College installs energy-saving, low-flow showerheads across campus

May 19, 2010

It may not be as attention-getting as the “shower with a friend” bumper stickers of the 1960s, but Luther College has implemented a shower room project that may save millions of gallons of water and thousands of dollars in energy costs over the coming year.

A student-led pilot project has resulted in the installation of more than 75 low-flow showerheads in shower rooms on 25 floors in five Luther residence halls.  The project is a water and energy-saving component of the college’s sustainability initiative.

The proposal for low-flow showerheads originated with the Brandt Hall Sustainability Council (BHSC), the student-led sustainability leadership group for Brandt residence hall. The council’s proposal was supported and developed by Maren Stumme-Diers, Luther assistant sustainability coordinator, and Scott Barnes, Luther plumber.

After initial testing was completed, the sustainability group discovered that the original showerheads in the college’s residence halls discharge approximately 2.5 gallons of water per minute. The project goal was to identify and install showerheads that would have significantly lower flow, conserving water and the energy required to heat the water. The project also aimed to reduce the college’s water and energy costs by an amount that would offset the cost of purchasing and installing the new model of showerheads.

BHSC and Stumme-Diers designed a test program to install five different models, with flows ranging from 1.5-2 gallons per minute, in the showers on one floor of Brandt Hall.

 “Scott Barnes played a critical role in implementing this program,” said Stumme-Diers. “His support and overall enthusiasm has been helpful from the very beginning of the project.”

At the end of the two-week test program, Brandt students were asked to complete surveys and provide feedback regarding their shower experiences. As Tina Yates, a BHSC member, tabulated the results, it became clear to BHSC members that the low-flow showerhead project had the potential to have a tremendous effect on the college’s water conservation efforts. 

“We received mostly positive comments,” said Yates. “Some students even responded that the low-flow showers were better than the originals, which led us to expand the trial program to residence halls across campus.”

After the initial tests, the BHSC chose the top three trial winners and purchased 25 of each model to be tested on more floors in Brandt, all the women’s floors in Miller and Farewell and all of the floors in Olson, Larsen, and Ylvisaker residence halls.

 “The tests were very popular,” said Maren Stumme-Diers. “We had more people requesting to be a test site than we had showerheads.” 

Surveys were conducted in the additional locations, and when the final responses were tallied, the showerhead selected by the students was the model with the lowest flow, 1.5 gallons per minute.

The college will be installing the new showerheads in all campus shower rooms. 

 “It’s very exciting to be a part of a student-led initiative that has the potential to involve everyone in the campus community,” said Stumme-Diers. “By making this small, simple change, we have the potential to save millions of gallons of water each year.”

For more information about Luther’s sustainability initiatives, visit the Luther sustainability website at http://www.luther.edu/sustainability.  

A video regarding the Luther low-flow showerhead project can be found at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oec9DPQPAgo.