It's lovely to stand under a hot shower for minutes on end – until the water-waste guilt sets in. According to many retailers, the shower heads that sell well pump out 9L of water per minute. But there are plenty of shower heads that offer smaller flowrates than this, with some pumping out as little as 5L a minute. So why aren't more of us installing water-efficient shower heads, to help conserve what is arguably Australia's most precious resource?
The answer, according to some of the retailers CHOICE spoke with, is that we're wary of such low flowrates and prefer stronger showers with a higher flow. But if you know what to look for, you will find that a well-designed low-flow shower head can provide an experience comparable to, or even better than, a regular 9L/min shower head. And going from a 9L to a 7.5L flowrate can mean saving more than 5000L of water per year.
The difference between a dribble and a drenching can be more to do with the design of the low-flow shower head than promised performance. Here are some design features that really make a difference to the feel of your shower.
Wider heads may provide a better showering experience than smaller ones.
While this may not be a huge consideration if you tend to stick to just one type of jet, some people may appreciate a shower head with adjustable spray settings.
The WELS scheme
The Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards (WELS) scheme requires a number of household products, including shower heads, to be rated and labelled according to their water efficiency. Models with a three-star rating (currently the highest for shower heads) range from 6L to 9L of water per minute.
Length of shower head
If your shower is located within the bath, you'll want a longer shower head so it can reach over the lip of the bath.
Instantaneous gas hot water systems and low-flow shower heads
Some instantaneous gas hot water systems may not cope well with low-flow shower heads as they require a larger flowrate to actually switch on. If your home has several floors, a low-flow model may be better for upstairs where the water pressure can be lower.
A number of state and local governments, along with some water companies, offer incentives to switch to a water-efficient shower head. Some low-flow shower heads are eligible for these incentives in some states. Incentives can be found through the government's Your Energy Savings website.
The bathroom accounts for around 49% of all water used inside the home. Here are some tips on how to use a little less:
- Install water-efficient taps or tap aerators, which screw onto the end of the tap and give the feel of a higher flowrate while actually reducing it while aerating the water.
- Install a dual-flush toilet, which allows you to flush either half or all of the water in the cistern.
- Don't leave the tap running while you brush your teeth or shave.
- A dripping tap can waste more than 2000L of water a month. Prevent taps from leaking by turning them off tightly and replacing washers as soon as they begin to drip.
- Check for leaks in the toilet by pouring a few drops of food colouring into the cistern. If the colour then appears in the pan (without flushing) you have a leak.
- Limit showers to five minutes.
Check our water-saving guide for more tips.