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Home > Resource Conservation > Water > Shower  

Resource Conservation: Water: Shower

shower girl 02
Here we look at taking a shower, feeling clean without feeling guilty. There are many ways to do this.  

 

Overview:

There is nothing like a long hot shower or bath. However, either one could use a lot of water and energy. This section is devoted to figuring out ways that are right for you to get clean while using less water and energy.
     One question people ask is, "does a bath use more water than a shower?" Automatically people think a bath uses more water. Mostly that is true, but that depends on how long you spend in the shower and its flow rate.
     General Data: In a typical household, 4 showers will be taken a daily. Each shower will be approximately 10 minutes and the shower head will put out 3 gallons of water a minute. The average cost to heat a gallon of water for a shower is about $0.02.

 See our water heat cost calculator to see what your water heating costs you.

Also, Try our water cost calculator to see what the water costs.
This means that a typical household will use about 43,000 gallons of heated water for showers a year. This is roughly $860 a year for heating the water.
     Most of us get charged per cubic foot of water used. 100 cubic feet of water is 748 gallons. The national average cost for water is about $2.00 per 1,000 gallons. That is $0.003 per gallon.   We estimate that 43,000 gallons would cost about $130. That is a total of about $1,000 in a year. This cost will vary depending where you are. Unsure what your Utility charges? This link might help.
     In this section, we analyze three ways to reduce the costs of taking a shower. We also briefly discuss  a few other solutions to water/energy/money conservation for showers.   

a small discussion about the water leaving the shower (sewer) is here...

Energy Efficient?

We analyze 3 ways to reduce your water, power and money consumption. The efficiency can come in both energy and water conservation. Some of these ways (or combinations of them) may cut that $1,000 a year in half or better.

_________________________________________________________

Solution 1: Take a shorter shower. We know this sounds obvious but many people do not realize just how much savings they can realize. This requires you to have a little change in your habits. Even a 1 minute shorter shower can save a ton of cash. Using a typical 4 person household mentioned above, you can save 4,300 gallons of water ($100) a year from a 1 minute shorter shower.

Solution 2: Take a cooler shower. We are not saying take a cold shower. What we mean is find that spot on your shower dial that you normally use and make it slightly cooler. Although this will not save water, it will save energy to heat the water. We estimate that this could save your household $10 to $40 a year in energy costs.  
Solution 3: Change your shower head to a lower flow model. Yes, this will require a purchase (although some utility companies have shower head giveaways). This solution has the biggest potential savings with the least change in your habits. 
     Your current shower head and what type you replace it with, will determine the amount of savings you will see on your energy and water bills.  
     If we use the example above of an average 3.0 gallon per minute and replace it with a 2.0 gallon per minute unit, you will enjoy the following:
  • Use 14,000 gallons less water in a year.
  • Save about $300 on heating water.
  • Save about $40 on water usage.

Don't know how many gallons a minute your shower head uses? Here is a quick way to find out.

  • Cut the mouth off a plastic 1 gallon milk jug.
  • Bring a timer (stop watch) and the jug to your shower.
  • Start the shower, put the milk jug up to the shower head to catch all the water coming out. Start the timer at the same time.
  • Stop the timer when the jug is filled to the top.
  • Consult the calculator below to determine the flow rate.
Measure the flow rate of your shower head:
Jug Size (Gallon): Time To Fill (Seconds):
Flow Rate Of Shower Head (Gal/Min):

 

Some other solutions (quick look).

Installation:

     Replacing a shower head is a relatively simple process, however, if you do not feel comfortable doing the work yourself you may want to hire a plumber. You should include installation costs (if any) with the shower head costs when calculating your return on investment (see calculator below).
    Usually replacement requires a wrench and some plumbers tape (white Teflon tape), and maybe some masking tape. The following are (in general) the steps you go through to replace the shower head:
  • Step 1: Put masking tape on the teeth of the wrench you are about to use. Many shower heads scratch easily and you do not want the wrench marking up your shower head.
  • Step 2: Remove the old shower head. Use the wrench to turn the base of the shower head in a counter clockwise direction. You may also want to put a cloth between the shower head and wrench.
  • Step 3: Wrap plumbers tape around the thread of the water pipe. This will create a better seal and avoid leaks.
  • Step 4: Screw the new shower head onto the water pipe. When tightening with the wrench make sure the masking tape or a bit of cloth is between the wrench and the shower head to avoid scratches.
  • Step 5: Turn water on and check for leaks out of the water shaft/shower head. If any leaks, try tightening the shower head with the wrench a little more.

That is it. You're done. That is a typical replacement. Consult the information that came with the shower head or a plumber for more details. Here is a YouTube video that illustrates the process.

Disposal:

     Old Shower Head: There is a lot of variation in the composition of shower heads. Mostly metal and plastic. The metal should be something that does not rust, like brass or bronze (some with nickel or chrome plating) and some are aluminum. It is usually not feasible to dismantle the head to recover the metal. However, if you are replacing many shower heads it might be.
    The plastic usually is a more durable plastic that is not necessarily recyclable. Some recycling facilities may take the whole shower head but if most of the shower head is plastic we do not believe they will. We suggest you call or check the web site of your local recycler before you throw away your shower head.
     New Shower Head: The newer shower heads may have something extra. Most of the components are the same, metal and plastic. However, on the metal side some may have shape memory metal (trickle/savings mode) that blocks the flow when a temperature has been reached to minimize wasted water after it is hot but before you enter the shower. This is a small amount of metal but it might be a problem from a recycling perspective. Some low-flow shower heads are mostly plastic. We generally don't recommend them.

a small discussion about the water leaving the shower (sewer) is here...

 

Note: We are finding it difficult to research the disposal of some of the products we recommend. If you have a suggestion for other means of disposal write us and we may post it on this site

Our Recommendations:

There are can be different uses for the different flow rates of shower head.
     0.5 to 1.0 gpm: This type of shower head is good for showers next to the beach or pool to rinse off. Also,  Campgrounds and some other areas where fresh water is in short supply.
     1.0 to 1.5 gpm: These are great for showers in the spa area of a hotel,  or at the gym or farm, Camper or 5th wheel. 
     1.5 to 2.0 gpm: Could work well in a college dorm, apartment,  5th wheel, motor home, shelter, etc.
     2.0 to 2.5 gpm: No comfort loss here. These would do well for apartments, homes, hotel rooms, and everywhere else not mentioned in the other flow rates.
     2.5+ gpm: The legal definition of low-flow shower head is 2.5 gpm or less. We will not direct you to shower heads with these higher flows.

Product picks by solution:
Solution 1: (shorter shower).
You could buy a timer for your shower. The Waterpebble is a high tech timer that times your first shower then reduces it by 1/3. It does this a few seconds each shower until you are at the desired time.
Waterpebble
Waterpebble timer which takes 1/3 off of your shower time.

Solution 2: (cooler shower). We do not have any product to help you with that, you have to simply tolerate it.

 

Solution 3: (new shower head). For this we direct you to several models that cover a good range of flow rates.

niagara shower head Niagara Earth Massage 1.25 gpm. This 1.5 gpm shower head can go down to 1.25 gpm. It has built in massage and can save a ton of water (and heat energy). May be a little less durable, however this will pay for itself many times before you need to replace it.


Niagara hand held Niagara 1.5 gpm hand held with massage. This hand held version has an adjustable spray/massage head rated at 1.5 gpm.



roadrunner shower head Evolve Road Runner 1.6 gpm shower head. With Shower Start Technology, this laminar flow shower head puts out water at the rate of 1.59 gpm and most everyone says that it feels like more. The Shower Start Technology means you can start the shower and it will reduce to a trickle when it gets up to temperature, then you simply flip the lever to start the shower when you're ready.


Oxygenics 5-Star Spa shower head Oxygenics 61121/61120 Shower Head This aerating shower head has an adjustable flow rate at about 2.0 to 2.5 gpm and is built to last. The shower head will pay for itself in a few months and will continue to save you money year after year. The lever you see in the picture adjusts the flow/pressure of the shower. Tough delrin in the housing should mean no clogs.

Look for Specification sheets here for these products.
Find these products at Our Amazon Store.  
Look at the EPA's Rebate Finder to see if your utility has rebates for these devices.

Quick Note On Savings:

Solution 1: (shorter shower).
     If you are in a typical household mentioned above you will save approximately 4,300 gallons of water and about $100 a year for every 1 minute you reduce your shower time. This is a great way to start free (no purchase required). In about 2-5 months you can save enough to buy a shower head in solution 3.

Solution 2: (cooler shower).
     Of course, this method does not save any water but it can save energy. This is a difficult calculation to make. We estimate that the mixture of a typical shower is about 70% hot and 30% cold water. When you take a cooler shower, you might be changing that ratio to 67%/33%. As best as we can calculate, that is approximately $30 a year in the typical house. If you are trying to start free, you may have to do this type of shower for about 10-15 months before you can afford a new shower head.
Solution 3: (low flow shower head).
     The low flow shower head pays for itself in a few weeks to a few months in a typical household. Then, you get to enjoy that savings year after year. We calculate for the typical house hold you could save $170 to $500 a year without reducing temperature or time of the shower.

Combining Solution 1,2 and 3:
     Reducing shower time by 3 minutes, and flow rate from 3.0 to 2.0 and cooling the shower by 3 degrees combine to provide an estimated average of $550 a year in savings.  The water savings may be about 23,000 gallons per year.

We suggest you go to the "Green Calculator" below. There you will be able to calculate the savings for your situation.

A quick note about calculations used here.

 

Green Calculator:

Below is a calculator for your possibilities.
(click here to see how we do the calculations)

 

Current Consumption: Proposed Consumption:
Showers per day: Showers per day:
Avg. shower length (min): Avg. shower length (min):
Flow rate (gal. per min.): Flow rate (gal. per min.):
Cost to heat (per gallon)($): Cost to heat (per gallon)($):
Cost of water (per gallon)($): Cost of water (per gallon)($):
Cooler shower option (3%):
*Filled in amounts are averages. You can change any number.
Water usage cost calculator.   Water heat cost calculator.
Money to spend (shower heads, plumber service, etc.)($):
Find shower head rebates here.
_______________________________________________________________________________________________
Is everything filled in above?
 
Results:
Yearly water consumption(g): Yearly water consumption(g):
Yearly total water costs($): Yearly total water costs($):
  
  Total annual water saving(g):
Total annual cost saving($):
Return on Investment: Months
(click here to see how we do the calculations)

Glossary Of Terms:

Low Flow Shower Head: Currently defined as a shower head with a flow rate of 2.5 gallons a minute or less.

Cubic Foot: This is a measure of volume. Water companies usually measure water in Cubic feet. 1 cubic foot is a volume that is 1 foot wide by 1 foot tall by 1 foot deep. One cubic foot is about 7.5 gallons of water.

GPM: Gallons Per Minute.

100 Cubic Feet of Water: 748 gallons of water. Many water companies bill in units of 100 cubic feet of water
ANSI: American National Standards Institute. This is a place where standards are set for the plumbing industry as well as many other industries.

PSI: Pounds per Square Inch. This is a unit of pressure. Often used to specify water pressure in a pipe. Shower head flow is typically rated at a standard pressure and your flow may vary if your pressure is not the same as the standard.

References:

http://www.circleofblue.org/waternews/2010/world/the-price-of-water-a-comparison-of-water-rates-usage-in-30-u-s-cities/, taken 7/15/11, national average cost for gallon of water.

http://www.energysavers.gov/your_home/water_heating/index.cfm/mytopic=13050 7/15/11, DOE page, "Energy Savers".

http://www.atsecosolutions.com/saveonshowering.html ,Taken: 5/11/09

http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/home-garden/bed-bath/bathroom-remodeling/
showerheads/showerheads-805/how-to-choose/index.htm
, Consumer Reports. Testing of different brands and styles. Taken 5/11/09


Average shower lasts 10 minutes. Average number of showers per day, per household is four. Source: U.S. Department of Energy. January 2007

http://www.waterpik.com/shower-head-products/fixed-mount/ecoflow/ECO-533/

Water on Tap, EPA document of water facts. 12/09

Water treatment. Water Environment Research Foundation. Fact sheet. Taken 2/13/12, date of publish not known

http://www.atsecosolutions.com/saveonshowering.html cost to heat a gallon of water. 2/16/12

Videos:

See our video about shower heads.


Or go to YouTube.com to watch it.

Water conserving shower products in our Amazon.com store.

  • Showerheads:
    Showerheads ________________
  • Waterpebble:
    Shorter Shower With Waterpebble ________________
  • Outdoor Solar Shower:
    Outdoor Solar Shower ________________

 

 
 

Check out WaterSense at the EPA: