Often shunned for their lack of pressure, low-flow shower heads were often avoided by many shoppers. While state and federal regulations have placed caps on the maximum flow rate of shower heads, low-flow models are being sought out for the numerous benefits they provide, including a decreased water bill, reduced energy consumption, and their environmentally friendly nature.
We’ll expand on the many benefits of this shower head type so you can decide if it is worth adding one to your home.
What is the flow rate of a low-flow shower head?
The flow rate is the amount of water that a shower head uses. Flow rates for shower heads will vary between 2.5 and 1.5 gallons per minute (GPM). Shower heads with a flow rate of 2.0 GPM or less are considered low-flow. A shower head with a flow rate between 1.5 and 1.8 is considered ultra-low flow.
How does it work?
To restrict the flow of water, manufacturers add a restrictor valve (water saver) in a shower head. This small plastic piece reduces the amount of water coming out of the shower head. While it impacts flow, the restrictor valve does not necessarily impact water pressure. Additionally, some shower heads may have an aerated flow where the water is mixed with air to reduce the amount of water used and increase the breadth of the spray.
How to verify your shower head is environmentally friendly?
When buying a low-flow shower head in the United States, look for the EPA WaterSense label. This label indicates that the shower head meets the EPA’s criteria for water efficiency and has a flow rate of 2.0 GPM or less. Shower heads with the WaterSense label must be certified. You can verify the certification by visiting the EPA’s WaterSense website.
How much water does a low-flow shower head save?
To demonstrate how much a low-flow shower head can save, here is a table demonstrating the water consumption for a family of four over a year (with an average showering time of 8 minutes):
|Number of People
|Daily Usage (gallons)
As you can see, the annual usage for a family of four is 24,000 gallons when using a 2.5 GPM shower head. In comparison, the annual usage for a 1.5 GPM shower head is 17,520. This provides a net savings of 6,480 gallons per year.
Environmental and financial benefits
Using a low-flow shower head comes with myriad environmental and financial benefits. From conserving precious natural resources to reducing energy consumption, these fixtures allow households to save on water and electricity while taking strides towards a more sustainable lifestyle.
- Environmental benefits: By reducing water consumption, you reduce the energy needed to deliver and treat the water, meaning fewer pollutants are discharged into rivers, lakes, and streams. Low-flow fixtures also reduce the amount of wastewater discharged.
- Financial benefits: With such a significant reduction in water consumption, expect to see a noticeable difference in your monthly utility bills. Installing a low-flow shower head is a quick and easy way to put money back in your pocket. As an additional benefit, by using less water, your water heater won’t need to work as hard to heat the water, meaning you’ll save on energy costs as well.
Can you still get clean?
Just because a low-flow shower head relies on a reduced flow rate doesn’t necessarily mean you can adequately bathe yourself. Many low-flow shower heads utilize anti-clogging nozzles, directed spray patterns, and a smaller face diameter to maintain adequate water pressure.
Will the temperature of the water be affected?
No, the temperature of the water from a low-flow shower head won’t be impacted. However, if the shower head provides an aerated or misty spray, you may need to adjust the temperature as the water will feel cooler. But this isn’t a problem unique to low-flow shower heads. Any shower head that provides a misty spray will have this effect.
How to save water on your entire home
One of the drawbacks of low-flow shower heads is that they are only effective at the point of use, meaning they cannot reduce water consumption throughout the entire home. If you are looking for further savings, consider a water pressure-reducing valve. Installed on the main water line, this adjustable valve can reduce pressure throughout the entire home. While you can install this yourself, a professional plumber should be hired.
A few shower heads we recommend
If you are considering a new shower head, here are a few we recommend:
- Delta Faucet (58569-RB-PK): With five spray settings and a flow rate of 1.75, the shower head can be easily adjusted to suit your needs. Available in Venetian bronze, champagne bronze, chrome, and stainless it can set the style of any bathroom. It also carries the WaterSense label.
- Methven (SJK23−LF2H): This eco-friendly shower head has an industry-leading flow rate of 1.5 GPM. Claimed to save 20,000 gallons of water per year, it will lessen your impact on the environment and yield significant savings on your water bill. Lastly, the handheld hose makes it easy to clean hard-to-reach areas.
- Speakman (S-2251-E175): This 1.75 GPM shower head by Speakman provides a spa-like experience in the comfort of your home. Self-cleaning nozzles reduce clogging and maintenance, leading to a much longer lifespan. Backed by a limited lifetime warranty, this shower head is built to last.
- Niagara Conservation (N2935CH): This 2.0 GPM handheld shower head provides the greatest throughput of all the shower heads on this list. While finishes and design are limited, this will give you a thorough cleaning.