Here at Whywait Plumbing, it gets very frustrating at times when clients want us to install products they have purchased “cheaply” online or bought from non-specialist outlets who import cheap non-compliant product. All products we install are required by law to have a WaterMark certificate and a WELS water rating label certificate. It is illegal for licensed plumbers to install non-compliant products.
WELS Water Rating Label certificates are on every product plumbers install. Unfortunately, many of our clients are confused by the rating requirements, which is mainly because there has been little public education and therefore awareness.
In 2005, the Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards (WELS) scheme as a joint initiative of the Australian, State, and Territory governments became law. Under the WELS Water Rating Label scheme, products that use water must be tested under standardised conditions in a laboratory by a government regulator. Each product is given a comparative rating score of between one and six stars to indicate the product’s efficiency. The WELS Water Rating Label certificates or stickers are very similar in appearance to those used for energy rating labels for things like fridges, dishwashers, washing machines, heaters and air conditioning units.
The WELS Water Rating Label scheme was instituted to eliminate and educate on unnecessary water use. The WELS Water Rating Label scheme on current projections is expected to save 800,000 megalitres of water by the year 2021 across Australia. This equates to about a billion dollars of water bill savings. A further little-known benefit of the WELS Water Rating Label scheme is a reduction in greenhouse gases which is estimated to equal to the removal of 90,000 cars from Australian roads every year.
When the plumbers at Whywait raise the issue of WELS Water Rating Label certificates, many of our clients ask which products have to have WELS labels? Very simply under the WELS Water Rating Label scheme, the bathroom products that need to be rated in Australia are:
- shower heads
- toilets pans, cisterns and urinals
Installing water-efficient showerheads in your home’s bathrooms account for 25% of the water savings under the WELS Water Rating Label scheme. This is due to the significant difference in the amount of water used in showers with a standard showerhead using between 15-25 litres of water per minute. A 3-star rated showerhead only uses 6 or 7 litres per minute which means installing a water-efficient showerhead reduces your water consumption in the shower alone by 40%. Using less water in the shower has the added benefit of reducing your electricity or gas bill as you use about 40%-60% less hot water.
All taps used in kitchen sinks, bathroom basins, bathroom showers and laundry troughs must be WELS rated. However, a bath tap although in all likelihood WELS rated does not require to be flow reduced as you use the same amount of water to fill a bath no matter what. Flow restrictors mean the bath takes longer to fill. Most mixer taps and many combination tap spouts have an aerator that is combined with a flow restrictor, installed on the spout outlet that mixes the water with air, and in the process can cut the amount of water used from 15-22 litres per minute down to around 3 – 6 litres per minute.
Finally, the WELS Water Rating Label scheme requires flushing toilets and urinals to meet a basic level of water efficiency. Waterless urinals are not required to have any form of WELS certification. Concerning toilets, an average flush is calculated as one full flush and four half-flushes. Therefore a compliant toilet suite cannot exceed 5.5 litres per average flush. Water-efficient toilets make up a significant amount of the water savings under the WELS scheme with savings of 22% as a traditional toilet used 11 litres per flush compared to water-efficient dual flush toilets that use, on average less than 4 litres per flush. This adds up to savings of 52 litres of water per person, per day, and can add up to $800 less in your water bill over ten years.
When choosing plumbing products for your home, it is a good idea to take into consideration the information on the WELS Water Rating Label and the savings you can make over the long term on both water and electricity or gas bills.
For more information on the WELS scheme, go to waterrating.gov.au.