The average American family uses 40 gallons of water each day just from showering. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the average family could save 2,700 gallons of water a year by switching to a certified low-flow shower head. These fixtures are designed to efficiently use a smaller volume of water, either by aerating the water steam or using a high-speed oscillation stream.
A water-saving shower head is not just an environmentally sound choice—it’s a budget-friendly one. Because you’re using less water, you’ll save money on your water bill; you’ll also save the cost of the energy required to heat the water. The best low-flow shower head is one that uses less water but still emits a powerful spray. Read on for our recommendations for the best water-saving shower heads, and learn more about how to shop for these eco-friendly devices.
- BEST OVERALL: Kohler K-22169-G-CP Forte 1.75 GPM Showerhead
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: High Sierra’s All Metal 1.5 GPM Low Flow Showerhead
- UPGRADE PICK: PULSE ShowerSpas 1011-CH-1.8GPM Kauai III Shower
- BEST HANDHELD: Moen 26100EP Engage Magnetix Handheld Showerhead
- BEST COMBINATION: Delta Faucet 5-Spray H20kinetic In2ition Shower Head
- BEST SPRAY SETTINGS: Waterpik High Pressure Hand Held Wand and Rain Shower
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Water Saving Shower Head
A quality, water-saving shower head should use less than 2 gallons of water per minute but still produce a powerful stream of water. It should be easy to install, and complement your bathroom’s decor. Keep reading to learn about some of the most important qualities to consider when shopping for the best water-saving shower head.
Though it’s easy to assume that all shower heads work the same, several characteristics can affect their functionality. Shower heads generally fit into one of three categories, each with its own advantages.
- Fixed shower heads are mounted to the wall and vary in size and shape. They are usually the most affordable type of shower head, but they may or may not have adjustable spray settings. One type of fixed shower head is the rain shower head, which has a larger head than most and produces a gentle, sprinkling flow of water.
- Handheld shower heads are attached to the wall via a mounting bracket. This type of shower head has a long, flexible hose that can be unhooked from the wall and grasped in the hand, so the bather can direct water where they want it. When the head is kept in the bracket it functions as a fixed, hands-free shower head. Handheld shower heads are particularly useful for those with limited mobility, or those who want flexibility while bathing kids or pets. The price of handheld shower heads is usually higher than that of their fixed-head counterparts.
- Combination, or 3-way shower heads, have both a fixed and a handheld shower head. A 3-way diverter allows each of the two heads to be used simultaneously or independently. Because of water-flow rate regulations, however, water pressure is reduced when both heads are used at the same time.
Most shower heads have both metal and plastic parts. Those made from stainless steel or solid brass are the most durable and resist rusting and corrosion; fixtures with a lot of plastic parts are typically lower-end models. When shopping for water-saving shower heads, keep an eye out for those that have brass or stainless steel connectors because these materials will hold up better over time. The one part of a shower head where plastic is preferred to metal is the nozzle. Silicone nozzles require little to no maintenance and do not clog as easily as metal nozzles.
Whether your shower fixture contains silicone or stainless steel parts, it’s important to note that the materials the fixture is made of aren’t always obvious. Because metal and plastic parts can be finished with decorative coatings to complement various bathroom decor styles, plastic parts might look like chrome or brass parts like antique black. Be sure to research each model carefully to know what kind of quality you are getting.
There are two main types of low-flow shower heads: aerating and laminar-flow. Though each uses less water than a regular shower head, they compensate for the reduced water pressure in different ways.
- Aerating shower heads mix water and air to mimic the sensation of higher water pressure. Most low-flow shower heads on the market use this method to conserve water. One disadvantage of an aerating shower head is the aeration process cools water slightly before it hits your skin, so bathers may end up taking hotter showers—and paying more to heat the water—than they would otherwise.
- Laminar-flow shower heads use individual streams of water. They can be more expensive than aerating shower heads, but they’re ideal for use in humid climates because they create less steam and mist.
While standard shower heads are mandated by the U.S. Department of Energy to produce no more than 2.5 gallons of water per minute (GPM), low-flow shower heads are allowed to produce a maximum of 2 GPM. Products labeled with the EPA’s WaterSense logo are certified to use less than 2 GPM.
The flow rates of most water-saving shower heads range from 1.5 to 2 GPM. Before you run out and buy the lowest-flow shower head you can find, however, think first about your home’s water pressure. The EPA flow rates assume a water pressure of 80 pounds per square inch (PSI). If the water pressure in your home is lower than that, a low-flow shower head may not be the best option for you. Residences with very low water pressure might benefit from a high-pressure shower head instead.
Most shower heads on the market feature a variety of spray settings that emit water in different patterns. These settings can be changed by an adjustment ring or lever on the edge of the shower head.
- A massage or pulse setting eases muscle pain and tension.
- A low-pressure spray function is gentle and safe to use when bathing infants.
- A strong spray is useful for rinsing out shampoo and conditioner.
- A pause setting on handheld shower heads is useful when cleaning the shower, or when bathing children or pets.
- A combination setting mixes several spray patterns at once.
Shower heads come in a wide variety of different finishes. While the most basic models are only available with a stainless steel finish, many manufacturers make fixtures in oil-rubbed bronze, polished brass, chrome, brushed nickel, matte black, and other finishes. There are advantages and disadvantages to the various finishes too: fixtures with matte finishes are less likely to show water stains and fingerprints, while metals with high-shine finishes tend to be more durable over time. Most buyers want their bathroom fixtures to match and will choose a shower head that matches the tub and sink faucets, drawer pulls, and towel racks.
Though the idea of installing a shower head may sound intimidating, it’s actually an easy DIY project that requires fairly basic tools. A wrench, plumber’s tape and screwdriver is all you need to install most shower heads on the market; they don’t require drilling or installing mounting equipment.
Installing a low-flow shower head is really no different from installing a standard shower head. Because the size of shower spigots is standardized to 1/2 inch, compatibility between models should not be an issue.
Our Top Picks
Now that the difference between aerating and laminar-flow shower heads is clear and you know which features to look for, it’s time to start shopping. Our recommendations for the best low-flow shower heads consider flow rate, spray settings, style, and additional features—and of course, manufacturer reputation and overall product quality.
The Kohler Forte is an aerating shower head that incorporates 2 liters of air per minute into the water flow, which results in fuller water droplets that replicate the feeling of being caught in a powerful rainstorm. Because of its low 1.75-GPM flow rate, the Forte can even be used in states with particularly tight water restrictions, such as California.
Three flow settings on the shower head—full coverage, pulsating massage, and silk spray—each provide a unique sensation, and it’s easy to switch between settings by maneuvering the head’s thumb tab. There’s a Forte shower head to match most decors, too: It is available in a standard polished chrome finish, as well as brushed chrome, brushed bronze, and brushed nickel. Installation is a breeze because its washers come pre-installed, meaning the shower head can be up and running in minutes.
High Sierra’s low-flow shower head produces a surprisingly powerful spray despite its affordable price, and the fact that it uses just 1.5 GPM of water. This model is actually available in three different flow rate options, 1.5, 1.75, and 2 GPM, which allows households to choose the best option depending on their home’s water pressure.
Because all of this fixture’s parts are made from metal, it should be fairly durable and long lasting. One of the High Sierra’s only disadvantages is that it only has one spray setting, and it may be too powerful for some users (or for bathing young children). It’s available in chrome, nickel, oil-rubbed bronze, and polished brass finishes.
There are many water saving shower heads on the market, but most don’t come with the bells and whistles one may want for a luxurious shower experience. The Kauai III shower system from PULSE ShowerSpas, however, has both an 8-inch rain shower head and a multifunctional handheld head, which can be used together or separately. The hand shower has jet, wide, massage, and combination spray settings. What’s most impressive is that this fixture uses only 1.8 gallons of water per minute.
Though the design may look complex and difficult to install, it comes pre-plumbed so it’s possible to install without remodeling the entire shower. Along with chrome, the Kauai III is also available in brushed gold, oil-rubbed bronze, matte black, and brushed nickel finishes.
Handheld shower heads are a great choice for those with limited mobility, and this model from Moen complies with Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) specifications. With the Engage Magnetix’s magnetic docking system, gone are the days of trying to hook the shower head back on its dock while rinsing shampoo. Clicking the Moen’s head back into its magnetic base is super easy and requires minimal manual dexterity.
The shower head has impressive settings, including downpour, relaxing massage, regular massage, soothing massage, and rinse. With a flow rate of 1.75 GPM, it complies with U.S. federal and state regulations. Because it only comes in chrome and brushed nickel finishes, it probably isn’t the best choice for those who want to coordinate with black, brass, or white fixtures in the bathroom.
Finding a high-quality, water-saving combination shower head isn’t easy because lower-flow water pressure feels even lower when the water is diverted between two heads. This Delta In2ition shower head, however, provides a satisfying sensory experience using just 1.75 gallons of water per minute.
The handheld and fixed shower heads can be used simultaneously as one docked unit or separately, and the handheld piece is easily clicked into place using a magnetic connector. Spray settings include power drench spray, full body spray, massaging spray and full body spray with massage. The fixture also has a pause function, which comes in handy when bathing kids or pets.
Delta’s combination shower head is available in six finishes: chrome, champagne bronze, matte black, polished nickel, stainless, and Venetian bronze.
This Waterpik combination shower head uses 1.8 gallons of water per minute and offers a range of different spray settings for both the rain shower head and the body wand.
Rinse out shampoo and conditioner by using the body wand, which has soft comb and gentle rinse settings, then finish the hair regimen by engaging the scalp massage function. The rain shower head has four settings that will satisfy most sensory whims, from a gentle misting shower to powerful, pulsing massages—or a setting somewhere in the middle. Thanks to the fixture’s 3-way diverter, users can use the wand and rain shower head together or separately.
FAQs About Your New Water Saving Shower Head
Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about water saving shower heads.
Q. How much water can a water saving shower head save?
According to the EPA, the average family saves 2,700 gallons of water per year by using a WaterSense-certified low-flow shower head.
Q. Does a bigger shower head use more water?
While shower heads with a larger surface area don’t necessarily use more water, they do result in the sensation of lower water pressure. That’s because the same quantity of water is spread out among a greater number of individual nozzles.
Q. How do you fix a leaking water saving shower head?
A leaking shower head can be fixed using one of several techniques. A good place to start is by removing the head and soaking it in vinegar to remove hard water deposits, and replacing washers and seals that appear to be worn.