In the world of business tech, crunching big data on a massive compute system can help propel a company ahead of its competitors. In your smart home, glancing at big data on the WaterHawk showerhead can help propel you to a smaller water bill. Big water- and energy-saving data are realized on the WaterHawk in the form of two real-time metrics—cumulative water volume usage (in gallons) and water temperature (in degrees Fahrenheit)—colorfully displayed on a round LED panel embedded in the face of the fixture.
And in contrast to the massive compute system at Big Co. that consumes megawatts of electrical power when cranking out meaningful information, the WaterHawk consumes a precisely-zero amount of grid power while enabling you with relevant information needed to save resources. A tiny, built-in hydroelectric generator—propelled by the force of water pressure through the fixture—produces all of the off-grid power the WaterHawk needs to deliver on its promise of promoting conservation through instantly accessible, meaningful data.
Out of the package
The WaterHawk is an exercise in stealth tech. On the surface, the fixture appears to be quite similar to many other contemporary shower heads, with a large 6.25-in diameter, rain shower-type head design—though there is a noticeable increase in heft over other similarly-sized, ABS-fabricated fixtures due to the weight of the generator mechanism and electronics hidden inside.
The only visible indicator of the stealth inside is the 2.25-in diameter LED eye, which sits flush in the center of the face. In addition to presenting the primary digital readouts for water usage volume and temperature, the perimeter of the display illuminates in different colors to provide an at-a-glance indicator of the current temperature range. This glowing ring of light illuminates as follows:
- Blue light: Water temperature less than 90°F (32°C)
- Green light: Water temperature between 90° and108°F (32°C – 40°C)
- Red light: Water temperature between 108° and 122°F (42°C – 50°C)
- Flashing red light: Water temperature above 122°F (50°C)
The WaterHawk is not officially certified or labeled as an U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) WaterSense fixture, but its maximum flow of 2.0 gpm does meet the WaterSense flow rate specification.
LTE Water Products, the California-based manufacturer of WaterHawk, says the product works on systems with water pressure ranging from 14.5 to 80 psi, so that encompasses virtually any conceivable installation scenario—ranging from homes connected to municipal water systems, to local water well systems, as well as rainwater harvesting-based systems.
The chrome-finished WaterHawk retails for a reasonable $79 on the manufacturer’s site.
Preparing to conserve water
This seemingly high-tech water saver is refreshingly low-tech to install and use. There are no batteries to install, no power supplies to connect, no wires to run, no apps to download, no pairing procedures to follow, and no switches to flip. In short, installing and using this fixture should prove to be hassle free.
Before installation, be sure to check that the provided rubber gasket/strainer is properly seated in the neck of the fixture. Then, using a wrench if necessary, loosen and remove the old showerhead from the original shower arm, and finish up by simply twisting the WaterHawk into place. The manufacturer suggests snugging the fixture by hand, though you can use a gentle twist of your wrench to keep it from leaking if needed.
Now, turn on the water. That is all there is to it.
Stealth in flight
As the water is turned on, the WaterHawk’s hydroelectric power plant brings the LED display to life almost immediately, and it begins a ritual of alternating every five seconds between real-time tracking of cumulative usage volume and temperature in large orange digits—while simultaneously illuminating its ring of light based on the temperature range. Usage tracking refreshes in increments of 0.1 gallons, while the temperature reads out in full degrees. The WaterHawk is designed to reset its usage tracking metric to zero after about 10 minutes of idle time.
We found we needed to open the shower valve to a flow rate just above1.0 gpm in order to get the display to illuminate continuously at full brightness. In the range of about 0.5 to 1.0 gpm, the display would flicker, and below roughly 0.5 gpm would not illuminate, though the usage tracking was properly incrementing in both cases. That should not present a problem, as we found ourselves setting the shower valve at about 1.5 gpm, a rate that seemed just about right for efficient showering while saving significant water over the 2.0 gpm maximum rate of the WaterHawk. If you prefer to adjust your shower valve such that the flow is reduced to a trickle, then the WaterHawk may not work as well for you.
So how does everything come together in everyday usage? Very nicely. We found the WaterHawk a pure pleasure to use and easy to read in every shower, and it worked flawlessly in its primary roles of delivering a rain-shower-like stream while alerting us to cumulative water consumption. And having the LED ring of light progressively illuminate in blue, green, red, and then flashing red as the water stream warms can help save water, as it gives just the right queue as to when to step into the shower.
There is also the not-so-obvious benefit of having at-a-glance data on the temperature of the water as it emerges from the showerhead, which can lead to energy savings on water heating. For example, if you are noticing the WaterHawk entering its flashing red zone, that means water is arriving at the fixture at 122°F or higher. In that case, turning down the temperature setting on your water heater a few degrees at a time until the water stays in the middle range of the WaterHawk’s normal red zone will reduce electrical usage (in the case of electric water heaters) or save on natural gas or propane (in the case of gas-powered units).
We were surprised to see our hybrid electric heat-pump hot water heater system in the Digitized House Zero Energy Living Lab pushing the WaterHawk into its flashing red zone by delivering water over 122°F, when we had the water heater set at 118°F. So one adjusts.
Overall, the WaterHawk does a splendid job of watching your water usage—dare we say—like the proverbial hawk. As the adage goes, you can’t manage what you don’t measure, and the WaterHawk fits the, um, bill to enable real-time measurements of key big data numbers you need to positively impact your water usage and water-related energy conservation efforts. That can yield a nice return on investment (ROI) benefit in utility costs as you enjoy showers delivered with just the right amount of water and at just the right temperature.
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