humidifiers on central-heating units and instant hot-water dispensers, small filters that remove or reduce scale buildup are also in demand. Magnetic water conditioners and chemicals are also used to combat scale buildup.


Several chemicals do an effective job of cleaning stopped-up drains. Some are a combination of potassium hydroxide, which turns grease to soft soap, and a depilatory agent, thioglycolic acid, which dissolves hair. This combination does not injure plumbing or septic tanks.

Several cleaners use sodium hydroxide and some use sulfuric acid.

Any toxic liquid drain cleaner must carry the skull and crossbones warning label in red. Many cleaners can be injurious to sensitive skin and should be used with caution.

Most liquid drain cleaners are heavier than water and will seek out the stoppage even if the sink, tub or bowl is full of water.

If a certain drain chemical does not do the job, they should never pour in a different brand or type of chemical; toxic fumes can result from the mixture.


Drain augers are commonly used to free clogged toilet bowls. Since these fixtures have a built-in “reverse action” or U-shaped trap, considerable pressure may have to be applied to the end of the snake to force it up and over drainpipe opening.

For these stoppages, an auger at least 6′ to 8′ long will usually be required. The wire must be worked vigorously back and forth as soon as an obstruction is felt in order to break up the blockage so that it can be easily flushed away with water.

A closet auger is best for unstopping a built-in closet trap. The spring wire is usually 3′ to 6′ longer than the handle. The handle shaft has a 90 degree to 120 degree turn on the end, which is usually covered with a rubber or neoprene sleeve to protect the china finish of the bowl.

Drill-operated augers with safety clutches are also available.


Another type of drain cleaner uses air or water pressure to force a clog loose. Compressed-air drain cleaners are a power version of the force cup and are generally useful only on sinks.

Hydraulic pressure drain cleaners allow a garden hose to be snaked down the drainpipe closer to the clog. This type of unit features a blocking device that fills with water to prevent water from backing out of the drain and to maintain pressure on the clog. It can be used on sinks, tubs, main drains and showers.


The primary market for water systems is in suburban and rural areas for home water supply. A secondary market exists for auxiliary water systems used by homeowners already served by city-water systems. These auxiliary systems are used to supply water during hot summer months, when water usage may be restricted by city authorities, and for home lawn-sprinkling systems.

Water systems consist of a pump, a pressure tank and switch. The tank will supply water between the cut-on and cut-off pressure setting on the pump, usually 20-40 psi. Since the tank supplies small amounts of water, the pump does not have to turn on each time a faucet is used.

Pumps are usually classified as shallow well or deep well. Shallow-well pumps are installed at well depths of 25′ or less.

Deep-well pumps come in two types. Standard deep-well pumps have the jet assembly located in the well and are used in wells up to 120′ deep.

Deep well submersible pumps can be used in installations where the water depth is up to 450′. These units consist of a sealed motor and pump assembly that is lowered into the well. They are highly efficient and reliable but require a well casing diameter of 4″ or greater. Home water system pumps are generally of centrifugal type. In some older installations a piston pump may still be used. A piston pump builds pressure, which pulls water up through the casing. The centrifugal or jet pump builds a centrifugal force, which lifts the water.

Being familiar with the following terms will help you in selecting the right pump:

Well-size – inside diameter of well indicates proper size pump, ejector, cylinder or drop pipe (pipe that is lowered into well casing to transport the water) and foot valve (located at the bottom of the drop pipe to keep water from flowing backward into the well).

Pumping level – vertical distance in feet from pump to water level while pump is operating. If pump is installed away from the well and is on higher ground, this elevation must also be included. Most wells draw down (water level goes down inside the well as water is pumped into the home) so this must not be confused with standing water level.

Average discharge pressure – usual average discharge pressure is 30 lbs., halfway between the 20-40 lb. switch setting of most water systems. When the tank is installed away from the pump at a higher level or when house or yard fixtures are above the pump and tank, a greater pressure is needed and a larger pump must be used.

Capacity required – discharge capacity of the pump in gals. Per hour necessary for satisfactory service. The pump should have enough capacity so that it does not need to work more than the equivalent of two hours a day in intermittent service.

Well points – are used to drive wells in soil that is soft and primarily free of rock and where water is known to be close to the surface. Points are screwed onto the end of pipe to be lowered into the ground; then the point and pipe are driven into the ground with a sledgehammer or mallet. Well points have strainer baskets on the ends which sift out dirt and small stones.


To find the required capacity, count the number of faucets in the home (count tub faucets as two) and multiply by 60. This is the number of gals. Per hour the pump should supply from the well. Remember to allow for additional appliances that use water.

Recommend shallow-well pumps for wells up to 22′, deep-well pumps for deeper wells. While 20-40 lbs. pressure is adequate, 30-50 lb. or 40-60 lb. is best for home supplies.

Size of pumps is determined by their horsepower ratings. Pumps used in the average home are 1/3, 1/2, 3/4 or 1 hp. The accompanying table illustrates gals. Per hour pumped at 40 lbs. Pressure

Gallons Delivered Per Hour
Well Depth (Ft.) Pump Model
1/2 3/4 1 1-1/2
20 735 830 865 890
40 690 790 840 870
60 645 765 825 860
80 595 725 790 835
100 545 685 775 820
140 655 745 805
160 570 705 775
180 525 665 760
200 650 735
220 610 725
240 580 715
260 560 695
280 515 675
300 475 655
360 580
400 535
450 440


sump pump‘s purpose is to discharge groundwater that accumulates around a basement that is below the water line. The basement should have a drain tile around it; this tile collects groundwater and conveys it to the sump in the basement.

The pump can be a submersible type, in which the motor and pump are sealed in one unit that rests in the sump; or a pedestal pump where the pump is in the water but the motor is mounted on a column above the water.

Capacity is rated by gals. Per hour pumped as well as “lift” pressure generated.

Some pumps switch to battery power when the AC power fails.


These lightweight pumps are used to clear flooded basements, drain low spots after a heavy rain, etc. Farmers, boaters and campers all find uses for them.

There are two types. One operates off a 12V battery and can be attached to a car, truck, tractor or boat battery. The other type uses a standard 115V house current.

The units pump from 250-500 gals. Per hour and are self-priming and easy to operate.


Larger than all-purpose pumps, gasoline utility pumps used to pump manholes, for irrigation and lawn sprinkling, for fire protection and as an emergency water supply during power failure. Capacities range up to 85 gals. Per minute. Suction lifts to 25′.

High-pressure, hand-held utility pumps add as much as 80 lbs. to intake pressure. They operate on 115V current, and when connected to a standard garden hose, can be used to hose down hard-surface driveways and window screens, to wash cars and boats and to clean animal-housing areas. They will also draw water from shallow wells, tanks, etc.


septic tank is a large watertight settling tank that holds sewage while it decomposes by bacterial action. It can be made of asphalt-coated steel, redwood, concrete, concrete block, clay tile or brick.

Septic tanks must be sized to suit the house. Two-bedroom homes need minimum 750-gal. tanks, says the U.S. Public Health Service. Three-bedroom homes need 900-gal. tanks and four-bedroom homes require 1,000-gal. tanks. Garbage disposers, washing machines and dishwashers are figured in this estimate.

Household sewage flows into the septic tank and decomposes. Sludge collects on the bottom of the tank and liquid effluent flows out to a distribution system.

The distribution system is a series of underground disposal lines that radiate outward from a central distribution point; the effluent seeps into the earth.

Sludge remaining in the tank must be cleaned out periodically to prevent this layer from building up enough to cause clogging of disposal lines or household sewer lines.

Under ordinary use, the tank may need cleaning at two- to four-year intervals, but most experts recommend that the sludge level be inspected every 12 to 18 months. This is done by opening a special manhole cover or trapdoor located at or near ground level.

Septic tank cleaners dissolve sludge through enzyme activators that regenerate the natural bacterial activity of decomposition for which the tanks were designed. These natural bacterial activators continue from the tank into the drain and tile field.


For consumers interested in adding a bathroom, there is a plumbing relief-vent valve that can be installed without cutting a hole in the roof to vent the new plumbing system. The vent is solvent welded any place that is above the flood level of the attached fixtures (usually the attic). Manufacturer literature should be studied carefully for proper installation.


The usual height for cabinets over a lavatory is 62″ from floor to the center of the cabinet.

Ready-made cabinets are either wall hung or recessed. A 14″ recessed cabinet is frequently installed because it will fit between 16″ center-wall studs. Installation of wider recessed cabinets require that the studs be cut and box framing installed.

Lower-priced economy cabinets are generally 11″ wide, 16-1/4″ high and 4″ deep. Most have two welded shelves and cabinets and are finished in white baked on enamel.

More expensive cabinets come with lighting fixtures above or at the side of the cabinet and offer a selection of color finishes. They range from 16″ to 19″ high.


A complete vanity consists of a cabinet with a top, bowl, faucet assembly and all necessary plumbing. All the homeowner does is set it in the bathroom and couple it to the existing pipes.

Most vanities come in 24″, 30″, 36″, 48″ and up to 60″ widths, although 20″ widths are available.

One of the major reasons for their popularity is ease of installation. With a few tools, any homeowner can install his or her own vanity. The money saved by not hiring a professional plumber makes up a large portion of the cost of the vanity.

How to Solve Household Plumbing Problems
Problem Solution Problem Solution
Leaking faucet Has a worn washer. Shut off water, dismantle faucet and replace worn washer. Spout leak needs new faucet washer; under stem cap, bibb washer; handle stem, cone bonnet packing or “O” ring. For washerless faucets-replace entire cartridge. Water rushes down drain with sucking noise Means non-existent, improper or clogged vent. Depending on local plumbing codes, can be cured with anti-siphon trap.
Leaking pipes Plumbing joints may be parted. Copper plumbing joints are not threaded and can be permanently soldered or brazed if accidental bending or a hard blow causes a leak. Threaded joints of other metals may have to be reconnected, adding waterproof compound to threads. General noises in pipe Almost always caused by underestimating the overall size of the plumbing system; pipes (or tubing) are too small. Accumulation of rust or deposits in old lines can also reduce the operating size of pipes. Installation of larger pipes, a pressure reducing valve, expansion loops or water-hammer arrester will correct most noises. A “creaking” noise is caused by expansion and contraction of piping which was incorrectly installed in direct contact with walls and floors instead of against sound-deadening devices. Urge customers, in initial installation, to allow for their own maximum use of plumbing, rather than always go by the minimum permitted by some plumbing codes. It will be less expensive in the long run.
Dripping pipes Warm, moist air condenses when it strikes cold pipe. Wrap with pipe insulation. Rumbling noise near water heater Water may be too hot. Re-adjust thermostat to 140 degrees to 160 degrees.
Too much water in toilet tank If water in tank flows off through overflow tube, replace supply cock. If water leaks past rubber ball stopper through outlet valve, replace valve. Sluggish drains Drain piping must be of correct size and sloped uniformly; one quarter of an inch to the foot is best. Local codes prevail, but it is possible to oversize as well as undersize drain pipe. Piping that is too big may not allow water to completely remove materials clinging to its walls. The result-clogging.
Toilet tank ball does not fit (humming sound) Outlet pipe is corroded or covered with grit and makes irregular seat for stopper ball. Smooth with emery cloth or replace outlet pipe. Low water pressure Undersize plumbing or clogged pipes or both. A major plumbing job, by contractor, may be the only solution.
Hammering noise when faucet is turned off rapidly. Generally a simple do-it-yourself job to install air chambers, shock absorbers or pressure-reducing valves. If system already has air chambers, unclog by shutting off water supply and opening all faucets. Whistling when toilet tank fills Increase flow of water into tank by adjusting float valve.

Check your state and local codes before starting any project. Follow all safety precautions. Information in this document has been furnished by the North American Retail Hardware Association (NRHA) and associated contributors. Every effort has been made to ensure accuracy and safety. Neither NRHA, any contributor nor the retailer can be held responsible for damages or injuries resulting from the use of the information in this document.