70s House Eco Renovation

Saving Water and Energy with a Low Flow Showerhead

By Kenneth Barbalace

[Last update May 2, 2009]

Note: This is one in a series of articles documenting the eco renovation of our house. See the links at the bottom of this article for other articles in this series.

At some point in time, most of us have run out of hot water while taking a shower and it isn't pleasant. The first time my wife and I took back to back showers in the home we had just purchased, she ran out of hot water partway through her shower. That very day we went to our local Home Depot and then Lowes to find a low flow showerhead that would still provide a good quality shower. What we didn't want when buying a new showerhead is wimpy showers.

Right up there with cold showers, another unpleasant showering experience is when the showerhead puts out a weak spray of water. Many people associate the strength of water spray with the amount of water being discharged from the showerhead. This is an incorrect assumption. For instance, you could have a very large volume of water flow out the end of the pipe if the showerhead was removed, but it would not at all make for satisfactory showers. The strength of the water spray is a combination of water flow, water pressure and water nozzle design.

In the United States, per ASME A112.18.1, any showerhead purchased at a store will have a water flow of no more than 2.5 gpm (gallons per minute). There is becoming, however, a larger selection of low flow showerheads that use around 1.5 gpm, which can reduce water usage by 40%. This not only reduces one's water bill, but reduces the energy consumed heating water. The key is to find a low flow showerhead that is well designed and still provides for a satisfying shower.

Earlier in the year, a friend of ours, whom we were staying with while we waited to close on our house, purchased one of those shower wands that has a hose so that the showerhead can be moved about. Being price conscious she purchased a really cheap no name shower wand. Even though it flowed 2.5 gpm, the shower it produced was very unsatisfactory. Basically what the manufacturer had done was stick a washer assembly in the hose to restrict water flow to meet U.S. requirements, but they did not redesign the water nozzles to work with the lower flow.

When purchasing our showerhead, I wasn't about to repeat our friend's mistake. A low flow showerhead that does not work well is money wasted because it won't stay on the shower for very long. What I was looking for was a low flow showerhead from a brand I recognized and knew had a good reputation. What we finally settled on was the Waterpik® Ecoflow®, which flows 1.5gpm and has five modes (full-body spray, circular massage, mist, concentrated fan spray, and circular massage + mist). At Lowes® the showerhead cost us $35 (Home Depot only had the shower wand style of this showerhead).

Like with most showerheads, installing the Waterpik Ecoflow was super easy and only took about five minutes; the showerhead didn't even need thread sealing tape. The quality of the shower the Waterpik Ecoflow produced was fantastic and it does not feel like we compromised anything by going to a much lower water flow. Although we leave the showerhead in full-body spray mode most of the time, the circular massager felt really good on my back that was aching from a couple of long weeks of house renovations.

If there is any drawback to this showerhead, it is that in the beginning you might take longer showers as you play with all of the settings or drift off under the pulsation of the circular massage. The only design change I would probably make to the showerhead would be to place the water pause setting next to the full-body shower setting on the showerhead's dial. Having to twist the dial through all of the other settings to activate the water pause setting is annoying as one gets subjected to a face full of water spray from the two mist settings in the process.

The Waterpik Ecoflow is a fantastic showerhead if one wants to significantly reduce water usage and water heating costs. Depending upon how much water and heating water costs you, you would probably find this showerhead would pay for itself in around six months. Based on two showers a day at ten minutes per shower, compared to a 2.5gpm, a 1.5gpm showerhead will save over 7,000 gallons of water annually and around $90 per year based on US Department of Energy estimates for typical water sewer and energy costs. This is pretty good for a $35 investment.

Oh, with the new low flow showerhead, our problem of running out of hot water with back to back showers is now a thing of the past.

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