I spoke with Karen Marshall of Delta Faucets when I was at Greenbuild and we talked about where consumers can make the biggest difference in water consumption. Not surprisingly (particularly if you have teenagers), it’s in the shower. The average shower time is around 8 minutes. Most standard shower heads provide 2.5 gallons per minute of water (9.5 litres per minute). So, let’s do a little math here to see how much water our family of 5 uses per year. If each of us showers for 8 minutes we’re using 20 gallons or 76 litres of water each with a 2.5 gpm shower head. Now multiply that by the number of people in our family (5) which comes out to 100 gallons or 380 litres of water every morning. If we shower 365 days/year, that translates into 36,500 gallons or 138,700 litres per year for five people. That is a lot of shower water! Not to mention the energy that goes into heating the water, and the amount of energy used at the water treatment plant.
Needless to say, cutting your shower time will help immensely. If you can take a 5 minute shower, you’re already reducing water consumption by 3 minutes or 12.6 gpm instead of 20 gallons. Yes, I’m perfectly aware that convincing your teenager to take a shorter shower is a Herculean task. Now, in addition to that shorter shower, add a low flow shower head so you’re only using 1.5 gpm. Suddenly you’re making a significant difference in water consumption. A 1.5 gpm shower for five minutes uses only 7.5 gallons/28 litres of water, about 37% of a standard showerhead used for 8 minutes.
But, there’s a catch — or at least there has been. If you remember the Seinfeld episode where Kramer’s and Jerry’s showerheads are replaced by low-flow showerheads, then you’re perfectly aware of their flaws. Old low-flow technology used water flow restrictors to reduce the amount of water coming out of the shower head, which meant no water pressure. Rinsing thoroughly was a challenge resulting in a soapy film and not-so-flattering hairdos.
The technology over the years since that Seinfeld episode has greatly improved. For instance, Delta uses a completely different technology which they call H2Okinetic Technology to make a 1.5 gpm shower feel like a full 2.5 gpm shower. Water is funneled through the showerhead in such a way that the individual droplets coming out of the shower are larger and retain their heat longer. When a low-flow shower head incorporates this technology, a shower with a flow rate of 1.5 gpm will feel like a standard shower that uses 2.5 gpm shower while giving you a water savings of almost 40%.
Models: There are plenty of design options available using both the H2Okinetic technology that are Water Sense approved. It’s important to note that not all H2Okinectic technology showerheads are Water Sense approved or low-flow, so if you’re looking at an H2okinetic shower head showerhead make sure you also note its flow rate.
Delta Faucet’s website allows you to see what models are available by the features you’re interested in. For instance, in “showerheads” category I selected the “Water Sense” and “H2okinetic technology” filters and was given a wide selection of models that meet both these criteria. The selection also came back with one “jet shower” which is the body spray type installed on shower walls. It may be Water Sense approved, but don’t kid yourself into thinking that any body spray shower is eco-friendly, Water Sense approved or not.