How to Install Low-Flow Plumbing Fixtures

Are your water bills drowning your peace of mind? Try installing water-saving plumbing devices, such as low-flow showerheads, faucet aerators and toilets. You’ll fix this financial leak and do your part to conserve our most essential natural resource.

How to Install Low-Flow Showerheads

Low-flow showerheads have been around for years. But older models weren’t very popular with homeowners because the reduced water pressure couldn’t compare to a normal showerhead. Thanks to advancements in technology and a renewed commitment to the environment, the latest low-flow showerheads have improved flow-control technology. These new showerheads deliver up to 2.5 gallons per minute — about half of the force of traditional heads — without sacrificing performance. That means cutting your water usage and your bills by as much as 50%.

Step 1: Remove the Original Showerhead

With an adjustable wrench or channel-lock pliers, carefully unscrew the old showerhead. Be sure to use a smooth, steady motion so as not to damage the threading. Remove the showerhead from the rest of the fixture.

Step 2: Tape It Up

Put a single strip of white Teflon pipe tape around the threads of the shower fixture pipe. This will ensure a water-tight seal between the new shower head and the pipe.

Step 3: Attach the New Showerhead

Attach the new showerhead by screwing it on by hand. Finish tightening with the wrench you used to remove the old one. Take care not to over tighten or use too much force — you don’t want to crack the new showerhead.

Step 4: Test the Flow

Turn on your shower to check for any leaks where the showerhead and pipe connect. If any water is spritzing or dripping from the fixture, just tighten the nut a little more. If that doesn’t solve the problem, you may have to unscrew the showerhead, re-tape and re-attach the head to the rest of the fixture pipe firmly.

How to Install Low-Flow Faucet Aerators

Like your old showerhead, your traditional kitchen and bathroom faucets probably aren’t water efficient. When fully opened, these fixtures probably run at a rate of about 4 gallons per minute. This flow rate can be adjusted to about 2.5 gallons per minute by putting in a low-flow aerator on your faucets. Installation is easy and you’ll start saving water right away.

With a wrench, simply unscrew the old aerator on your faucet, located at the end of the spout. To install the new low-flow aerator, just screw it on. That’s it. Changing to low-flow aerators is one of the easiest ways you can conserve water.

How to Install Low-Flow Toilets

The toilet is one of the most water-consuming fixtures in the home. By replacing your toilet with a low-flow model, you’ll save water and stop flushing money away. To remove your old toilet and install a new, low-flow model, follow these steps.

Step 1: Empty Toilet

Shut off the water to the toilet. If you don’t have an angle stop shutoff valve by your toilet, you need to shut off the water at your home’s main shutoff valve in the basement. Flush the toilet several times to remove water from the bowl and tank. Then mop up any remaining water with sponges.

Step 2: Take Off Supply Tube

Disconnect the water supply tube. This is the tube that attaches from the angle stop to the toilet tank. Unscrew from the tank.

Step 3: Remove the Tank

If you have a one-piece toilet, proceed to Step 4.

If your toilet is two-pieces, you’ll have to remove the tank first. Reach inside the tank and unscrew the bolts that attach to the toilet. Use an 8-inch wrench to grasp the washer under the tank and use the screwdriver to turn the bolt. You should now be able to remove the tank by lifting it.

Step 4: Detach Bowl from Floor

Be prepared to get water on your floor. Take off the caps that are over the bolts in the floor. Unscrew the nuts using the 8-inch wrench. You may need a hacksaw to get these off if they are corroded.

Tilt the bowl forward and rock it from side to side. Lift the bowl from the floor. There is less spillage if the bowl is tilted forward. Put a rag into the pipe leading from the floor to keep any sewer gases from coming into the bathroom.

Pry up the old wax seal that is around the pipe on the floor with a putty knife. Remove the old bolts from the floor, even if you didn’t cut them with the hacksaw. You’ll replace them with the bolts that come with the new toilet.

Helpful Tip

To reduce spillage put a pan next to the toilet. When you remove the bowl, dump the excess water into it.

Step 5: Attach Wax Seal

Turn the new bowl over and put on the new wax or rubber seal around the hole. Place a new wax ring over drain horn. If ring has a rubber or plastic sleeve, the sleeve should face away from toilet. Apply a bead of plumber’s putty to bottom edge of toilet base.

Step 6: Install New Bowl

Don’t tighten the bolts too much — you could crack the porcelain. Make sure the toilet is level. Use little planks of wood to shore up the toilet to make it level. Over the next few days, the toilet will settle some, so occasionally tighten the nuts so that they are snug.

Helpful Tip

Dump some water into the bowl to check for any leaks out of the bottom. If there’s water leakage, try to compress the wax seal more. If that doesn’t work, you need to start over with a new wax seal.

Turn the bowl back over and position it so the bolts fit through the holes. Twist the bowl a bit to make sure it is in the right place. Press the bowl down to the floor to compress the seal — the best method is to sit on the toilet. Tighten the nuts on the bolts while you’re seated.

Step 7: Replace Tank Parts Inside and Reattach Tank

Attach the handle, flush valve and float cup ballcock. Once these are in place, attach the tank to the bowl. If you have a one-piece tank, proceed to Step 8.

For all other models, turn the tank over and attach the spud washer over the tailpiece of pipe. Turn the tank back over and position it so the spud washer fits into the hole on the seat. Attach the tank to the toilet using the washers and bolts provided. Make sure they are tight by holding onto the washer with the wrench and turning the bolt with a screwdriver. Be careful not to over-tighten the bolts — it can crack the base. Attach the chain on the rubber stopper to the handle lever making sure that it is somewhat taut.

Step 8: Attach Supply Tube and Turn On Water

Reconnect the supply tube to the new tank. Put the compression nut, followed by the compression ring, onto the supply tube. Make sure the threads of the compression nut face down, toward the valve. Put joint compound onto the compression ring and place the tube into the supply valve. Slide the ring and nut to the threads, tightening the nut.

Use a wrench to tighten the nut without over-tightening. Connect the tube to the tank using a compression nut. Open the angle stop and let the tank fill with water.

Test the toilet by flushing a few of times. Put on the toilet seat cover and clean up.

Here’s to another project well done! There are a number of do-it-yourself projects you can tackle to help you save water and money.

Project Shopping List

Here’s what you’ll need to complete this project successfully.