Hot water can account for as much as 25% of a household’s total energy costs. In many cases, showers can be the largest single contributor to overall hot water use in a home, accounting for 15% of total household energy use. With a conventional showerhead, even a modest 10-minute shower can use up to 190 litres (42 gallons) of hot water. A low-flow showerhead can reduce this by half, or more, without sacrificing the “feel” of the shower. There are a wide variety of low-flow showerheads available, including hand-held and designer models.
Replacing a conventional showerhead with a low-flow model is as inexpensive as $15 and is usually a quick and simple job. The payback for installing low-flow showerheads is almost immediate, depending on the frequency of showers.
A family of three may take almost 1,000 showers per year. If you replace your standard showerhead with a low-flow model, you could save 26,600 litres of hot water and between $80 and $100 annually on your energy costs (depending on whether you use natural gas or electricity to heat your water).
Health & comfort
New low-flow showerheads reduce water use without sacrificing the quality of the shower. Many low-flow models feature multiple flow settings.
Low-flow showerheads can save you half the water of a standard shower, and they save energy as well. If 10,000 B.C. households switched to low-flow showerheads, the annual energy savings could power 300 Canadian homes for a year.
Remember to also take shorter showers to further reduce your water and energy use.
What you need to know
- For maximum efficiency, get a low-flow showerhead with a shut-off valve. This allows you to turn off the water while soaping up, and then turn it back on instantly without having to readjust the temperature.
- Installing a low-flow showerhead is easy. Simply unscrew your old one, take it to your local hardware store to make sure you get the right replacement, screw on the new one and you’re done. For a look at how easy this is, check out the Sierra Club’s low-flow showerhead installation video on YouTube.
- The updated B.C. Building Code, which went into effect September 5, 2008, mandates low-flow showerheads to be 9.5 litres per minute
- You save more water and energy by taking quick showers instead of baths. Use an inexpensive shower timer to help monitor and reduce showering times.
- To determine for yourself if showering saves more water than bathing, plug the drain while showering. At the end of your shower, you’ll see how much water you’ve used and how it compares with what you would use for your bath.
Taking it further
- For even more hot water savings, insulate all accessible hot water pipes. As a guide, insulate the pipe wherever it is hot to the touch. This helps to reduce heat loss and can keep water temperature 1°C to 3°C hotter than non-insulated pipes. It also allows you to lower your water heater temperature to 60°C and you won’t have to wait as long for hot water when you turn on a faucet or showerhead, which helps conserve water. As well, it’s a good idea to insulate the first metre of your cold water inlet pipes to help prevent condensation and to keep cold water cool.
How does a low-flow showerhead work?
Most low flow showerheads aerate the water and increase its velocity by restricting the flow and forcing the water through very small apertures. This creates a very fine but “wet” feeling spray pattern.
While a conventional showerhead uses 18 to 27 litres or more per minute, the low-flow type uses approximately 9 to 11 litres per minute, with some models using even less.
Are there different types of low-flow showerheads?
- There are two basic types of low-flow showerheads: aerating and non-aerating.
- An aerating showerhead mixes air into the water stream. The air maintains steady pressure and results in an even, full shower spray. Aerating showerheads are the most popular kind of low-flow showerhead.
- A non-aerating showerhead does not have air that is mixed into the water stream. This type of showerhead maintains a warmer temperature and has a stronger, more pulsating type of spray, giving more of a massaging effect.
- Many are equipped with a push-button shut-off valve, which allows the user to interrupt the flow of water while soaping up, saving even more.
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