Informational Guide

What Is A Low Flow Shower Head?

Low flow shower heads can help you save up to 40% water. We take a look at what a low-flow shower head is & its benefits vs regular ones.

by Holly Curell

If you're like most people, you have a shower head that delivers an excellent shower. However, it probably uses a lot more water than you realize. Most people are shocked when they learn that showers are responsible for about 30% of their water use, and that's a conservative estimate. It's probably closer to 50%.

The trick to conserving water while you're in the shower is to use a low-flow shower head that still gives you an excellent shower but does a much better job of conserving water. The article below will go in-depth about how low-flow shower heads work and how they can benefit you more than your typical shower head.

Low-flow shower heads have to adhere to a standard of no more than 2.5 GPM, or gallons per minute. In the old days, shower heads used to be upwards of 8 GPM! Most low-flow shower heads dispense two gallons or less per minute, resulting in monumental savings.

Low-flow shower heads come in two types:

  • Aerating: The water is mixed with air, resulting in a mist-like spray.
  • Laminar-flow: Individual streams of water

Many low-flow shower heads come with a flow restrictor that allows more or less water through the lines so you can control the flow of water. Some of the more modern low-flow shower heads come with a timer or push a button to preset the water temperature.

What Is A Low Flow Shower Head

Benefits Of Low Flow Shower Head

There are several benefits when it comes to low-flow shower heads. The most obvious benefit is decreased water consumption - of up to 40% or more. That not only conserves water, but it will put a lot of money back in your pocket at the end of the year.

Heating the water for your shower takes up energy, so reducing the amount of water that needs to be heated will cut down on your energy usage and reduce your energy bills. Most people see savings of $50 or more each year due to their low-flow shower head. And since your demand for hot water goes down and the amount of energy used to heat it up is lowered, you cut down on carbon dioxide emissions.


How To Choose Low Flow Shower Head: Buyer’s Guide

There are a few ways to choose the best low-flow shower head for you. The best low-flow shower head will depend heavily on your budget and the things that are important to you. For example, you might want a shower head with a motion sensor to automate water flow.

Or, you might opt for one with an automatic shut-off that will turn off the water after a certain amount of time. Some low-flow faucets can even be controlled by a foot pedal.

One thing you need to pay attention to when selecting your low-flow shower head is the GPM. It needs to be 2.5gpm or lower. Look for one with a WaterSense label. A WaterSense certification is similar to an EnergyStar rating. It means that the shower head is backed by third-party certification and meets EPA standards for water efficiency. 

Then you'll need to decide between aerating or laminar flow. Both are good options and personal preference, but laminar flow seems to be more popular. Finally, you may also want to choose one with a flow restrictor that allows you to control water flow.

What Is Considered A Low Flow Shower Head

How To Measure Your Shower Head Flow Rate

Calculating the flow rate for your shower head is actually pretty simple. You just need a one-gallon bucket and your shower. Grab your bucket and put it in your shower under your shower head. Now turn on the shower. 

Once the bucket starts filling, count the number of seconds it takes to fill the bucket. Now you have your GPM.

If your bucket fills up in less than 20 seconds, you need a low-flow shower head. If it takes about 15 seconds to fill up, that equals about 4 GPM, and if it takes 10 seconds to fill up, it's about 6 GPM.

Your low-flow shower head should take at least 24 seconds to fill the gallon bucket.


How Much Water Will You Save Using A Low Flow Shower Head?

Let's figure out how much water you can save when you switch to a low-flow shower head. Let's say you take 25 showers over the next 30 days. You'll likely take more, but we'll be conservative with 25. Let's also say your showers last about 7 minutes, another conservative estimate.

Using a 25gpm shower head and taking 25, 7-minute showers, you'll be in the shower for 175 minutes. Now multiple 175 by your GPM, which in this case is 2.5, and you'll see that you've used nearly 438 gallons of water showering in just one month.

Now let's say you use a 1.5gpm low-flow shower head. Multiply your 175 minutes by 1.5, and you'll see that you've used almost 263 gallons of water over the 30 days. That's a difference of 175 gallons, about a 60% difference. Over the course of the year, that's 2,100 gallons of water you've saved!


How Much Money Will You Save Using A Low-Flow Shower Head?

The best thing about using a low-flow shower head is the amount of money you stand to save. In just a matter of weeks, your low-flow shower head will pay for itself.

Using a 2.5 GPM, on average, will save a family of four roughly 27,000 gallons of water each year. That's about $22 each month, or a little over $260 for the year. And the savings don't stop there. If you use an electric water heater, you stand to save an additional $25 each year, or $15 a year if you use natural gas.


People Also Ask (FAQs)

How can I increase the flow of my shower head?

To increase the flow of your shower head, you can use a flow restrictor or an amplifying shower head. You may also open your gate valve by turning the handle in a counterclockwise direction. Or you may just need to use household calcium, lime, or magnesium remover to clean the shower head and increase the water flow.

Is a higher GPM better for shower heads?

The lower the GPM of your shower head, the better. A lower GPM means your shower head uses less water each time you take a shower.

Do large size shower heads use more water?

The size of your shower head doesn't necessarily affect how much water it uses. There are still large shower heads that can be considered low-flow.

Why is my shower water pressure suddenly low?

Several things can cause you to lose water pressure suddenly. You might have a lousy shower head, it could be a problem your utility company is having, or you might have a leak or corroded pipes.

How do I fix low water pressure in my shower head?

To fix low-pressure in your shower head, you can try cleaning the shower head and then check for a flow restrictor if that doesn't work. Also, make sure there aren't any kinks in your hose. If all else fails, check for leaks or contact your utility company.


Conclusion

Buying a new low-flow shower head will pay for itself several times over in just its first year of use. It’s great for the environment - just one person switching to a low-flow shower head will save 2,000 gallons of water every year. And water conservation benefits us all for generations to come. One small change can make a big difference to your budget and our planet.

Holly Curell is the editor extraordinaire for Plumbing Lab. Having grown up in Michigan, Holly has spent time living in New York, Virginia, & currently North Carolina, where she lives with her husband & family. Holly loves DIY & has years of experience with at-home plumbing problems that arise from having 3 kids & living in colder climates. When she's not writing about her plumbing knowledge, Holly enjoys reading, hiking & relaxing with family.

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