Nov 042009
 

Whether you spell it showerhead or shower head, installing a new one can do more for you than just fixing that slow running, or even leaky shower head you have been using for the last few years.

How many times have you tried to remove the buildup that grows around the exit of the shower head, only to have the same grime come back just a few days later? Once your shower heads have gotten to this point, replacing them can save you the time and frustration of removing those calcium and hard water deposits over and over again.

Or maybe you are remodeling or upgrading your bathroom and have gotten around to thinking about the kind of shower you want.

In either case, when considering a new shower head, you should ask four key questions:

  1. Do I want a regular or low-flow showerhead
  2. Do I want fixed or hand held?
  3. Do I want single or multiple showerheads?
  4. Where do I want to mount the showerhead or heads?

Regular or Low Flow Showerheads?

Showers use water. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates a five-minute shower can use up to 25 gallons of water. That’s 5 gallons of water a minute. And some older shower heads put out 6 to 8 gallons of water a minute, meaning a five-minute shower could use up to 40 gallons of water a minute.

Water costs money. Most studies report that about 20% of your home water bill is spent on shower water. A low flow shower head is the way to save money on home water use. Water saving shower heads also help the environment by conserving a precious resource.

A low-flow showerhead typically uses 2.5 gallons per minute or less, meaning a five-minute shower will use about 12.5 gallons of water. That means using a low flow showerhead can reduce your shower water usage by 50%. Savings in water means additional savings in the gas or electricity you need for your hot water heater.

Additionally, some building codes now require you install low-flow showerheads.

In the early days, low flow showerheads got a bad rap because all they did was block some of the water flow. It was hard to get clean in a trickle of water. But engineering and manufacturing changes have led to newer heads that provide the water and pressure you need to take a decent shower.

Aerating and Non-aerating Low-flow Shower Heads

An aerating low flow shower head works by mixing air into the water. This allows the water stream to have a steady pressure that gives the user a full, even spray.

A non-aerating shower head does not mix air into the water. This means the water stream is harder, giving a more pulsating or massaging-type spray. Because the air doesn’t cool the water, the water coming out of the head may be a little hotter than with the aerating type.

Most people prefer the aerating low flow shower heads because of the softer, even water flow they provide.

Scalding Danger

There is one danger with low flow shower heads – scalding. This can occur if, for example, if while you’re in the shower, someone flushes the toilet. While cold water is filling the toilet tank, the water pressure in the cold water pipes drop. Less cold water reaches the shower and suddenly the shower starts running mostly hot water.

This problem can be avoided with an anti-scald valve that senses water pressure differences, then balances the water flow. A more expensive option is a thermostatic mixer, which is a valve that adjusts for both water pressure and water temperature.

For more information about valves, read Shower Valve Choices
.

Typical low-flow showerheads can range in cost from US$8 to over US$50. The difference is in quality of construction, finish, and options. Options can include styling, the number of jets, and adjustment choices. Models that are hand held will also cost a bit more.

Fixed or Handheld Showerhead?

The fixed shower head is the type that attaches directly to the water pipe that comes out of the shower wall. Some fixed shower heads sit on a neck that lets you make some small adjustments to the position of the head. The water coming out of the head is typically adjusted with separate hot and cold water taps or you can install a special valve that lets you move a lever to adjust the hot and cold water.

Fixed shower heads are available that let you adjust the type of spray. These can include a regular, massage, or pulsating spray.

The hand held shower head is simply a shower head attached to a flexible hose. The hose sits in a connection that is attached to the pipe in the wall. Using the flexible hose you can direct the water to different parts of your body as needed. The head part of the unit can also be bought with adjustments for different types of spray.

The handheld showerhead is preferred if you use a shower seat or shower chair in your shower because it lets you direct the water where you want it while remaining seated.

Installing either a fixed or hand held shower is usually a do-it-yourself job that can be done quickly.

Single or multiple showerheads?

Your typical shower has a single shower head that screws into the water pipe. The single head can be a standard head with the usual water pressure. But other options are available.

For example, the rain showerhead is very popular now. With this type shower head, the water pours down on you as if you were standing in the rain. They even make these with built-in LED lights that change colors.

There are also shower heads that deliver a fine mist in which to shower. Of course, there are also the adjustable heads that let you choose different types of water flow such as massage or pulsating.

What makes the difference is varying the number of nozzles in the shower head and their size. Changing these two things varies the pressure and the amount of water that gets through. This creates water effects such as a rainfall or a high pressure massage-type shower.

But if you are remodeling or upgrading your shower, you may want to consider multiple shower heads. This can be done by having two or more water lines installed or by having two heads come off of one pipe. With two separate pipes you can locate the shower heads on two different walls or overhead. Each head can be stationary or each can be hand held.

Multiple shower heads can provide a whole new showering experience. What’s more, each shower head could be different such as a rain head on one and a massage head on the other.

If you’re a parent, one advantage of multiple shower heads is that you can wash two kids at once, saving time and getting them both clean. Two adults can also take advantage of dual shower heads, especially if each likes a different water temperature. And, of course, there are the romantic possibilities.

Where to Mount the Showerheads?

Most shower heads come out of the water pipe located along one shower wall. But other options for mounting shower heads are available. For example, we’ve already mentioned having a shower head above you. Combine this with a rain type shower head and you can feel like you’re taking a shower in the great outdoors.

Another option is to mount the shower head in a vertical track so it can slide up and down. Since the height of the head can be adjusted, the shower can be enjoyed by people of different heights.

You can also mount the tracks on opposite walls. This creates a criss-cross water stream. Just turn yourself around and enjoy your 360 degree shower.

Summary

The next time you’re in the shower, think about the kind of experience you’d like to have in it. Then decide the type of shower head you want, how many you want, and where to place it within the shower. Making these choices will make your future showers much more enjoyable.

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