Shower heads

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Cut your hot-water bill with a low-flow shower head.

Our user trial of low-flow mains-pressure shower heads found 3 that came close to the perfect combination of comfort and effectiveness.

From our test

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About our trial

Over 9 days we got 8 people to assess our low-flow shower heads for the best combination of comfort (felt good) and effectiveness (got them clean) without heating up the power bill.

At the end of the 9 days we had 8 squeaky-clean people – and a pile of wet towels!

All the models were mains-pressure shower heads. (See 'Pressure and flow' for more about mains pressure.)

The trial was conducted in the same shower cubicle using the same mixer-control and slide-rail each time. The shower head and hose were changed every day.

To make changing the heads easy, we selected hand-held shower heads with a flexible hose. The shower heads could also be clipped into either a wall bracket or on to a slide-rail. Many of the models can be bought as fixed heads.

Tip: The Aquatica Eco Smarte and Eco-Stream are identical. They’re marketed under two names and sold by different retailers. The Mitre 10 Eco-Stream version was significantly cheaper.

We measured the mains water pressure and then the water flow for each head. The Aquatica/Eco-Stream and Feltonmix heads could be configured as high- or low-flow by fitting the supplied flow restrictor into the handle. We tried them in both configurations.

What we found

What our triallists thought of the comfort and effectiveness of the shower heads.

Comfort

We asked our triallists how much they liked the feel of the shower on their hair and body and asked them to choose descriptive words for the feel of the spray. Most people who liked the feel of the shower on their body also liked it on their hair.

  • The Aquatica/Eco-Stream (low-flow setting) was rated highest overall for comfort. All our triallists “liked it a lot” or rated it “OK”. One summed it up as: “Enjoyed the shower: wide range of easy-to-use settings.”
  • The Englefield was rated next-most comfortable – everyone “liked it a lot" or rated it “OK”. One summary comment was: “Liked this one. Hope it’s eco-friendly.”
  • Least liked was the Feltonmix (high-flow setting). Half the triallists described the shower as “hard” or “needle-like”. One comment was: “This shower head is just not pleasant at this high flow rate.”

Effectiveness

We asked our triallists how effective each shower head was at wetting their hair and body – and how well it showered water over their bodies. We also asked them how effective it was at removing shampoo from their hair and soap or body wash from their bodies.

  • The Methven and Aquatica/Eco-Stream (high-flow setting) were rated the most effective heads. They both received positive ratings (“very effective”, “fairly effective”, or “OK”) from all triallists and no negative comments.
  • Next most effective was the Englefield. It had slightly fewer positive comments – but no negative ones.
  • Least effective was the Foreno.

Compare all the shower heads in our test.

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Buying decisions

We asked the triallists to imagine they were about to buy a shower head and to rate how likely they’d be to purchase each model. We then repeated the question – after telling them the shower head would save $100 a year in hot-water bills.

  • The Aquatica/Eco-Stream and Methven were the shower heads most likely to be purchased.
  • The models most likely not to be purchased were the Flexispray Pulsar and Foreno.
  • The other heads were somewhere in between.

Pressure and flow

  • Pressure produces the squirt that forces the water through the tiny holes in the shower head.

  • Flow is the quantity of water that flows in a certain time.

Increasing the pressure will increase the flow (and vice versa) – but they’re not the same thing.

Kiwi homes have traditionally had low-pressure hot-water systems where the hot-water pressure was much lower than the cold. Low-pressure hot-water systems can sometimes lack enough pressure to give a decent shower – which means they’re often “dribbly” – but use less water.

Most new hot-water systems are mains pressure. So the hot and cold water are at approximately the same pressure. Mains-pressure showers can sometimes be "hard", causing stinging and using heaps of water.

Saving money

If your current shower head flows at 12 litres per minute and 2 people take a 10- minute shower each day, you’ll use $458 worth of electrically heated water per year.

Change that head to one that flows at 8 litres per minute (like many in our trial) and the hot-water bill drops to $305, saving you $153 a year.

WELS
At appliance stores you'll notice minimum energy performance (MEPS) labels on major appliances like fridges and TVs. These labels give you information about energy use.

A similar water-efficiency labelling scheme (WELS) has been introduced for appliances that use water. WELS labels (similar to MEPS but a different colour) are applied to dishwashers, washing machines, showers, taps, lavatories and urinals. WELS labels have been required since April 2011.

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