All you need is love. But let’s forget about what you need and talk about what you want — and if that included something very intimate once belonging to John Lennon, his toilet seat made someone very happy over the weekend.
John’s john was one of many items up for grabs on Saturday during the 33rd annual Beatles convention being held in Liverpool, England, and it was almost certainly the most talked about after an unidentified buyer purchased the porcelain seat for about $14,740 — around 10 times its original estimate.
The toilet sat in Lennon’s Berkshire home, Tittenhurst Park, from 1969-1972 and was given to a builder by Lennon after the singer purchased a new one. Lennon supposedly told him to “use it as a plant pot.”
Call it the “Royal Flush Syndrome” if you will, but there does seem to be a strange fascination for historic figures and the places where they found relief.
Maybe it has to do with the number of personalities that met their end in bathrooms.
Elvis Presley, Judy Garland, Lenny Bruce, even popcorn king Orville Redenbacher (among others) all bade adieu from the loo.
Recently, there have also been many headlines that deal with the head.
Who can forget when George Michael was picked up for lewd conduct in 1998 in a public bathroom on Sunset Boulevard, just across from the Beverly Hills Hotel? In 2008, he was busted for dope possession in London. Where? In a public bathroom.
Then there was the strange case of Larry Craig, a Republican senator from Idaho who in 2007 was caught by an undercover cop in an airport stall supposedly signaling a desire to engage in sexual conduct by tapping his foot in a certain way.
Craig wound up pleading guilty to a disorderly conduct charge, but the bathroom, just across from the French Meadow Bakery Cafe in the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, became a tourist stop.
This past July, Leonardo DiCaprio created a near riot when he went into a stadium bathroom in South Africa during a FIFA World Cup game. Dozens of fans poured in after him, blowing vuvuzela horns and chanting his name as he tried to relieve himself.
Security saved him, but maybe this was merely a bit of “commode karma.” After all, it was in 2008 that eco-friendly Leo reportedly installed a state-of-the-art, $3,200 Toto Neorest 500 toilet, which came fully loaded with a seat warmer, automatic flusher and remote control.
Rock stars also have had their hands full with toilet troubles.
In 2004, Lenny Kravitz was sued after his toilet backed up and supposedly caused “catastrophic water damage” to a neighbor’s apartment in New York City.
The Dave Matthews Band took things outside that same year, dumping their tour bus’s septic tank while driving over a bridge across the Chicago River. The problem? The waste spattered all over a group of sightseers on a boat below.
The bus driver received 18 months probation, 150 hours of community service and a fine of $10,000.
With 2010 winding down, we’re coming up on the end of the second year since water heaters gained the ENERGY STAR® label on January 1, 2009. According to the ENERGY STAR Water Heater Market Profile recently released by the Department of Energy (DOE), the first full year was quite a success. Though the water heater market as a whole shrank, the market for highly energy-efficient (ENERGY STAR qualifying) water heaters has grown rapidly since 2006.
The market declined steadily beginning in 2007 as new home construction plunged. In spite of the market decline, shipments of highly energy-efficient water heaters grew dramatically. In 2006, a total of 625,000 units that would have met ENERGY STAR criteria were shipped; this accounted for approximately 7 percent of all water heater products shipped that year. In 2009, the first full year that water heaters could earn the ENERGY STAR label, one million qualifying units were shipped, making up 13 percent of total water heater products shipped.
The ENERGY STAR program recognizes four water heater types—solar, high efficiency gas storage, tankless, and heat pump water heaters. The latter three had higher shipments in 2009 than 2006. Gas storage models saw an 80 percent increase from 2006, and tankless grew by more than 30 percent in that same time span. Heat pump water heater shipments rose by a whopping 630 percent.
How can you benefit from the increased presence of ENERGY STAR models? Based on the average life of a water heater and the age of models in the installed base, DOE has estimated that approximately 37 million water heaters will be replaced over the next five years. Most of these units were designed to meet the 1990 federal efficiency standards, creating an opportunity for greater ENERGY STAR water heater sales and large savings nationwide. Although water heaters have been traditionally designed to meet the federal standard, the ENERGY STAR program has helped increase the presence of high efficiency heaters in the marketplace.
While the sales of ENERGY STAR water heaters are on the rise, there’s still room for improvement. If all homes had qualified models, the U.S. could save 44 to 64 percent of energy used. That would be 1.9 billion to 6.8 billion therms, 98 billion to 107 billion kWh, and $13 billion to $19 billion per year, depending on technology choices. Those savings are hard to ignore, and plumbers and contractors have an instrumental role in making these savings possible.
Plumbers influence approximately 60 percent of all water heater purchases. When it comes to selling high-efficiency water heaters, DOE noted four key influences on purchasing decisions: consumer needs, expert advice, information at point of purchase, and price. Because half of all water heater sales are emergency replacements, speed and price are critical decision factors for most water heater replacement purchases. Few of these customers have the time to research product options, so they are entirely dependent on what their plumbers offer and are strongly influenced by their plumbers’ recommendations.
With more than 800 ENERGY STAR qualified models available since the efficiency criteria increase for gas storage water heaters that went into effect on September 1, 2010, it’s not hard to provide customers with options when faced with an emergency replacement. Plus, ENERGY STAR models offer your customers more features than a standard water heater; criteria include minimum hot water delivery requirements, warranties, and safety standards. Qualified units offer a variety of energy efficiency levels, ranging from 14 to 50 percent when compared to a new, non-qualified model, allowing households to save $40 to $285 a year on their energy bills.
Tax credits and incentives have helped encourage customers to make ENERGY STAR purchases. However, unless extended by Congress, federal tax credits for gas tankless and heat pump water heaters will expire at the end of this year. In spite of this, many state programs provide rebates on the purchase of ENERGY STAR units. A number of utility companies across the country also offer rebates for high efficiency water heaters, which can help when encouraging customers to purchase an ENERGY STAR model. Many of these rebates can be found online in the Coalition for ENERGY STAR Water Heaters energy efficiency program incentive database at www.eswaterheaters.org. Even with the federal tax credit expiration, Congress may enact legislation to further incentivize high-efficiency purchases.
The future of water heaters looks highly efficient. New, more stringent federal standards will take effect in 2015, adding even greater efficiency to the market. Gas-fired and electric models under 55 gallons will face a 4 to 5 percent improvement over current federal standards. Larger gas-fired units will be required to be more than 30 percent efficient, and larger electric water heater efficiency will increase by more than 120 percent.
Kara Rodgers is Natural Gas senior program manager for CEE and directs a three-person natural gas team responsible for guiding and growing CEE’s initiatives focused on natural gas savings.
About ENERGY STAR
Established in 1992, ENERGY STAR is a joint program of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the United States Department of Energy designed to save money and help address climate change through energy-efficient products and practices at home and at work. For more information, visit www.energystar.gov or call 1-888-STAR-YES.
About Coalition for ENERGY STAR Water Heaters
“Coalition for ENERGY STAR® Water Heaters” is the name of the national awareness and education campaign managed and conducted by the Consortium for Energy EfficiencySM (CEE) of Boston, Massachusetts. The campaign is supported and financially sponsored by manufacturers, industry associations, and energy efficiency program administrators to promote the installation of higher efficiency residential water heaters.
Green Plumbing is when residential or other plumbing layouts are designed for maximum efficiency and minimum wasted energy and water. Most plumbing layouts are not planned, they just happen.
The blueprints do not show plumbing layouts, it’s left up to the person doing the actual plumbing as to how the pipes are laid out. Often the person doing the piping is un-trained and their biggest concern is getting the job done quickly. As a result, the home owner must wait for hot water longer than necessary thus wasting it.
The cold plumbing is not much of an issue. Generally people don’t have to purge the hot piping to get cold water, it’s already cold enough. The hot is another story.
Hundreds of billions of gallons wasted
Hundreds of billions (yes billion with a “B”) of gallons of water are run down the drain every year as the result of people waiting for it to get hot. Grundfos, RedyTemp, Metlund and other sources claim a savings of anywhere from 10,000 to 16,000 gallons per year for a typical family who installs a demand hot water system, which eliminates the loss from waiting.
There are over 50 million single-family homes in the U.S. and many apartments, condos, and other residences that could benefit as well. But just taking the 50 million homes and multiplying it times 10,000 gallons per year results in a theoretical savings of 500,000,000,000 gallons.
Add in the potential savings due to apartments, condos, and multi-family housing and we are talking about trillions of gallons wastefully run down the drain in the U.S. alone.
Reducing wastage reduces greenhouse gas emissions
Much of the time the water you use has been pumped from somewhere and possibly treated as well. That takes energy, and generating energy usually causes the emission of green house gases, at least if it comes from a natural gas or coal burning plant. Unless you have a septic system, your drain probably ends up at a sewage treatment plant where more energy is consumed treating it.
For the cold efficiency one has to rely on ones appliances since as noted earlier cold water in the cold piping is generally not wasted. However, the hot side of the story is one of waste and inefficiency.
Poor plumbing layouts
Since in many instances you purge the cooled off hot water from the hot lines before you use the hot fixture, you want the hot piping from the heater to the fixtures to be as short as possible. Traditionally plumbing when done with rigid pipe tends to follow joists and walls, and is piped with 90 degree elbows and straight sections of pipe.
This type of plumbing layout is wasteful of water and pipe. Make the pipe runs directly from the heater straight to the fixtures. That minimizes the length of the pipe, and consequently the amount that needs to be purged before the hot water arrives.
Point-of-use tankless heaters are green
Consider the using point-of-use tankless heaters if possible. This virtually eliminates the waste from purging and that long wait for hot water. Insulate your hot piping. You will get your hot water faster and the outlet temperature will be a little higher, so you use less hot and more cold when taking a shower. The change in ratio of hot to cold saves energy.
Whole house tankless heaters are a mixed bag. You waste more water because tankless heaters have to heat the water first since there isn’t a tank full already waiting. But you save energy, since you don’t have that full tank of hot water leaking heat into its surroundings 24 hours a day.
Demand systems are green
If you do opt for a whole house tankless heater then get yourself a hot water demand system. Demand systems such as the Metlund D’Mand System and the Chilipepper CP6000 eliminate the water being run down the drain while you wait, and they deliver your hot water to you faster, which is always nice.
These pumps only run for a few moments until the water reaches the fixture and then they shut off. With so little running time they usually consume less than $1 or $2 per year in electricity costs.
By combining a tankless heater and a hot water demand system you get the best of both green worlds, reduced energy consumption and heavy duty water savings. If you loop your plumbing from fixture to fixture, and then place the demand system at the end of the run, all of your sinks and fixtures will have fast delivery and no wastage.
Make your plumbing system green and efficient
If you are planning on building a new home, or you are remodeling an older home, then consider green plumbing alternatives to the standard practices. Keep pipe runs as short as possible. Insulate the hot pipes. If using a tankless heater install a demand system.
By implementing a green plumbing strategy you can add convenience, save water, reduce energy consumption, reduce green house gas emissions, and make the world a better place for all of us.
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