Professor's House

Water Efficient Shower Heads

It is generally accepted that you will save water if you shower rather than bath. Apart from that it is considered a healthier option, since when you shower you have a constant stream of fresh water flowing over you, rather than wallowing in your own dirty water. But if you shower for a very long time, or if you haven’t fitted a water-saving, water efficient or even just a low flow shower head, the savings – if any – might be minimal.

According to the Alberta-based C3, a non-profit organization that is working to transform the way energy is used, showers account for about 22% of all the water used (hot and cold), and as much as two thirds of just the hot water used, in the average Canadian home. A family of four that takes short, five-minute showers uses about 70,000 liters or 15,400 gallons of water every year. If you shower for 10 minutes, you can double your water usage in a flash. But, says C3, by spending between $8 and $90 (depending on the shower head you choose to fit), you can cut your hot water usage by more than a third.

Choose the right shower head

There are various types of shower heads that are designed to save water, including low flow shower heads and low flow, high pressure shower heads that don’t use the same flow restrictors as the original low flow shower heads. These not only reduce the amount of water that you use while showering, they also limit the amount of energy used to heat the water – simply because you are using less water. So you won’t only save water, you’ll also save money.

Generally, water efficient shower heads look pretty much the same as most ordinary old shower heads, but they restrict the flow of water in some way. While a regular shower head will use up to 45 liters or 10 gallons of water per minute, even one of the early water-saving shower heads will use a maximum of half of this. Today, most have a water flow that is as little as 9 to 14 liters (2 to 3 gallons) of water per minute. Some new models claim maximum flow rates of as little as a half a gallon or about 2 or 3 liters. It just goes to show that the improvement in the past two decades has been phenomenal.

However, C3 warns that you shouldn’t trust claims of energy efficient, low flow, water saving or even water efficient shower heads without making certain they are true. Check the packaging to see what flow rate is specified. If nothing is specified, rather make another choice.

As a matter of interest, C3 doesn’t consider a shower head with a flow rate of 2.5 gallons per minute to be water or energy efficient. You should be looking for a maximum flow rate of no more than 1.5 or 1.6 gallons a minute, they say.

One of the brands that this organization recommends is the Californian-based company, Bricor.

Some interesting brands

Bricor (www.bricor.com) uses a patented VACUUM flow “booster” valve for its shower heads, which aerate and compact the water under pressure. As it leaves the shower head, the aerated water expands and vibrates. This creates a powerful shower stream of water at a very low flow rate – they say 1.25 gallons per minute or less. This helps to solve low water pressure problems that usually cause a weak stream flow. Shower performance as a whole is improved because of the intensity of the water flow, but less hot water is used, so water and effluent costs are reduced. Furthermore, because the droplets from the shower head are compacted and highly energized – which is why they seem to literally “explode” as they leave the vacuum chamber – the possibility of mineral crystals forming scale is dramatically reduced.

Another Californian company, Jet-Stream (www.jet-streamshowerhead.net) produces a 1.5 gallon per minute shower head that uses an air chamber that creates turbulence by mixing water and air. Since there is no mineral deposit build-up (for the same reasons mentioned above), the manufacturer claims the shower head is “self-cleaning”. This product carries a 20-year replacement warranty. In addition, there is a patented feature that keeps the 1.5 water volume at a constant pressure, from 15 to 120 psi (pounds per square inch) – although the average water pressure in Canadian homes is about 50 psi.

Oxygenics (www.oxygenics.ca) specialize in high performance water and energy saving shower heads. Aiming for a clean, green market, their patented new technology utilizes the Venturi principle of fluid mechanics. The water in their shower heads is pushed though a special accelerator fin that increases the velocity of the water, making it flow through the shower head more quickly, so that there is better water pressure – even though less water is in fact flowing through the mechanism. It also injects oxygen into the water to make your skin feel rejuvenated.

There is a reasonably wide range of available Oxygenics shower heads, all of which are guaranteed against clogging and carry a lifetime warranty. They even have a shower head that may be used with very low, variable water pressure. Known as the Oxygenics X-Stream model, it automatically adjusts itself using a gravity-based, free-flowing drop. There is an internal spring that expands and contracts automatically, guided by the pressure and velocity of the water. This is being heralded as “the world’s first hybrid conservation shower”! Better still, the cap is adjustable and so when you are showering, you can customize the spray pattern according to your likes and dislikes.

Evolve has patent-pending technology called ShowerStart that they have used to develop a new range of energy efficient shower heads, including a “lower-flow” model. What they have done to make water efficient shower heads is to take human nature into account. Their theory is that many people do other things while they are waiting for the shower to heat up; and during this time, gallons of water are wasted. The new Evolve shower head design stops the flow of water to a trickle as soon as the water reaches 95 °F or 35 °C. You then restart it when you are ready to start showering.

So if you looking for green products for your new home, be sure to include your shower head on your shopping list.

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