Last week, I wrote about a nice little safety valve that will throttle your hot water supply in the shower if the temperature exceeds 115°F. The device is designed to protect people from a sudden increase in hot water temperature. This week, I’m still in the shower, but I’m thinking about water saving showerheads. Boston homeowners who are hoping to save a little money on the water bill may be considering a low-flow showerhead.
Most homes have a showerhead that was manufactured after 1992, when federal regulations concerning showerheads changed. The 1992 regulations prohibited the manufacture of showerheads that delivered more than 2.5 gallons per minute as part of a regulatory effort to conserve fresh water. Prior to 1992, showerheads could deliver about 5 gpm.
Today, low-flow showerheads on the market deliver between 1.5 and 2 gpm. Water-saving superstars may deliver as little as one-half gallon per minute. Some models have multiple spray patterns and adjustable flow controls. You can also find low-cost, single-spray heads relatively inexpensively.
When manufacturers first started marketing low-flow showerheads – fixtures that delivered less than the standard 2.5 gpm, consumers were less than enthusiastic. The reduced water stream made rinsing extremely difficult in some cases. Other complaints were based on the supply water pressure. Low flow shower heads that had a supply water pressure of less than 50 psi may not operate at all, while supplies that delivered more than 80 psi might cause low flow shower heads to operate erratically. Typically, water pressure in a shower supply is delivered at about 60 psi, but every house is different and actual water pressure may significantly exceed the standard.
Aside from operational complaints, low-flow showerheads vary widely in cost and can be thrown off their game by the gradual accumulation of debris and mineralization in the head. Additionally, low flow showerheads compensate for the reduced amount of water by increasing the pressure of the spray. This increased pressure can lead to early fixture failure, so you may find yourself replacing your low-flow showerheads more frequently. Some users also complain that their hot water supply isn’t delivered as hot as it was using a showerhead with a higher flow.
One option may be a device called a shower tower. Depending upon the model you choose, a shower tower may not be a DIY project. A shower tower consists of a combination of a showerhead and water jets that spray water from a vertical column that is installed on the shower wall. In addition, it’s tough to consider the shower tower a water-saving device, since you can use up to 5 gallons per minute when both the shower head and the jets at the same time!
If you are considering a low-flow showerhead and would like a recommendation, or would like to get a quote on professional installation for a shower tower or other shower fixtures, contact us at Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating, at (617) 288-2911 and we’ll be happy to help.
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