Flow restrictors play an essential role in water conservation and impact water pressure in faucets and showerheads. Nonetheless, sometimes they may not deliver just the amount of water you need, prompting you to do away with them. 

But before doing that, it’s imperative to know the consequences of this action, as it can affect your plumbing system and potentially land you in legal trouble.

So, let’s dive in and perpend what you need to know about removing a flow restrictor and whether it’s illegal.

Is It Illegal to Remove a Flow Restrictor?

Removing a flow restrictor is illegal according to the US Energy Policy Act of 1992, which limits the maximum shower water flow rate to 2.5 gallons per minute (GPM). Nonetheless, in practice, the regulations regarding flow restrictors vary depending on the state you reside.

For instance, removing flow restrictors in California is illegal, especially if doing so allows more than two gallons per minute for showerheads. Texas, Georgia, and New York have their maximum flow rates for shower heads at 2.5, 2.5, and 2.0 gallons per minute, respectively.

Hence, before making any changes, it’s always best to consult local plumbing codes and regulations to ensure you stay compliant and avoid penalties. 

Next, let us enlighten you more on this seemingly slight yet significant water use issue. 

What is a Flow Restrictor, and How Does it Function?

A flow restrictor, also known as a flow control valve, is a small device that controls the amount of water flowing through a faucet or showerhead. It acts as a throttle, limiting the water flow to a specific rate.

Side-by-side comparison of two types of flow restrictors.
Courtesy of Lavatory Lab

You might be wondering why you would want to limit water flow. The answer is simple: to conserve water and reduce waste. This conservation is especially critical in areas where water is a precious resource.

It’s important to note that flow restrictors can vary in size and design and can be adjusted to different levels to control water flow. In addition, some flow restrictors can be removed or replaced, while others are integrated into the plumbing system, and you cannot easily remove them.

Impact of Removing a Flow Restrictor on Water Usage and Pressure

When you remove a flow restrictor from a faucet or showerhead, you essentially remove the throttle that limits the water flow. 

Some of the impacts of doing so include:

Faster Water Speed

Water will flow much faster, which can increase your water usage significantly. So, if you’re on a metered water system, removing a flow restrictor can lead to higher water bills, which can add up quickly over time.

Increased Water Pressure

When water is flowing at a higher rate, it can cause an increase in water pressure, which can stress your pipes and other components of your plumbing system. This increase can lead to leaks, burst pipes, and other problems that can be costly.

A low-flow showerhead in a shower dispensing water

Wasted Water

Removing a flow restrictor can negatively impact the environment. Using more water increases your carbon footprint and consumes more of a precious resource that’s becoming increasingly scarce in some areas. This can have a long-term impact on the environment and future generations.

Therefore, even without considering the legal side of it, removing a flow restrictor is not as cool as it sounds. As highlighted above, it’ll significantly impact your water usage and pressure, as well as the environment. 

Best-Sized Flow Restrictors: Staying on the Right Side of Law

You simply cannot afford to use the wrong showerhead nozzle size in an era where conserving every drop of water matters immensely. Notably, there has been a lot of controversy and politics surrounding the maximum water flow out of a showerhead. 

During President Trump’s regime, there was a sort of relaxation of the US Energy Policy Act of 1992 as the administration sought to be more lenient on energy efficiency laws. 

Nonetheless, President Biden has usurped the laws, meaning you might be confused about how exactly to stay on the right side. So what’s the way out of this conservative vs. liberal water use struggle? 

Here’s a list of options:

2.5 GPM Flow Rate Showerheads

You can simply opt for a 2.5 GPM flow rate showerhead, and you’re safe from the long arm of the law. Nonetheless, you may not be truly safe if you reside in states such as New York, California, or Colorado, with more stringent rules surrounding the issue. 

Worry not if you live in the above states—we have your solution:

WaterSense-Certified Shower Heads

Thanks to their WaterSense certification, the EPA has got you covered if you are in a state where a 2.5 GPM showerhead doesn’t fit the billing. It provides this designation to showerheads with a flow rate of 2.0 GPM, a significantly lower rate than the Fed.

Hence, check for the WaterSense label next time you purchase a showerhead.

The WaterSense® Certification logo
Courtesy of the EPA

Eco-Performance Showerheads

Lastly, if you feel a 2.0 GPM rate is still way too fast, there are showerheads with a lower flow rate of 1.5 GPM. How do you identify them? Just look for the ‘Eco-Performance’ label. 

Among the significant benefits of this showerhead is it helps you save about 40% more water than the Fed-allowed type

Alternative Ways to Increase Water Pressure

If you’re looking for ways to increase water pressure without removing the flow restrictor, there are a few options you can consider.

These measures include:

Installing a Water Pressure Booster

This device is connected to your main water supply and boosts the pressure of the water flowing to your faucets and showerheads.

Installing a Larger Water Tank

If you have a smaller water tank, it can be difficult to get enough water pressure, mainly if you use multiple fixtures simultaneously. Installing a larger water tank can help increase the pressure and ensure enough water for all your needs.

Adjusting the Pressure Switch or Adding a Pump

If you’re unsure about these options, you should speak to a local plumber or water expert who can help you find the right solution for your needs. One viable option is installing a pump with a higher water pressure output. 

a man and woman working under the sink to fix the exposed plumbing pipes

Is Professional Installation and Maintenance Important for Flow Restrictors?

Installing and maintaining a flow restrictor can be complex and should always be done by a professional plumber. An expert will have the knowledge and expertise to ensure that the flow restrictor is installed and maintained correctly, which will help to prolong its lifespan and improve its performance.

Additionally, a professional can help to troubleshoot any issues that may arise with your flow restrictor and make it function best.

Final Word

Should you remove or not remove your flow restrictors? It depends on where you live, but you must primarily comply with the Fed flow rate of 2.5 GPM. The rules are more stringent in states like California, but with WaterSense Certified showerheads, you’re sorted. 

But, regardless of the laws, it’s important to remember that removing flow restrictors can result in increased water usage and ultimately lead to higher bills. So, our final take is that you shouldn’t remove your flow restrictor. 

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