Using Water Saving Shower Heads: All You Need to Know

Many people face the same dilemma. They have a shower head that delivers a very satisfying performance but wastes a tremendous amount of water while doing so. Some may struggle with the other extreme: Installing water saving shower heads that are incredibly efficient but which make you wonder if the water is even turned on.

Today we’ll talk about the perfect solution: A low flow shower head that keeps you happy with the showering experience while using a minimum amount of water. Shower heads are measured by flow, which refers to the number of gallons they deliver per minute (gpm). Flow is in tight connection with the water pressure, measured in pounds per square inch (psi).

A greater pressure pushing water through pipes and shower heads means the volume of water forced out is also greater. So how can you know which is good for you? Given the overwhelming variety of types and styles of shower heads out there, we put together a guide to help you find one that works well while also saving water.

High Pressure Shower Heads vs. Low Flow

A shower head with high water pressure—80 psi, for instance—will push a larger amount of water than low water pressure, say around 20 psi. The same principle takes place even when you don’t turn on the water at full capacity. The water pressure for shower heads (and faucets) varies from community to community; sometimes it can vary from house to house.

Just a few years ago, shower heads used to deliver about 5 to 8 gallons per minute (gpm) at 80 psi. However, the current standard for low flow heads has dropped significantly, reaching 2.5 gpm at 80 psi. The most efficient low flow shower heads deliver only 1.6 gpm. But the secret lies in a low flow shower head that feels good at both high and low water pressures. Buy a flow restrictor that you can reverse or remove to allow more water through on low-pressure lines. That way, you can achieve just the right amount of water flow for your water pressure.

Measure Your Current Flow Rate

Before you invest in a new water saving shower head, measure your shower water flow rate. The easiest way to do that is to run your shower for 10 seconds into an empty water bucket. Measure the amount of water after ten seconds and multiply your measurement by six. The result is you shower head’s amount of water flow per minute.

Example: If you capture 0.5 gallons of water in your bucket after running your shower for 10 seconds, you have a flow rate of 3.0 gallons per minute. To get the most accurate measurement, pour your bucket of water into a measuring jug. Other websites suggest running the shower for a full minute, but this method is way easier.

Shower heads that deliver flow rates of more than 2.5 gl/min should be changed with water saving shower heads. If you’re unsure about the results of the 10-second test, up the ante and try a 30-second test. This could help you get a slightly more accurate result.

Water Saving Shower Head Types

There are two main types of low flow shower heads: the regular, stationary type and hand-held models attached to a flexible hose. For hands-free showering, you can clip most hand-held shower heads onto a wall-mounted swivel, hanger, or bar. The flexible hose screws directly onto the shower arm, or onto a deck-mounted diverter valve on a bathtub, or onto a diverter valve between a standard shower head and the shower arm.

Because they include a flexible hose, hand-held models are typically a bit more expensive. However, they are also more versatile and allow you to use water more efficiently by directing the flow where you want it. As a class of fixtures, they are also more energy-efficient than stationary heads, given that the water travels a shorter distance between the shower head and your body. The water cool less in the air, meaning that you can adjust the water temperature slightly lower.

Simple, no-frills plastic low-flow heads sell from less than $10, but the price rises to more than $100 for designer heads. However, it’s important to keep in mind the cost of a particular shower head has little to do with its performance. The features, the construction materials, and finish are usually the ones influencing the price.

Shower Head Features

When it comes to buying one of the best water saving shower heads, you should look for the ability to adjust spray settings (narrow to wide, pulse, spray only, and so forth). This is particularly handy if different family members use the same shower; not everyone might like the same kind of spray.

Meanwhile, the easiest type of low flow showers heads are those that have an adjustment lever or ring on the outside of the head. That way, you don’t have to reach into the center of the water stream for adjustments. You should also be on the lookout for one other handy, water-saving feature: A shutoff at the head. This helps you reduce water waste as it cuts the stream to a trickle while you soap up or wash pets or kids.

Other Low Flow Options

Now that you’ve bought your water shaving shower head, you’re probably wondering what else you can do to save money and water. Two other devices can help you do that: flow-control inserts (a washer with a small hole that reduces water flow), and shower shut-off control valves (which reduce flow and provide on/off control). More than just inexpensive – about $14 – these also fit between the shower pipe (arm) and shower head.

How to Find the Best Low Flow Shower Head

  • Check the flow rate. You should invest in a shower head with a flow rate of less than 2.5 gallons per minute, which is the standard fare for a water saving model.
  • Check the design. In order to choose a design that feels right, look for shower heads that save water whilst still maintaining pressure feel. If you prefer a larger shower spray, stick with a pressure system for your shower head.
  • Check the quality. As always, read reviews for the product you want to buy and pick a good manufacturer. Remember you usually get what you pay for, so be careful with bargains.
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William E. Eubanks

I'm one of the main writers on the site; mostly dealing with environmental news and ways to live green. My goal is to educate others about this great planet, and the ways we can help to protect it.

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