Monday, February 7, 2011

Shower of Savings: Is Low-Flow a No-Go?


As you can imagine, I'm always on the lookout for frugal ideas and tips. Shocking, I know. And whenever the subject of saving money on utilities comes up, one inevitable suggestion is to switch to a low-flow showerhead. Of course, I instantly think of that Seinfeld episode, when all the showerheads in Jerry's building are switched to low-flow and Kramer ends up buying a black market showerhead.

It's hilarious until you have to use a low-flow showerhead yourself; only then you can understand Kramer's desperation. My experience with low-flow showerheads has mostly been at hotels. I'm sure you can agree -- it's pretty frustrating to finally figure out how to use the bathtub faucet, only to get a wimpy stream from the showerhead in return. Who would want to bring that experience home by installing a low-flow showerhead?

Not too long ago, I came across the low-flow suggestion again and decided to look into it this time. I figured someone must have come up with a low-flow showerhead that isn't crappy, right? There's a demand just waiting to be supplied. So I Googled just that: "low-flow showerhead not crappy".  Amazing what Google can find for you.

I read through some of links and forums that returned with my search specifications.  I learned that the average showerhead puts out 2.5 gallons per minute; a low-flow showerhead reduces that amount to 1.5 gallons a minute.  Basically, a low-flow showerhead can make your shower 40% more water efficient. If your shower is more water efficient, the less heated water you need. So not only do low-flow showerheads save water, but they also help you save on energy costs.

But are the savings worth buying a low-flow showerhead? Water isn't expensive and it doesn't cost that much to heat shower, right?  In my perusal of various low-flow blog posts, I came across this shower water and energy use calculator. Just fill in the applicable information and it will calculate how many gallons of water you use and how much it costs to heat that water (it adjusts the cost per kilowatt depending on the rates where you live). 

I'll share my calculations and findings with you:  I loooove taking long showers. That's where I do my best thinking. And I like my showers ridiculously hot.  To take a 15-minute hot shower, it costs about .57 cents a shower. The estimate on the calculator is that my showers cost about $208 a year. Now say I install a low-flow showerhead that puts out 1.5 gallons of water per minute, without changing the duration or temperature of my showers, my annual cost goes down to $125 a year, a savings of $83.  I haven't calculated the cost of my husband's showers (which are shorter and much cooler than mine), but I'm sure that will tack on even more savings. According to my research, the average household saves $55 a year per person by using a low-flow showerhead.

I know, I know...I've left the most important part of my research out: is there a low-flow showerhead out there that doesn't leave you feeling like Kramer?
{"I just took a bath, Jerry. A bath!"}

After checking out some suggestions and reviews, one of the more popular low-flow showerheads is made by a company called High Sierra Showerheads.  Almost every review I read was enormously positive, saying that most people couldn't tell a difference between High Sierra's showerheads and their old ones. They said the spray was powerful, but that it didn't sting. I would explain the technology behind the showerhead, but the inventor does a much better job (just check out the short video on the High Sierra homepage).  The design of the showerhead is definitely simple and they're inexpensive (only $26-29). 

So I ordered one -- just the basic, minimalist one. It doesn't look fancy, but it does the job and it's easy to install. The thing is made of metal and, as a result, won't clog like regular and other low-flow showerheads do.

My husband and I have both taken our turns testing out and we've both come to the same conclusion: it definitely doesn't feel like a low-flow showerhead. The stream is powerful, even more so than the one we had. Even though the stream is more intense than our old one, like the reviews said, it doesn't sting. I was able to wash and rinse my long hair thoroughly with this showerhead. In all, it might take a little getting used to but only because it sprays differently, not because it's sub-par.  At $26 (they do free shipping nationwide), the new showerhead will pay for itself.

Lesson learned: give low-flow showerheads a second look. Do some of your own research. You may be pleasantly surprised at how effortless saving water and energy can be.

Update 2/13/2012 : We still love our showerhead! Two years since I wrote this, it works really well and I often forget that it's even low-flow. Highly recommended.

Note: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have disclosed.

3 comments:

Ruby Rach said...

We have a low-flow shower head, and I must say, I prefer a full force brute!

We also have limited tank water (and no mains water) so we have to take "army" showers... Water on for a few seconds, off to lather up, on again to rinse. It's a pain but we can't risk running out of water!

Tara said...

Anytime you can quote Seinfeld or Friends in a post, I am a fan! LOL! I will be buying this ASAP since I take VERY long showers -I won't even tell you how long, it's embarassing. But, like you, it is where I meditate, think and get away!

thenozzleguy said...

Thank you so much for mentioning our High Sierra Shower heads! Other pluses, aside from the water and energy savings (and the fact that they won't leave your hair looking like a pigeon has been roosting in it) -- it WILL NOT CLOG, it is made in the USA, and it has a great minimalist look to it. We have new models -- you might want to check them out www.highsierrashowerheads.com

-- David

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