An energy-saving shower head reduces water and energy bills with a low initial investment. The typical household could save 2,300 gallons of water per year --- as well as the cost of heating that water --- by replacing older or inefficient fixtures with water-saving models. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the U.S. could save $1.5 billion annually in water bills, $2.5 billion annually in electric bills and conserve 250 billion gallons of water each year by converting to shower heads with a flow rate of 2 gallons per minute (gpm) or less. (See References 1)
The EPA's WaterSense program, implemented in 2006, set 2 gpm as a standard maximum flow rate for water-saving shower heads. The program requires products to be tested by independent labs to ensure that the maximum flow rate is no more than 2 gpm while meeting minimum spray coverage and spray force standards. The program further requires that the products and the product packaging state the verified flow rate in gpm. The program is voluntary, but only products meeting these requirements may use the WaterSense seal. (See References 2)
Determine Flow Rate
A simple test determines if a shower head delivers more than 2 gpm. Hold a 2-gallon bucket under the shower head and turn on the water. Time how long it takes to fill the bucket. It should take at least one minute; the longer it takes to fill the bucket, the better. If the bucket fills in less than one minute, replacing the shower head would save water and energy. (See References 3)
Range of Features
Water-saving shower heads are available in a wide range of styles and prices. Some shower heads include a "pause" option to slow or stop the flow of water during soaping or shaving, offering even more savings. The WaterSense program includes both fixed and hand-held shower heads. Massaging shower heads are certified to deliver no more than 2 gpm regardless of which mode you use (see References 2).
Shower heads using an aerating system create mist and steam, which may not be desirable in humid climates. Nonaerating systems create individual streams of water and less humidity (see References 3). Most shower heads can be installed by the homeowner; follow the manufacturer's instructions carefully and perform a bucket test after installation. An improperly installed shower head may not meet the flow rate listed on the package. Utility companies may offer rebates for water-saving shower heads; check with your local utilities provider.
Diana Lea is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin with more than 20 years of technical writing experience. She is a certified Florida master gardener and writes extensively on gardening topics for various websites.