With the plumbing industry showing widespread disapproval of the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) proposed re-definition of showerheads as shower valves, the legislative body recently clarified a number of points in an e-mail exchange with Plumbing & Mechanical.

With the plumbing industry showing widespread disapproval of the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) proposed re-definition of showerheads as shower valves, the legislative body recently clarified a number of points in an e-mail exchange with Plumbing & Mechanical.  

As reported earlier this month by Plumbing & Mechanical Editorial Director Jim Olsztynski, the re-definition would allow only a single showerhead using no more than 2.5 gallons per minute of water per showering compartment - a move that would effectively ban multiple outlet shower systems.  

DOE Spokeswoman Jen Stutsman said the interpretation change came about after the DOE had received several complaints alleging certain showerhead products exceeded the federal water-conservation standard.  

“In the course of investigating these complaints, DOE discovered some confusion as to how the Department’s definition of “showerhead” for water conservation purposes applied to new showerhead designs being marketed under names such as waterfalls, shower towers, rainheads and shower systems,” Stutsman said.  

“Under (the) Energy Policy and Conservation Act (EPCA) and DOE’s regulations, the current definition is: “Showerhead means any showerhead (including a hand-held showerhead), except a safety shower showerhead.”  

Plumbing industry executives were baffled originally by the way the new definition interpretation was presented, essentially buried amid other directives in the Federal Register. No notice was given to stakeholders about the proposed change. Several plumbing contractors contacted by Plumbing & Mechanical were also unaware of the proposal or had heard extremely vague information on it.  

“It’s frustrating that there wasn’t an attempt to reach out to key stakeholders on this,” Plumbing Manufacturers Institute Executive Director Barbara Higgens said. “We almost missed it and that’s the scary thing. It’s not a good situation.”  

Stutsman said if the new definition is put into law, it would not outright ban multiple showerheads.  

“The draft interpretation would not ban the use of multiple showerhead products, such as a hand nozzle and fixed nozzle,” she said. “Rather, it makes clear that the full range of available showerhead products, including products with a hand nozzle and fixed nozzle, must meet the federal water-conservation standard on the books since 1998 - 2.5 gallons per minute at 80 pounds per square inch.”    

The comments period on the draft interpretation ends on Friday after originally being slated to end June 6.  

“We have received a number of comments providing feedback on the draft interpretative rule from the industry and the public,” Stutsman said.  

“Once we have had a chance to review the comments, we intend to issue a final interpretive rule to clarify the definition of “showerhead” as used in our rules. As we proceed, we will be mindful of manufacturers’ production decisions that may have been based on a misunderstanding of the definition of the term showerhead and how it related to the Department’s conservation standards.”  

With potential ramifications to manufacturers, plumbing contractors, consumers and commercial property owners alike, plumbing industry executives are wondering why the different constituencies can’t come together to discuss the situation in the immediate future.  

“We’re hoping that when we present our notes that maybe they will say they will look at it a little more before making a decision,” Hansgrohe President Russ Wheeler said.  

“I wish we as a group could all work together on this,” Higgens said.  

Keep checking BNP Media’s Plumbing Group Web sites at www.PMEngineer.com, www.PMmag.com and www.SupplyHT.com as well as the July 2010 issue of Plumbing & Mechanical for the latest on this developing story.

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