Kelly Bradley

From your cable and Internet bill to utilities like heat and electricity, there are a lot of costs that must be added into your monthly budget (as I discovered upon moving into my first apartment). There are always ways, however, of cutting back on those expenses. You can save water and lower your water heating costs by installing a low-flow showerhead.

What is a Low-Flow Showerhead?

In short, a low-flow showerhead is one that comes with a flow rate of 2.5 gallons per minute or less. While this still seems like quite a bit of water, these showerheads can actually decrease your shower water usage by about half.

A regular showerhead has a water flow of about 3.8 gallons per minute, so if you took an eight minute shower, you would be using approximately 30 gallons of water. But with a low-flow showerhead, you would only use about 20 gallons.

With this fixture, you'll also need less energy to heat your shower, reducing your power bills.

How do Low-Flow Showerheads Work?

With a low-flow showerhead, it may not feel like you're using less water, but you are. The showerhead restricts water flow while still maintaining a strong pressure, giving you the experience of a normal shower.

Aerating showerheads mix air in with the water stream. This maintains strong water pressure while still using less water than a traditional showerhead. However, because there is air combined with the water, the temperature may not stay as hot for as long as traditional showerheads.

A non-aerating showerhead doesn't use air; instead, it pulses to keep the pressure strong. The water with a non-aerating showerhead tends to be hotter because there is no introduction of air.

How to Measure Your Current Flow Rate

In order to discover whether you would benefit from a low-flow showerhead, it's important to figure out the flow rate of your current fixture. Turn on your shower and let the water run into a bucket for 10 seconds, then turn it off.
Measure the amount of water that's in your bucket, then multiply that figure by six. The number you end up with will be your water flow per minute, or gallons per minute. If your shower is releasing about 3.8 gallons or more per minute, think about replacing your current showerhead with a low-flow fixture.

Here's another helpful rule of thumb: If it takes fewer than 20 seconds for your showerhead to fill up a 1-gallon bucket, you could benefit from installing a more environmentally friendly fixture.

Which Low-Flow Showerhead is Best for Your Bathroom?

If you've chosen to get a low-flow showerhead for your bathroom, then you must decide which type you would like. You could opt for the traditional stationary model or a handheld showerhead that's attached to a flexible hose.

While handheld models may offer convenience, they're typically a bit more expensive than the stationary fixtures. However, a handheld showerhead may be slightly more environmentally friendly than the traditional model because there is less distance between the showerhead and your body.

Other Green Bathroom Ideas

Installing a low-flow showerhead isn't the only way you can go green. Here are a few other bathroom ideas that may lower your overall energy costs:

Use Green Cleaning Products: Some bathroom cleaners contain harsh chemicals, which is why it's more environmentally friendly (and often cheaper) to just make your own.

For instance, a tub cleaner can be made using 2/3 cup baking soda, 1/2 cup vegetable oil-based liquid soap, 1/2 cup water and 2 tablespoons vinegar. Mildew can be removed by mixing 1/2 cup vinegar with 1/2 cup borax.

Rethink Your Towels: Think about swapping your current regular cotton towels for towels made from organic cotton. This material requires the use of fewer pesticides, natural dyes and softeners, making it better for your skin and for the environment.

Bamboo towels are another eco-friendly choice, as bamboo is a fast-growing sustainable alternative to cotton, not to mention it has antibacterial properties.

Fix Leaks: A simple leak in your tub or sink might not seem like a big deal, but you may actually be losing a lot of water. Talk to your landlord about the problem and get it fixed as soon as possible. In the meantime, you can put a bucket under the leak and use the collected water to hydrate your houseplants.

Replace Your Shower Curtain: Many shower curtains are made of polyvinyl chloride, otherwise known as PVC plastic. The material actually releases chemical gases, and it can't be recycled. Instead, opt for a PVC-free shower curtain. Hemp shower curtains, for instance, are resistant to mold and mildew.

Take Shorter Showers: A low-flow showerhead can only do so much to save water when you're taking extremely long showers. Do your best to cut back on your bathing time by creating a five-minute playlist of a song or two. This way, you'll know exactly how long you have before you should turn off the water.

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