In 2005, the Australian Government introduced the Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards, or WELS Scheme. This scheme applied a mandatory, nationwide water efficiency and minimum performance standard to all Australian household water-consuming products. Under WELS, any product that consumes water must be examined and tested by a government regulator under standardised conditions within a laboratory. If the product passes the minimum performance testing, it is given a comparative rating score to indicate its efficiency. WELS utilises a scale similar to Australian Energy Ratings – a scale from one star to six stars (one being the least efficient, six being the most).
Water-using products currently covered by the WELS Scheme include:
The WELS Scheme was implemented to help reduce domestic water consumption by encouraging manufacturers to design water efficient products and providing nationally consistent water efficiency information to consumers. It’s projected that by 2021, the WELS Scheme would have saved Australians 800,000 megalitres of water – approximately a billion dollars in cumulative bill savings. That’s an average saving of $175 per household, per year. It’s estimated that 65% of these savings would be from reduced electricity and gas costs from avoided water heating, and 35% from reduced water bills. The effect of the WELS Scheme can even be calculated in terms of reduction in greenhouse gases, and is claimed to be the equivalent of removing 90,000 cars from the road each year.
For a more practical example of how WELS can help you save water and money, imagine a family of four that have a 15L/min shower. Every 1L/min difference will save this family nearly 12,000 litres of water a year. Replacing their current shower with a 3-star that flows at 9L/min would save approximately 70kL and $210 each year on their water bills. If the shower was to be replaced by a 4-star that flows at 6L/min, the family would save 105kL of water and $315 on water bills per year. Depending on the energy costs, they may save an equivalent amount, or even more, each year on energy bills since less water would needed to be heated for showers. When browsing water-consuming products, make sure you always look for the WELS water label. Not just because it will assist you in choosing a water efficient product, but to be legally sold within Australia, products must be registered with WELS and labelled with their water rating information.
The WELS water rating label is composed of three main sections: the star rating, rate of water consumption, and registration and product details. These details can help you decide which product will give you the best water and energy savings that best suit your needs.
At the very top of the water rating label, the star rating displays how water efficient the product is. The star rating is easy to understand – the higher number of stars, the higher the water efficiency. The star rating is a simple way to compare the water efficiency of different products at a quick glance.
The middle section of the water rating label displays the amount of water used by the product. Details of the consumption rate displayed on the label vary by product type:
- Dishwashers-Litres per wash, load capacity of the machine
- Flow Controllers-Litres per minute
- Showers-Litres per minute
- Tapware-Litres per minute
- Toilets-Litres per average flush, litres per full flush, and litres per half flush
- Urinals-Litres per flush, per stall
- Washing Machines- Litres per wash, load capacity of the machine
At the bottom of the label, you can find the registration and product information. This includes the company that registered the product, license number, and the standards that guide how products are tested. Use the information in this section of the label to search the official Water Rating website to verify product information.
WELS water ratings are not only an incredibly useful tool when it comes to having to decide between different products, but it will also help you save a lot of money. While highly rated products may seem a bit pricey at first, you will almost always get that money back in bill savings. Whether for your bathroom, kitchen or laundry, products with a high star rating have been thoroughly tested and purchasing one guarantees not just something that is environmentally friendly, but a product of the utmost quality.
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