What to Know About a Low-Flow Showerhead

Medically Reviewed by Dany Paul Baby, MD on July 08, 2022
4 min read

Are you looking to make your home more eco-friendly or save money on your water bill? If you have an inefficient showerhead, you may be washing money down the drain. A low-flow showerhead, on the other hand, can help you conserve water and energy, helping the planet and saving you money on utility bills. 

Showers are responsible for, on average, 17% of household water use and 50% of hot water use. Shower use consumes up to 1.2 trillion gallons of water annually in the U.S. alone. The average family can save over 2,000 gallons of water a year, though, just by switching to a low-flow showerhead. 

If you wonder whether or not a low-flow showerhead could work for you, read on to learn everything you need to know about these showerheads.

Low-flow showerheads are showerheads designed to use less water than standard showerheads. Many low-flow showerheads are designed to maintain a strong water spray using aerators, mini-turbines, or a unique nozzle shape.

Low-Flow Showerhead vs. Regular 

Standard modern showerheads use 2.5 gallons per minute (GPM), and some older showerheads use as much as 10 GPM. 

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires that showerheads use 2 GPM or less to warrant its WaterSense label and many low-flow showerheads are even more efficient, using 1.5 GPM or less.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the average U.S. family can save 2,700 gallons of water and 330 kilowatt-hours of electricity each year by switching to a WaterSense showerhead — that's enough electricity to power a house for over a week and a half.

Many people are worried about the quality of their shower when considering switching to a low-flow showerhead, especially if you're old enough to remember when flow restrictors were introduced in the 1970s. Flow restrictors reduced water flow without considering how effective or satisfying the shower was for users. 

Modern low-flow showerhead companies understand that if users aren't satisfied with their low-flow showerhead experience, they'll simply take longer showers or go back to using a standard showerhead. Modern low-flow showerheads are the product of extensive research and make your showering experience a top priority. 

The EPA invested multiple years of research into creating standards for low-flow showerheads. They created a task force comprised of industry professionals from the plumbing industry, water utility companies, and product-certification companies and determined what features make the most satisfying shower experience for most people while remaining eco-friendly. Through this research, they determined that users were most satisfied when their showerhead met their spray force and coverage criteria. 

Low-flow showerheads come in two basic types — aerating and laminar. Aerating showerheads mix air into the water, creating a misty shower spray, while laminar-flow showerheads form individual streams of water. 

Both aerating and laminar flow showerheads work to reduce water usage. However, laminar flow showerheads maintain water temperature better and may lead to additional energy savings. Laminar flow showerheads also produce less steam and humidity than aerating showerheads, which is an important consideration if you live in a humid climate or have a bathroom with poor ventilation.

Many low-flow showerheads also include a water-saving trickle setting that reduces the flow of your showerhead to a very small drizzle of water. This setting allows you to manually stop your shower spray while soaping up or shaving and maintaining the water temperature. 

Replacing your old showerhead with a low-flow showerhead is a relatively simple task, but there are some guidelines to consider when you do it. 

To maintain a tight seal, replace the washer — sometimes called the "o" ring — from your old showerhead when installing your new one. After installing your new low-flow showerhead, discard the old showerhead so that no one mistakenly reinstalls it in another shower.

If you're installing a low-flow showerhead in a common area such as a school or apartment building, or anywhere vandalism may occur, consider installing vandal-resistant aerators and showerheads. Residents and users in these common areas should also be aware of buttons or valves on the low-flow showerheads that provide an easy shut-off for water flow when lathering and shaving. 

The best news of all may be that low-flow showerheads are cheap. High-quality low-flow showerheads generally sell for around $20, and they will save you the same amount in less than a year.

If every home in the United States alone installed low-flow showerheads, the entire nation would save about $3 billion in water utility bills and $2.5 billion in energy costs for heating our water. 

Not only can we save all that money, but we can feel good about our impact on the earth while doing it — people in the U.S. will save nearly 300 billion gallons of water annually if we all install low-flow showerheads in our homes. 

The numbers speak for themselves — at the current rate of water usage, by 2024, 40 states will experience water shortages. When we already consume 1.2 trillion gallons of water annually, it's easy to see how much of a difference we can make with just a $20 purchase of a low-flow showerhead and a little time to install it.