If you've been following our blog, you may remember that our very first Practical Sustainability column advocated switching to low flow shower heads. At the time I had written about a low flow Speakman shower head, which I thought was a great product. I had purchased my "test" shower head as a replacement for a 2.5 gallons per minute (gpm) Speakman shower head that had been a great work horse for a decade.
In these dog days of summer, when many regions have been experiencing extreme drought conditions, I'm revisiting the topic. In the past 2+ years, we have seen additional technological advances. What was a good idea back then is a great idea now.
According to the US EPA's web site, showering accounts "for nearly 17% of residential indoor water use." Switching from standard 2.5 gpm shower heads to EPA WaterSense labeled shower heads that use 2.0 gpm of water not only saves water, but also saves on energy used to heat the water. In fact, if every US household made the switch, we would realize nationwide annual savings of more than 260 billion gallons of water and $2.6 billion in energy cost. For reference, a billion gallons of water is a year's worth of water for 250,000 people.
For many of us, however, the term "low flow shower head" conjures up images of dreadful motel showers with barely a trickle of water. After installing WaterSense shower heads ranging from 1.75 gpm to 2.0 gpm, I can attest to the fact that you don't need to give up performance to save water. Sunset Green Home installed Hansgrohe shower pipes in several bathrooms. They use Hansgrohe's AirPower technology, which mixes air with water to deliver a satisfying shower through their 2.0 gpm shower heads and 1.75 gpm handheld shower components. They're as green as they are beautiful.
This spring, I attended Buildings NY, a trade show for building owners and operators, and spent some time at the convention's product expo. I happened upon the Speakman booth and showed the company reps the blog I had written two years ago. In response, they told me about several additional technological advances and encouraged me to try a couple of their newest products.
We installed the 2.0 gpm Speakman Hotel Pure Low-Flow filtered shower head in our master bathroom. We had already swapped our 2.5 gpm shower head for a 2.0 gpm shower head two years ago, so I wasn't expecting any additional water savings. However, I was intrigued by the Hotel Pure's ability to remove nearly all of the chlorine that is added to our municipal water supply - a boon for skin and hair (particularly for those of us who color our hair and know how much damage chlorine can do). We haven't been disappointed.
We also tried the Speakman Echo Multi-Function low flow shower head, which uses 84 individual nozzles to deliver several spray patterns. We have been using the 1.75 gpm version with great results. We installed it in a small shower whose 2.5 gpm shower head was so forceful that we would regularly find puddles of water on the floor outside the shower. Now we're enjoying a comfortable shower and 30% water savings. Three sets of house guests this summer have commented on how nice the shower is!
If changing your shower head seems like a daunting task, check out the slide show below. Anyone can change a shower head in a matter of minutes. It's easy! So go ahead and give it a try. You'll reduce your water bill and save precious resources at the same time. Now that's what I call Practical Sustainability!