During a recent bathroom remodel, the guys at G&C Plumbing and Heating got some pretty interesting questions about showerheads. It started off simple enough about if “water saving” showerhead models were any good, but then took a turn for the fascinating when Greg Sheck, Grand Master Plumber and Bathroom Remodeler Extraordinaire, found himself sharing his in-depth knowledge about showerhead history. It’s totally worth repeating here!
In the Beginning
Bathrooms, a room for bathing and doing your business, didn’t really become a “thing” until the late 1800’s. It was around this time that public health officials discovered that drinking water with human waste in it, even just a little bit, made people sick (bout time, folks – gross). “So, it was the city planners that started creating the plumbing infrastructure that would provide clean water in one pipe and remove sewage through another,” said Sheck.
As running water became a feature in all houses and apartments, the convenience of hot water from the tap soon followed. “By the early 1900s, bathrooms were finally becoming a standard part of every new house, complete with a sink, toilet, and bathtub,” said Sheck.
Everyone saw the benefits of standing to wash, and by 1907, plumbing fixture magazines showcased model bathrooms that look completely familiar to us with bathtubs that have shower heads consisting of a nozzle attached to the water pipe and covered with a round face with holes in it.
For the next 85 years this showerhead design was in pretty much every bathroom all over the US. It wasn’t until the US Government decided water conservation was something to be taken seriously, that national water flow standards were enacted in the U.S. Energy Policy Act of 1992.
“This set minimum efficiency standards for toilets, faucets, urinals, and showers, and the new law mandated that shower heads were not to exceed a flow rate of more than 2.5 gallons per minute at a water pressure of 80 pounds per square inch,” said Sheck who knows you might not know what he’s saying there, but enjoys his showers at this rate.
Because showers account for more than a third of household indoor water usage, the Environmental Protection Agency started giving WaterSense certification to showerheads that use 2.0 gpm or less. Some of the new low flow heads are rated at even lower flow rates, such as 1.8 or 1.5 gpm, saving significantly more water. “To compensate for the lower rate of water, manufactures started making the holes in the shower head smaller to create a constricted spray, but this means there are bigger gaps between the water jets and that doesn’t always provide the greatest shower experience,” said Sheck bringing us up to present day in his stroll down showerhead memory lane and back to the question of “are water saving showerheads any good?”
I know, I know, you’re asking, “That’s it – we’re all just stuck taking an unsatisfying shower if we want to conserve water?” No! Next time, Greg and Brandon will share their secret knowledge of excellent showerheads, water saving, and beyond!