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Low-Flow GPM Shower Heads Conserve Water

Updated on January 18, 2013

Lower water consumption and water heating bills. Conserve water and natural resources while saving on energy. Install environment-friendly 1.5-2.0 gpm low-flow shower heads, a plumbing DIY project.

Water is a precious resource

Water is a precious resource. The total worldwide supply remains constant, but that supply is not always available in the right form in the right place at the right time. That’s where conservation becomes important. And what’s important suddenly becomes urgent when you’re all soaped-up and the hot water runs out. Nothing like a cold shower to stimulate an action plan!

I discovered this when my kids hit the teenage years and started taking looong hot showers. There are various options:

  • Yell at them to hurry up.
  • Turn up the temperature on the water heater so that it will last longer when mixed with cold.
  • Install a larger water heater or convert from electric to gas.
  • Try to time your shower so that the water heater has had enough time to recover since the last shower, load of laundry or dishwasher run.

2.5 gpm. Trickle cut-off toggles left and right.
2.5 gpm. Trickle cut-off toggles left and right. | Source

Install low-flow shower heads

Instead of any of those options, I decided to trick the kids by installing low-flow shower heads. (They never even commented, so I guess they didn’t notice.) I have no idea what the water flow rate was on the old shower heads, but it must have been significant because we’ve never run out since I installed new 2.0-2.5 gpm heads. Since 1992, 2.5 gallons per minute (gpm) is the standard U.S. maximum flow rate, although some are marketed as low as 1.25 gpm.

Low-flow shower heads conserve energy consumption as well as water. It simply takes less electricity or gas to heat less water. That saves you money as well as being environment-friendly.

How well do they work?

I wondered whether they would work as well. I like a nice full-force massage on my back muscles. What I discovered is that it’s not the volume of water, but the velocity that makes the difference. Modern low-flow nozzles generate greater force through the use of high-velocity apertures. If you occasionally have low water pressure, a low-flow nozzle actually increases water pressure at the point it leaves the shower head. Finally, if you have a septic tank—as we do—a reduced water flow may prolong the life of your septic dispersal field.

Easy-to-use trickle cut-off flip lever. Delivers 2.0 gpm.
Easy-to-use trickle cut-off flip lever. Delivers 2.0 gpm. | Source

Trickle Cut-off Valve

The shower heads I bought have a built-in trickle valve to facilitate taking navy showers. A navy shower is an extreme water conservancy measure. Get wet; turn it off; lather up; rinse off—all in as little as one gallon of water.

One reason that many people object to navy showers with conventional shower heads is that restarting the water flow requires adjusting the temperature again. The trickle valve is a single valve on the shower head itself, so the water mixture is constant. Furthermore, it trickles continuously while “off” so that you won’t be surprised by scalding or freezing water when you flip it back “on.”

Super Low Flow Shower Head 1.5 GPM with Pressure Compensating Flow Controller, White Spray Clean
Super Low Flow Shower Head 1.5 GPM with Pressure Compensating Flow Controller, White Spray Clean

Available in 1.5, 1.75, 2.0, or 2.5 gpm, with or without toggle on/off valve, in chrome or white.


Replacing a shower head

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DIY Installation

Replacing a shower head is not something you need a plumber for, unless you’re a total klutz. It’s not much different from taking the lid off a new bottle of catsup. Sometimes it will twist bare-handed; sometimes you’ll need a wrench or pliers. If the new one leaks at the threads and you can’t tighten it enough bare-handed—there should be no need to force this—then use some Teflon tape. A small roll of it costs mere pennies and you should pick one up when you buy the shower head, if you remember.

OK, now try it. I meant move out of the way first, and then try it, Wet Head!

Tell about your shower head replacement experience

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    • watergeek profile image


      4 years ago from Pasadena CA

      You can raise showerheads higher, extend them out further from the wall, and put two on top of each other, using the same supply. All you need to know is a little basic plumbing . . . well, more like do-it-yourself courage. To save water, I've never taken a navy shower, but have skipped days. Luckily, my work is not dirty work. Thanks for these ideas, Howard.


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