News Analysis

DOE To Ban Multi-Spray Showerheads

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has issued a draft interpretive ruling on the definition of “showerhead” as used in the Energy Policy and Conservation Act (EPCA). Sidestepping public comment procedures, DOE has defined “showerhead” in a way that makes multi-spray systems illegal. The new ruling states that all of the fixtures used in a multi-spray system must, combined, use no more than 2.5 gallons of water per minute.

EPCA, first passed in 1975 and updated several times since then, limits water use by showerheads to 2.5 gallons per minute (gpm; 9.5 lpm) at 80 psi. The law does not, however, specify what a “showerhead” includes, so manufacturers have been able to sell shower systems with multiple heads, each of which conforms to the 2.5 gpm limit. These multi-spray systems can include body sprayers and other fixtures, and sometimes use upwards of 20 gpm (76 lpm). Marketed as a high-end product, with high prices to match, these systems are not installed frequently.

DOE’s ruling came as a surprise to plumbing manufacturers and conservationists alike, since it lacked the public comment process required for substantive rule changes. But DOE considers the ruling an interpretation of an existing law, and thus “exempt from the notice and comment requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act,” in its wording.

Published July 30, 2010