A shower head can certainly waste or conserve water. Most shower heads are 2.5 gallons per minute, but there are many that have a higher gallons per minute (GPM) and certainly there are lower ones.
How can you tell what your shower heads GPM is? If it doesn’t specifically say on the shower head, you can measure the flow with a bucket and a timer.
Get a bucket that holds 1 or 2 gallons. You can either enlist the help of another person, or just use a stopwatch (a cellphone timer works great here…just don’t get it wet).
Turn on the shower and put the bucket under the shower head in the stream of water so that the water starts filling the bucket. Start timing as soon as the bucket gets wet. Stop the timer when the bucket is full and then you can calculate the GPM. Here is the formula:
GPM= Bucket’s capacity in Gallons x 60/ Number of seconds to fill the bucket
Alternatively, you can hold the bucket under the water for 10 seconds and then measure the quantity of water in the bucket. Then multiply that quantity of water by 6. You will likely have to convert amounts though. For example you could use a measuring cup to determine the number of cups left in the bucket and then convert that amount to gallons before multiplying by 6. (1 gallon=16 cups).
Replacing a shower head is an easy way to save money. There is lots of technology out there to conserve water, and the energy needed to heat that water.
One cool product is by Evolve shower heads. These showerheads come in both 2.5 and 1.5 gallons per minute. That’s not unusual. What is unusual is the adapter that comes with the showerhead. The adapter, which you can buy separately for you own showerhead, senses the temperature of the water. When the water hits 95-degrees, the showerhead slows to a trickle until you manually open the flow on the adapter. Pretty cool. I can’t tell you how many times someone in my house will turn on the hot water in the shower and leave to do something else. When they return 5 minutes later the shower is now a steam sauna from the hot water that has been flowing. Now when they return, they will find a slow trickle of water from the showerhead signaling the temperature has reached 95-degrees.
At press time the chrome model sells for about $40.00, and my local utility is giving a $20 dollar rebate on the shower head. By the way, the company website says that it will save 2,700 gallons of water per year based on shaving 1 minute off of each shower.
So you are in the shower and the shower head is only spraying through half of the holes in it. Before you replace it, you might try a few easy fixes first.
Some shower heads have rubber "self-cleaning" sprayers on them that allow you to clear off the calcium build-up simply by rubbing your finger over them. Other shower heads are not flexible and so you can use vinegar or a product like CLR (stands for calcium, lime, rust). It is sold at grocery stores and home centers.
You can pour it into a dish and either hold it up to the showerhead, or remove the shower head and set it into the liquid. For difficult-to-remove calcium, let it sit in the CLR for a few hours, rinse it out and then blow through it. Make sure when you unscrew the shower head that you hold on to the neck coming from the wall. The last thing you want to do is to loosen this and have a leak in the wall.
By the way, if you don't want to go through the cleaning process, you can certainly choose to replace the shower head. Just wrap the threads on the neck with teflon tape and then screw the new head on.
If you have plumbing leaks coming from your shower head, determine whether the leak occurs when the shower valve is on or when it is off. That will give you direction on how to go about repairing it.
If your shower head leaks when the water is on , that is you have turned the water on to the shower, it is probably leaking at the connection at the shower arm. The shower arm is threaded at the end where is connects to the female fitting of the shower head. Unscrew the shower head at this connection and re-tape it. Wrap the threads three times with Teflon tape and screw the shower head back on.
If the shower head dribbles out of the end when the water is on, try removing the shower head and soaking it in some “CLR” or other product that dissolves minerals and scale. Otherwise, replace the shower head with a new one.
If your shower head leaks when the shower valves are off, you need to replace the shower cartridge, or stem and seats. This is a common job that will have to be repeated every few years depending on use and water hardness. Here is an article on shower cartridge replacement.
Hand held shower heads are very convenient. Not only can you move them wherever you want them, but they generally have features like a massage spray, pulsating spray, stream, etc. Installing a hand held shower head is exactly like a standard shower head, except that you have a few extra steps.
You will first need to remove the old shower head. Hold the shower arm securely and use an open-end wrench to twist off the old showerhead. Make sure you don't allow the shower arm to move or you might develop a leak in the wall where the arm connects to the shower riser. Clean off the threads of the shower arm and wrap them with 3 wraps of Teflon tape.
Next, install the shower arm coupling. This part screws onto the end of the shower arm and has a threaded fitting for the hose, and a clip to hold the shower head. Screw this coupling on snuggly so that it is oriented vertically when you are done. The fitting for the hose should be pointing down and the clip should be on top.
Wrap the threads of the fitting 3 times with Teflon tape and screw the hose onto this end snuggly. Wrap the threads of the shower head with Teflon tape and screw it into the other end of the hose. Then just turn the water on and check for leaks.
Many people have problems with a leaking shower head. The big issue is if the shower head leaks when the shower is on or off. If the shower head leaks when the shower is off (that is to say the handle(s) are in the off position), then the problem is not with the shower head, but rather the shower valve. Typically a part in the valve needs to be replaced. Here are some hints on how to replace a shower cartridge, which will work for a single handle shower valve.
If the shower head leaks when the water is on, the problem is with the shower head itself, or, most likely, where the shower head screws on to the shower arm. If this is your problem, unscrew the shower head from the arm and wrap the threads three times with Teflon tape. Once you snugly screw it back together, the Teflon tape should prevent leaks at the threads.
It may also be that the shower head is damaged. Many homeowners, when installing a shower head, will overtighten the connection which can crack it, causing it to leak. Lastly, there is a washer inside the connection that seals the water from leaking out. It may be that the washer is damaged or slightly twisted. Try prying it out with a standard screwdriver and then flip it over to give you a new surface to screw against.
If your shower head has a lot of scale and mineral deposits you can soak it in a product such as "CLR" or even warm water and vinegar.
It surprises me sometimes that some people don't want to work on their own homes. Take today for instance. We were asked to install a showerhead today. To this handyman in Las Vegas, this is a very easy job, but I can understand how it might intimidate a homeowner who has never done it before.
It is merely unscrewing the old showerhead, wrapping the shower arm with Teflon tape, and screwing the new showerhead back on. Easy right? Usually.
I have had situations where a homeowner got in trouble because he wasn't holding onto the shower arm as he unscrewed the showerhead...and it either developed a leak, unscrewed it from the wall, or sheared it off inside the wall.
If you loosen it, I would completely remove it, clean up the threads on both male and female surfaces, wrap it with tape and re-install it. If the arm breaks off in the wall...start saying some prayers. You can get a pipe extractor and fish it out...you may need to put some penetrating oil on it first if it is being really stubborn.
Once you have removed the broken part, reinstall the new shower arm with teflon tape and do the same for the showerhead.
We have all been in the shower on a cold night basking in the warmth of the hot water...as it runs down the drain of your shower plumbing. It might feel good, but it sure wastes a lot of water. Shower heads can't exceed a per minute gallon volume of 2.5 gallons. Well many manufacturers have gone well below that, although they sure don't feel as good as 2.5 gallons per minute.
I recently bought a 1.6 gallon per minute shower head and it sure is stingy with the water. You know how most shower heads have a ring of holes around the perimeter? Well this on has one large hole in the middle of it. As it runs you can hear a loud "whirring" of what I imagine is a propeller of some sort. This shower head doesn't really spray water on you, rather it spits it on you. That sure doesn't feel as good as a spray.
I do like it for one reason though. If my teenager takes her usual 30 minute shower, I save approximately 27 gallons of water... each night. Assuming she showers nightly, 27 gallons x 365 days =9,855 gallon of water saved each year. I pulled a recent water bill, and with the water company's tiered pricing based on consumption, the water company charged me an average of $1.94 per 1,000 gallons of water. So, if I multiply my 9,855 gallons I saved by the cost of the water, I saved $19.11. Since I only paid $15.00 for the shower head, my break-even was about 10 months.
Of course, in my shower I still have the 2.5 gallon shower head...I like the feeling of the spray.