Aside from taking precautions that conserve water (shutting off shower while you're soaping up, for instance, saves 15 to 20 gallons of water), new fixtures can help too. Low-flow showerheads conserve water by restricting the flow of water through small apertures and creating a high-velocity spray by forcing compressed air into the water stream.
How to buy and install a low-flow showerhead
You can determine whether your existing showerhead is low-flow or not by timing how many seconds it takes to fill a bucket marked in gallon increments. If the bucket is filled to the one-gallon mark in less than 20 seconds, it should be replaced. When shopping, you'll see that all new showerheads must now have flow rates of 2.5 gallons/minute or less, but don't be afraid to try even more efficient ones. Make it one gallon/minute and you'll really be saving.
There's a variety of types and price-points available for new showerheads. Depending on whether you want something simple or some extra bells and whistles, the price for your new showerhead will vary between $8 and $50, with some designer models costing upwards of $200. Typically, hand-held models are more expensive than fixed models. Another feature choice is the method of water restriction:
- Air-rating: Aerating showerheads mix air into the water stream, maintaining steady pressure so the spray is even and full.
- Pulsing: Non-aerating showerheads add a pulse to the water stream in order to keep the temperature even.
Regardless of showerhead type, look for a model that includes a shut-off valve, which will allow you to turn off the water while soaping up and then turn it back on without readjusting the water temperature.
Once you've chosen your new showerhead, it's easy to transform your shower into a water-saving unit in your bathroom. For some quick tips on installing a low-flow showerhead, we recommend checking out instructional videos as well as some online resource guides, like EcoHouse and Energyhawk.com.
Find it! Low-flow showerheads
Most home improvement stores carry many showerheads with a range of options. Just be sure to check the gallons per minute rating.
Before you buy
Be mindful of water conflicts in the bathroom. Low-flow showerheads, which deliver less water than regular showerheads, are more likely to spray you with a burst of hot water if the toilet ]] is flushed, which causes a sudden dip in cold water pressure in the system. Installing 3/4-inch piping with pressure-balancing valves, thermostatic mixing valves, or anti-scald valves should provide adequate measures against scalding.
Low-flow showerheads help you go green because…
- They reduce water usage in the home.
- They reduce energy consumption by conserving hot water, thereby lowering carbon dioxide emissions
Daily water usage in the typical single family home is 69.3 gallons, with showers accounting for 16.8 percent of total indoor water use. After washing machines and dishwashers, showers are the third-largest water guzzler in the home. Although federal regulations now require that showerhead flow rates do not exceed more than 2.5 gallons per minute at a water pressure of 80 pounds per square inch, most showerhead fixtures installed before 1992 have flow rates of up to 5.5 gallons of water per minute.
Using a low-flow showerhead can slash home water consumption and water heating costs by as much as 50 percent. The average household can save almost 8,000 gallons of water per year by installing low-flow showerheads, which also reduce the demand for hot water, saving up to 450 pounds of carbon dioxide each year. Some 85 billion gallons of water per year could be saved if everyone in the United States used just one less gallon of water per shower each day.
Taking a shower does not necessarily use less water than a bath; it depends on how long you stay in the shower and how much water comes out of your showerhead. The average bath requires between 30 and 50 gallons of water. Most regular showerhead fixtures installed before 1992 have flow rates of up to 5.5 gallons of water per minute, which means that a shower greater than five minutes in length typically uses more water than a bath.
Turning off the water while you soap up in the shower can save an additional 15 to 20 gallons per shower. To conserve water during baths, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) suggests plugging the drain and filling up the tub only a third of the way full, using the hot water flow to warm up the initial cold water.
- California Energy Commission - The Consumer Energy Center: Shower vs. Bath
- Don Vandervort's Home Tips - Anti-Scald Shower Valves
- US Department of Energy - EERE's Consumer's Guide: Reduce Hot Water Use for Energy Savings
- US Environmental Protection Agency - Watersense: Text-Based Quiz
- DrinkTap.org - American Waterworks Association: Water Use Statistics
- Flex Your Power - Residential Product Guides: Showerheads
- LJWorld.com - Want to save the Earth? Here are 10 ways to start
- County of Maui Dept of Water Supply - 55 Facts, Figures, & Follies of Water Conservation
- University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Unit - Water Usage