In wireless sensor networks (WSN), the nodes are used to collect and gather the data from different environments. Hence, the network consumes more energy which is the main and challenging issue in WSNs. Since the sensor is operating under battery, recharging is impossible and hence the lifetime of each sensor is an important issue. Therefore, it is necessary to introduce new and efficient techniques to extend the network lifetime. In this paper, a new delay constrained energy efficient routing technique is proposed for performing effective routing in WSNs. This approach introduces a delay constraint based reliable routing approach which reduces the energy consumption by constructing efficient clusters without increasing the end-to-end delay. Moreover, the proposed technique called the rule based clustering for routing model provides better performance in terms of network lifetime than the other existing techniques since they consume more energy during the formation of clusters and finding the shortest path. Moreover, additional overhead on the cluster head selection is tackled also using rules in this proposed model in an efficient manner by building balanced clusters. The main advantage of the proposed approach is that it extends the lifetime of the network and increases the throughput, energy efficiency, link quality and scalability. The experimental verification of this technique has been carried out using MATLAB simulations and proved that this model increases the packet delivery rate, network performance and reduces the delay and energy consumption. © 2017, Springer Science+Business Media, LLC.