Low vs. High-pressure Shower Heads

In some regions, water is relatively scarce, and for this reason, using less water is a big advantage. One part of a home that uses a relatively high amount of water is the shower. In this article, I will explain the difference between a low-pressure and a high-pressure shower head.

Overall, a low-pressure shower head flows at 1.7 gallons (7.7 liters) per minute. Whereas, a high-pressure shower head flows at 2.5 gallons (11.4 liters) per minute. A low-flow shower head uses 33.5% less water than a high-flow shower head.

The total amount of water saved over a normal shower can add up to A LOT of water. And because people typically take a shower a day over the course of a week or a month it ends up being a huge amount of water. Below, I will provide details about how much water is saved when using a low-pressure shower head compared to a high-pressure shower head.

How Much Water Is Saved Using a Low-pressure Shower Head

A low-pressure shower head reduces the total volume of water used when taking a shower. But, it’s important to know how much water is saved, and if it’s worth it. Here’s how much water is saved when you use a low-pressure shower head.

On average, 4.0 gallons (18.5 liters) are saved by using a low-pressure shower head compared to a regular shower head, based on a 5-minute shower. This is about 5% of the volume of a typical hot water cylinder that is saved when using a low-pressure shower head. 

Some jurisdictions like California experience regular droughts and have put regulations in place for shower heads to conserve water. Some require that the shower head is below 1.5 gallons per minute. Whereas, others can be as high as 2.0 gallons per minute (source).

There are also what are called WaterSense requirements. These are special standards that apply in some jurisdictions. In essence, they are a measure of high and low flow. 

But, also factor in the pressure the water is coming out of the shower head. Because if the pressure is higher due to using something like a shower pump, the real volume of water put out by a low-pressure shower head can be higher. 

Another interesting thing about shower pumps is that they will render your shower inoperable during a power cut. I explained this fact in more detail in this article about whether a shower works during a power cut.

Length of ShowerAmount of water saved by a low-pressure shower head compared to a high-pressure shower head
4 minutes3.2 gallons (14.8 liters)
5 minutes4.0 gallons (18.5 liters)
6 minutes4.8 gallons (22.2 liters)
7 minutes5.6 gallons (25.9 liters)
8 minutes6.4 gallons (29.6 liters)
9 minutes7.2 gallons (33.3 liters)
10 minutes8.0 gallons (37.0 liters)

A hot water cylinder for a regular-sized family of about 4 people is usually 80 gallons (363 liters). As you may know, if a hot water cylinder runs out of hot water the shower, and any other taps disperse hot water will run cold. 

So, I’ve provided a table below that show what percentage of the water in a hot water cylinder when using a low flow shower head, and a high flow shower head.

Length of ShowerPercent of a typical hot water cylinder saved
4 minutes4%
5 minutes5%
6 minutes6%
7 minutes7%
8 minutes8%
9 minutes9%
10 minutes10%

From the table, it can be seen that if a person takes a medium-length shower of 10 minutes, a low-flow shower head will provide 10% more water to be available from the hot water cylinder.

Therefore, each average length shower taken using a low flow shower head compared to a high flow shower head means the water in a hot water cylinder will last 10 times as long.

Here’s a video that shows how much total water is saved when you use a low-pressure shower head compared to a high-pressure shower head. It has a shower where the drain has been covered so that the water fills up, to show how much total water is used by a low vs a high-pressure shower:

As you can see from the video, over about ten minutes more than double the amount of water is used by a high-flow shower head. 

Are High-Pressure Shower Heads Good?

Shower heads come in different sizes and shapes. They can come down vertically from above, or more commonly at an angle from the wall. Some shower heads are available as both high-pressure and low-pressure but are high-pressure shower heads better.

Overall, high-pressure shower heads are good. However, in some jurisdictions, they won’t meet building standards. This is due to the fact that in certain regions water is scarce. high-pressure shower heads provide a massage feeling to the water and wet the body faster.

When you dip your head under a high-pressure shower head it gets wetter faster, and you don’t need to move your head around to completely wet your hair. This is especially helpful if you have long hair – which a lot of people do! 

Not only that, but when wet your body, your entire body gets wetter faster, and you don’t need to be as deliberate with wetting yourself. Both of these factors make showering with a high-pressure shower much easier.

Is a Higher or Lower GPM Shower Head Better?

Installing a new shower is pretty exciting because you can customize it exactly how you want. One of the key considerations with a shower head is whether to get a high or low-flow shower head. Also, called a high or low-pressure or high or low GPM shower head, so here’s which one is better.

As a general rule, a high GPM shower head is better because it wets the hair and body faster. This makes wetting the body to apply shampoo and soap, as well as, rinsing your body afterward easier. But, in some regions with scarce water, high GPM shower heads won’t meet building standards.

Before getting a high GPM shower you should refer to the local building codes, or contact a plumber to see whether a high GPM shower head is OK to have in your region. 

A good option that can make showering faster if high GPM showers are a no-go, is to get a detachable shower head. These are faster at wetting the body because you can target where the water goes much better because you can hold it in your hand.

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