Direct Installation Program Introduction

Implementing a direct installation program requires the water utility to provide trained installers to complete the installations at the customer’s home or business.  The most common devices installed are:  showerheads, toilets, aerators, pre-rinse spray valves (restaurant kitchens), urinals, irrigation controllers, etc.  The installers are sometimes agency employees, but more often contractors skilled and experienced in the installations.

Though the costs of installation are higher than simple distribution programs, the water utility is more assured of proper installations and presumably water savings.  Many water utility’s find this program most effective a) in low income areas where the water customer does not own home or building; b) where the high cost of the equipment ($25+) compels the agency to assure it is actually installed; c) the installation is too complicated for the average customer; and/or d) the water savings is great enough to recover the cost of the installations. 

Direct installations are commonly included in home water survey programs, where a trained professional is already on-site performing the water use analysis.  Since the surveyor is at the home, installing showerheads, aerators and toilet displacement devices adds only a small incremental cost to performing the analysis.   A large portion of the costs to market, schedule and train personnel is already incurred; thus, the benefits of direct installation greatly exceed the marginal costs of the installations.

Toilets and weather based controllers also are well suited to direct installation methods.  The installations of these devices are often beyond the means and more skill of many residents.  Renters are also reluctant to make these investments and installations on property they do not own.   Skilled plumbers and landscape contractors provide the assurance the equipment is installed properly and safely; thus assuring water saving benefits are garnered.   Many water agencies target this type of project to homes and businesses where proper water savings potential is great, and participation in more traditional programs is low, such as:  low income neighborhoods, senior citizen homes, high rental home concentrations and multi-family buildings.  

The program is usually marketed by direct mail, door-to-door canvassing, and/or telemarketing.  The marketing usually targets selected neighborhoods, communities or customers.   The installations are usually scheduled from a central office to better maintain records, but some programs offer instantaneous service when canvassing. 

For liability concerns, the resident signs a waiver allowing the installations to be performed.   It is prudent to inform landlords of the program and offer them the opportunity to refuse installations in their buildings.  Otherwise, a tenant’s signature is deemed an authorized signature to perform the work.  This procedure may appear to cause conflicts with landlords, but there have been only a few and minor problems to date.  The vast majority of landlords are very pleased to have the water utility pay for the installation of new water efficient fixtures.  In fact, many landlords make efforts to have their entire eligible rental properties fully retrofitted.

The fear of property damage occurring during installations is a concern of all water agencies.  While damages are possible, this liability can be averted by: using trained and skilled labor; declining services where the pre-existing plumbing is in such disrepair that installations are too risky; and using a licensed, bonded, and insured contractor that accepts the liability of faulty installations.  Though the risks of damages are real, there are no reported significant losses incurred by any water utility to date.

Direct installation strategies are an important aspect of most comprehensive water conservation plans.  The costs are greater than other alternatives, but direct installations often garner water conservation where other programs lack participation from specific segments of the customer base.   This strategy also assures proper and safe installations.