Should you get a Low-Flow Shower Head?


Did you know an average family in the USA can use up to 40 gallons (181 liters) of water per day in the shower alone? This equates to almost 1.2 trillion gallons of water used annually across the country! (Source)

So what can you do to reduce water consumption, lower costs, and protect the environment? Maybe you should consider a low-flow shower head.

What is a Low-Flow Shower Head?

Sit down and wash off with the hand held shower hose.
Make sure not to squirt your neighbor!

A low-flow shower head is eco-friendly because it reduces the water flow rate.

A low-flow shower head has a flow rate of 2.0 gallons of water per minute (GPM) (9 liters) or less, compared to a regular showerhead with a flow rate of 2.5 GPM (11.3 litres) or more.

The modern technology used in low-flow showerheads makes it possible to have a high-pressure shower. Two different types of low-flow shower heads are available:

  • Laminar low-flow showerheads. This showerhead style distributes separate streams of water over the showerhead without using air, causing a large stream of water to pour out through the nozzles. Less steam is produced, so this style is great for bathrooms with little ventilation.
  • Aerating low-flow shower heads. Air is injected into smaller streams of water to create a high-pressure, mistier spray of water. As this style creates a lot of steam, it is best used in a well-ventilated bathroom.

How do Low-Flow Shower Heads Work?

rainfall showerhead

To understand how a low-flow showerhead works, we need a quick lesson on standard showering principles.

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a regular shower uses 2.5 gallons of water per minute(GPM) (11.3 liters) or 20 gallons (90.9 liters) per shower. Not very eco or environmentally friendly.

What Is PSI?

The water pressure that comes out of the water pipes and enters your home is measured in PSI or pounds per square inch. Too much pressure could damage the pipes and your fixtures, while not enough could result in a small stream of water from your showerhead.

PSI defines the force with which the water flows out of your showerhead.

High water pressure could be 80 PSI, while low water pressure could be 20 PSI. Low-flow shower heads are designed to deliver a steady flow of water regardless of the pressure.

What Is GPM?

GPM or gallons per minute is the volume of water that comes through your showerhead in the space of one minute. This can be affected by the water pressure and the size of the openings in the shower head. Showerheads are rated to allow a certain GPM volume of water to flow from the showerhead under certain pressure ranges.

This means the quantity of water coming out of the showerhead is predictable and steady.

Maximum flow rate requirements differ according to location, so check your local regulations and plumbing codes before you buy a new low-flow showerhead.

A low-flow showerhead is designed to use 2.0 gallons of water (9 liters) or less per shower. 

As defined in the table below, if the water flow to your home is measured in 80 PSI and you have a low-flow showerhead designed to deliver 2.0 GPM, in reality, the speed of the water flow will be 1.5 GPM, which reduces your water consumption.

The lower the PSI, the slower the water flow.

Min flow rates20 PSI45 PSI80 PSI
1.0 GPM (4.5 liters)0.8 GPM0.8 GPM0.8 GPM
1.5 GPM (6.8 liters)0.9 GPM1.1 GPM1.1 GPM
1.75 GPM (7.9 liters)1.1 GPM1.3 GPM1.3 GPM
2.0 GPM (9 liters)1.2 GPM1.5 GPM1.5 GPM

How much Water does a Low-Flow Showerhead Use?

On average, a shower uses less water than a bath. Bathers use an average of 25-35 gallons (113 – 159 liters) of water, while a 10-minute shower with a regular showerhead will fill the tub with 25 gallons (113 liters). However, a landmark study proved those shower takers spend longer in the shower than they report and use more water than they think.

So, while a regular showerhead has a water flow of about 2.5 GPM (11.3 liters), low-flow showerheads use 2.0 GPM (2 liters). At this rate, it would take 12 minutes and 30 seconds to fill up a 25-gallon (113 liters) tub with water, proving that low-flow showerheads are more cost-effective and eco-friendly.

While the bathing vs. showering debate rages, consider the stats in the table below:

bathing vs. showeringNumber of showers per monthTotal shower minutes per monthGallons of water used per month
Regular25175440 (2000 liters)
Low-flow25175262 (1191 liters)

What Are The Benefits Of A Low-Flow Showerhead?

woman in shower

Other than benefitting the environment by using less water than a regular showerhead, a low-flow showerhead has many other benefits that could make it a worthwhile purchase for your home.

Saves You Money and Conserves Water

The more water you use in the shower, the more energy you need to heat the water, and the longer your shower, the more water and energy you use!

So, simply by switching to a certified low-flow showerhead, you could save about 2,700 gallons (12,274 liters) of water every year. You’ll create an energy-efficient system and ultimately lower your utility bill.

However, these figures depend on where you live in the USA. In 2018, the California Energy Commission (CEC) reduced the legal low-flow showerhead water flow limit to 1.8 GPM. This officially made California the state with the toughest water regulations.

During this study, the CEC found that a low-flow system used in an average home could save 3,180 gallons (14,456 liters) of water per year!

Check out this handy calculator and discover how much you could potentially save by changing to a low-flow showerhead.

Conserves Energy

Recent studies have suggested that a single low-flow showerhead can reduce an average family’s energy footprint by 330 kilowatts of electricity which is enough energy to power a house for 11 days!

Reducing energy usage on water heaters also results in fewer carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions into the atmosphere, reducing greenhouse gasses and keeping our air clean.

How Do You Know If Your Showerhead Is Low-Flow?

showerhead

The market is flooded with shower heads of all sizes and shapes, many of which are guaranteed to be low-flow. While many unscrupulous retailers advertise their products as “green” or eco-friendly, this isn’t always the case.

So how do you know that the product you have installed in your home is a low-flow showerhead, and how do you know what you should be on the lookout for when you buy a new one?

There are various methods to test your current showerhead to determine whether it is a regular or low-flow water system.

The Time Test

The most efficient way to test which type of shower head you have is to place a one-gallon empty bucket under it, turn on the faucet, and time how long the bucket takes to fill up.

Shower typeTime to fill a 1-gal (4.5 liter) bucketWater flow rate
Regular15 seconds4 GPM
Regular10 seconds6 GPM
Low-flow24 seconds2 GPM

The WaterSense Label

If you are in the market for a new low-flow showerhead but don’t know what to look for, check for a certificate of authentication on the product.

The standard certification for eco-friendly and safe water conservation products is an endorsement from the EPA.

Each certified showerhead must have a certified WaterSense stamp of approval. This ensures that the shower head meets specific criteria and is genuinely low-flow.

The WaterSense program defines three attributes of the low-flow shower head:

  • the maximum and minimum flow rates – a water flow of less than 2.0 GPM (9 liters)
  • the pressure range – ensure minimum water flow across a range of household water pressures.
  • spray force and coverage – adequate spray force and spray distribution

Can I Get A Low-Flow, High-Pressure Shower Head?

In the past, low-flow showerheads were not great. Water pressure was low, often only producing a trickle of water for the shower taker to splash onto their body.

Modern technology ensures that low-flow shower heads are equipped to deliver a relaxing shower experience. Smaller nozzles and better airflow provide increased water pressure, while the new design of the showerheads provides different water flow settings allowing each shower taker to select the correct setting for them.

Newer low-flow showerheads are a more effective water delivery system than the older styles and offer a more pleasant shower experience because of the improved design.

What to Look for in a Low-Flow Showerhead

framed shower door with hinges
Framed shower door with hinges.

When choosing a new low-flow showerhead for your bathroom, consider the following:

Your Budget

A low-flow showerhead can range in price from around $50.00 to $1000.00, depending on the size, style, material, and any extra features you might want, like smart technology, misting and massage sprays, etc.

If you’re not great at DIY and don’t know how to replace your existing showerhead with a new low-flow one, you might need to hire a plumber.

A showerhead replacement could cost around $75.00 – $150.00 based on the installation type, excluding the showerhead’s cost. It could cost more if you’re going to remodel your bathroom or install a new shower in the existing bathroom.

The Style of your Bathroom

A stylish showerhead can add to the décor of your bathroom. Shower heads are available in many colors and various finishes, including stainless steel, solid brass, and silicone, so find one that matches your existing bathroom design.

(Wondering whether you can mix metals with your bathroom fixtures. Read our designer’s expert advice.)

Ensure that the showerhead you choose will suit the conditions of the bathroom and is durable, rust and corrosion-resistant, functional and pretty.

The Type of Shower Head

While showerheads are designed to deliver water from a faucet to your body, the delivery system itself is available in many different sizes and styles.

Fixed showerheadA standard, stationary showerhead attached to the wall. These may or may not have adjustable spray settings.
Rain showerheadA fixed, large shower head producing a fine stream of water
Handheld shower headsThis type of showerhead is attached to the wall but has a long flexible hose for the bather to hold. This allows the water to be directed wherever it's needed. It can also be used as a fixed showerhead when placed back in the bracket.
Combination/dual showerheadsThis type generally includes 2 showerheads, a fixed and a handheld showerhead. The water is directed to either showerhead using a lever.
Slide bar showerheadA bar is attached to the wall, and the showerhead runs up and down the bar.

Is the Showerhead Really Low-Flow?

Always look for the WaterSense certification label to ensure that the showerhead is indeed a genuine low-flow showerhead.

Check for aerating or laminate showerhead technology.

What Functions do you Need in a Showerhead?

This might seem like an odd requirement for a showerhead in a bathroom shower, but with the introduction of smart technology, you can control your showerhead remotely!

Smart showers offer more features than conventional showers. You can choose to build a smart shower system from scratch or convert your existing shower by purchasing smart shower upgrades.

Added functions include:

  • Temperature control
  • Massage sprays
  • Misting settings
  • LED lights
  • Bluetooth speakers

The Best Low-Flow Showerhead

 

PROS

  • Easy to install
  • Made in the USA
  • WaterSense certified
  • Climate pledge friendly

CONS

  • The stream of water from the showerhead is loud

Color: Chrome/Brushed Nickel/Oil-rubbed Bronze/Polished Brass

Material: Solid metal

Finish: Brushed

Water flow rate: 1.5 GPM (6.8 liters)

Dimensions: 2.5” L x 1” W (6.3 x 2.5 cm)

High Sierra’s All metal 1.5 GPM (6.8 liters) high-efficiency, low-flow adjustable showerhead adds a touch of class to your bathroom. This wall-mounted, round showerhead with a choice of 4 high-quality finishes has a clog-free nozzle and delivers a stream of high-energy water every time!

The solid metal construction of this showerhead ensures a high-quality, durable product. Proudly made in the USA by a family-owned company, this product is easy to install and has a great range of motion.


So Is a Low-Flow Shower Head Worth It?

A low-flow showerhead is worth it for so many reasons! Each time you switch on the faucet to take a shower, you flush clean water down the drain. By installing a low-flow showerhead onto your existing shower arm, you will use less water, cut costs and help to save the planet!

Shana

Shana Burg is a bath enthusiast, content strategist, and award-winning writer. She is the founder of bathtubber.com.

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