Few everyday items affect your morning as much as your shower. When choosing a showerhead, you’ll need to look at design, water flow and spray patterns. Whether you’re looking to upgrade an old showerhead or turn your bathroom into in-home spa, Pronto’s Showerhead Buying Guide will help you find the showerhead that meets your needs, budget and taste so you can start every day clean and refreshed.
To save water and energy, choose a low-flow showerhead (less than the standard 2.5 gpm). Showerheads with water-flow regulators are best for areas with lower water pressure. If you have extremely low water pressure, consider a maximum flow showerhead which features multiple heads or a removable water restrictor.
Wall-mounted showerheads are the most affordable and easiest to install, but have limited height adjustability. Handheld showerheads are height adjustable and are the best choice for households with children, seniors and those with disabilities. Select a handheld showerhead with a cushioned or textured handle for easy gripping. Choose ceiling-mounted showerheads only if you have a large shower that can contain the wide spray of water and your existing plumbing (or plumbing renovation plans) can handle it.
Purchase a showerhead that offers a minimum of two wide, even spray patterns for washing and rinsing. Make sure changing between spray patterns is easy; choose large dials over small and dials in general if you don’t like to fuss with controls.
Make sure a showerhead’s finish won’t be ruined by the minerals in your water. Plastic showerheads are best for hard-water areas. Brushed or satin finishes hide water spots and fingerprints. The finish you choose contributes to the price of your showerhead, so if you’re investing in a high-end finish, look for PVD antitarnish coatings to extend the life and looks of your showerhead.
If you have an older home, consider a showerhead with antiscald protection. Shower arm extenders allow the showerhead to be raised or lowered for small and tall alike. Showerhead water filters work to remove chlorine, contaminants and irritants to soothe sensitive skin and ease allergies.
The velocity of water delivered by a showerhead, measured in gallons per minute (gpm). Velocity is affected by the water pressure in your home. U.S. government regulations mandate a maximum flow rate of 2.5 gpm.
Showerheads with a flow rate of less than 2.5 gpm. Some feature water-flow regulators that will adjust the flow up to 2.5 gpm for homes with low water pressure.
Physical vapor deposition, a method of applying antitarnish coatings to a variety of objects.
A showerhead that uses levers or buttons to regulate flow and temperature.
The direction, range and velocity of water leaving a showerhead. Spray patterns range from gentle “rainfall” patterns to wide, high-velocity patterns.
To get the most comfortable shower, you need to consider a showerhead’s flow rate. Flow rate is the velocity of water delivered by the showerhead, measured in gallons per minute (gpm). Velocity is affected by water pressure, which is the amount of force exerted per square inch of internal pipe space, or pounds per square inch (psi).
The 1992 Energy Policy Conservation Act (EPCA) established a national water efficiency standard for showerheads manufactured after January 1, 1994, that limits the maximum flow rate to 2.5 gpm at a water pressure of 80 psi. If you have low water pressure, look for a showerhead that features a flow regulator that adjusts the flow rate up to 2.5 gpm if the water pressure is less than 80 psi.
To conserve water with every shower, choose a low-flow showerhead. These eco-friendly showerheads reduce the amount of water used—and the energy required to heat it—by 25% to 60% per average shower.
Low-flow showerheads may be laminar flow or aerating. Laminar flow showerheads split the water into dozens of parallel streams with a smooth, consistent flow and release less moisture into the air. Aerating showerheads mix air and water into a high-velocity spray that feels stronger than the water would by itself. If you like a hot shower, avoid aerating showerheads as the water temperature can drop by as much as 15 degrees Fahrenheit on its journey from the pipe to your body.
If you have extremely low water pressure, you might consider a maximum-flow showerhead. Maximum-flow showerheads have either multiple heads or removable water restrictors that compensate for low pressure by increasing pressure in the showerhead.
Wall-mounted showerheads are the most familiar and the easiest to install—installation can be done by just about anyone. Wall-mounted showerheads also tend to be the most affordable, starting at about $8, although their range of movement may be limiting for households with small children, seniors or those with disabilities.
Handheld showerheads consist of a hose and bar where the showerhead can remain in the shower arm or, as the name implies, be held in your hand while you shower. The bars are available in 24-, 36- and 48-inch lengths, and the height of the showerhead holder can be adjusted along the bar, making this showerhead style suitable for anyone, including children and the disabled. Handheld showerheads allow you to shower without getting your hair wet and make cleaning and rinsing the shower walls easy. Look for handheld showerheads with cushioned or textured handles that stay firmly in the grip of wet, soapy hands and a rubber boot to protect the joint between the showerhead and the shower arm.
Ceiling-mounted showerheads are the latest trend in bathroom design. Most ceiling-mounted showerheads feature rain shower (vertical) or jethead (horizontal) spray patterns, making them larger in size than traditional wall-mounted or handheld showerheads. Specialty sprays combined with sleek, modern design contribute to their appeal, but your shower/tub needs to be large enough to contain the water as the spray diameter is much greater than other showerheads.
If you’re considering a ceiling-mounted showerhead, consult a plumber first. Ceiling-mounted showerheads often require consistent high water pressure to function properly, so you’ll want to be sure your current plumbing is up to the task. Ceiling-mounted showerheads require professional mounting and may need in-wall plumbing changes that add significantly to the cost of showerhead replacement.
You can vary your shower experience greatly by choosing a showerhead with several spray patterns. Most showerheads feature a variety of spray patterns, including massage, mist and trickle. The showerhead spray patterns you choose will likely come down to personal preference, but be sure to choose a showerhead that offers at least two wide, even spray patterns for washing and rinsing. Look for designs that make it easy to switch patterns with wet hands. Large dial adjustments are better than small ones and dials in general are better if you dislike fussing with lever or push-button controls.
Showerheads are available in traditional plastic and chrome along with a variety of metals that can add significantly to the showerhead’s price. Don’t choose a finish based solely on décor, however. Consider how a finish responds to your water’s mineral content, water spots and fingerprints.
If you have hard water, plastic showerheads are the most resistant to damage and the easiest to clean. If you're looking at polished-brass and chrome fixtures, check to see if protective coatings are available. Non-tarnish coatings, called PVD (physical vapor deposition) won’t react to the minerals in either your water or your cleaning products. You’ll pay more for it, but it’s worth it if you’re investing a quality showerhead and want to keep its looks. Lastly, you’ll want to know whether the finish you choose requires special cleaning products and if they’re readily available so you can care for it properly.
Antiscald fittings are a must for a new showerhead, particularly if you live in an older home with weak water pressure. Building codes now require that antiscald protection be integrated into household plumbing, making this a lesser concern for newer homes.
If tall people will be using the shower, look for shower arm extenders that attach to any standard shower arm. These extenders adjust vertically, eliminating the debate over how high to mount the showerhead. Another option is a showerhead with a bendable arm.
If you have skin sensitivities or other allergies, showerheads with replaceable water filters remove chlorine and other contaminants and irritants from your shower water. Just make sure the filters you choose are easy to find so that you don’t have to go without.
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