Low-down on Low-flow Showerheads

January 28, 2009

GreenHomeNYC founder Aaron Yowell requested tips on low-flow showerheads and we thought we’d share the responses.

A showerhead’s water flow is measured in gallons per minute (gpm). A standard showerhead is 5 – 8 gpm, which means a 5 minute shower uses 40 gallons of water. According to NYC’s Department of Environmental Protection, an efficient gpm is at or below 2.5 across various water pressures. Although US EPA’s WaterSense program (a label akin to Energy Star) hasn’t estblished a standard for showerheads, some green standards (including LEED) require 2 gpm to be considered “low-flow”, and Enterprise Green Communities (a green standard for affordable housing) encourages showerheads of 1.7 gpm.

Are you bathing in Niagara Falls? Test your shower head — it’s easy.

Recommended products: The manufacturers that meet the DEP standards include AM Conservation, Energy Technology Labs, New Resources Group and Niagara Conservation. Some produce comfortable showers that don’t differ noticeably from the wasteful high-flow versions, and some flaunt their low-flow. But all can remove shampoo from even the fiercest bouffant.

GreenHomeNYC preferences include:

Bomee Jung, Program Director for Green Communities at Enterprise New York and GreenHomeNYC Founder, recommends the $12 Lowest Flow showerhead from Real Goods. You can “pause” the flow with a simple button without having to fiddle with the cold/hot water mix, so you can have a maximally “eco” soaping experience. A Caveat from Bomee: it’s a “little spitty — but it’s great if you have low water pressure (like I doat home), so a spa-like shower isn’t possible anyway”. You can read the Treehugger review.

According to test runs by Andy Padian, GreenHomeNYC Board Member and National Energy Guru, and his “fellow energy geeks”, the Niagara Earth 1.75 gpm is “great” and “cheap”. It comes in plastic and chrome. Unfortunately it’s made overseas. He also commends his 20 year old Water Pic Shower Massage at 2.5 gpm. Hey, if it works…On a down note, Andy strongly disapproves of the rainforest showerheads that “soak you, the walls, the floor and the downstairs neighbor.” Best stick with the Jungle Sounds CD to ease you into the morning.

Brian Cheigh, Deputy Director for Housing Development at St. Nicholas Neighborhood Preservation Corporation, outfitted a 150 unit senior building and his home with the Earth Massage Showerhead at 1.5 gpm. Both the Wand and Regular showerheads are “great” and the tenants are pleased. Adding to the appeal if you’re outfitting a whole building is that it’s available at good bulk prices .

Last but not least, GreenHomeNYC Volunteer Cory Trembath culled these promising-looking specimens from around the Web: Bricor’s 1GPM model, the 0.5 GPM Aqua Helix, and Oxygenics low-flow.

Finally, a couple of points to keep in mind: New York City water pressure can be very high and can fluctuate between 20 and 60 psi. This will affect your gmp. Also, beware of removable aerators that users (read un-green tenants) can remove.

Do you have tips about low-flow showerheads? Feel free to comment!

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