A showerhead emitting water with the text "low-flow?" transposed above the image

If you’ve ever had to replace or fix your showerhead – or you’re shopping for a new one – you may wonder which type offers the most pressurized water flow and which is more economical. The right model can change your mornings (and your bank account), and low-flow shower heads are a perfect choice. 

This article will discuss what a low-flow showerhead is, the easiest ways to tell whether you have one, and the benefits of using this kind.

How Do You Tell if You Have a Low-Flow Showerhead?

You can tell if you have a low-flow showerhead by checking printed labels around the rim. One of the labels should read 1.5 GPM (gallons per minute) or 5.67 liters per minute (lpm). Low-flow showerheads still provide tremendous pressure and won’t use excessive water, helping you to save money. 

The Easiest Way To Identify Low-Flow Showerheads

The best way to identify a low-flow unit is to look at the rim of the attachment for the labeled gallons per minute. For example, a low-flow model only releases 1.5 gallons per minute (5.67 liters). Therefore, any showerhead that emits more isn’t considered ‘low-flow.’ 

a black Delta Trinsic 17 Series Watersense showerhead installed in my white subway tiled shower
For our second netzero home renovation, we went with this Delta Trinsic series WaterSense showerhead. Anything with this label is known to be water-efficient and meets all criteria of saving water.

If for whatever reason, your showerhead doesn’t have any label indicating the GPM rate, you can figure it out for yourself by following the below steps:

  • Place a large bucket beneath the showerhead.
  • Mark the one-gallon (3.78 L) mark on the inside or outside of the bucket.
  • Set a timer for twenty seconds.
  • Press start on the timer when you turn on the shower head.

Suppose your shower fills the bucket up to the one-gallon mark in 20 seconds or less, meaning before (or at the same time) your timer goes off. In that case, you have a high-flow showerhead. Conversely, a low-flow model will take longer than 20 seconds to fill up a one-gallon (3.78 L) bucket of water.

What Are the Types of Low-Flow Showerheads?

A low-flow showerhead is simply a shower attachment with low water flow. That means the unit will only release a certain amount of water per minute, hence the figure above. A showerhead that emits more than 1.5 gallons (5.67 liters) of water per minute is not considered low-flow.

Low-flow showerheads come in two main categories: 

  • Aerating 
  • Non-aerating (or laminar)

Low-flow models also come in various styles and formats, such as rainfall or handheld showerheads. They’re becoming increasingly popular as people understand the importance of saving water. 

A dripping low-flow shower head mounted on a tiled wall

Let’s explore aerating and laminar shower heads in more depth.

Aerating Shower Head

The word ‘aerating’ means introducing air into a material. For example, an aerating shower head uses a combination of air and water to produce water flow from the shower head. This composition gives the water a slightly mistier feel, and you may notice the water spreads over a wider surface when it comes out of the tap.

Aerating showerheads create lots of steam from the mist, so an aerating shower head is perfect for you if you enjoy a hot, steamy shower every morning.

Laminar Shower Head

A laminar showerhead does the opposite and is non-aerating, meaning the design allows in no air. As a result, the water pressure is direct streams of water. With a laminar showerhead, you may notice that the water covers less surface because it simply shoots straight out of the showerhead.

Both of these versions have what’s called a regulator or flow restrictor. This component is a small device inside the head that regulates the amount of water coming from the tap. 

Benefits of a Low-Flow Showerhead

When people think of a low-flow showerhead, they often believe that low-flow means “low pressure,” and no one enjoys a shower with low water pressure. However, contrary to popular belief, a low-flow head has adequate water pressure. The “low-flow” simply refers to the amount of water used per minute. 

Considering these shower heads have normal water pressure, they also have a few other significant benefits:

  • Low-flow shower heads decrease your water consumption – reduced water consumption can help you save water, energy, and money on your monthly water bill and make a significant difference in the long run. 
  • They have lower CO2 emissions – since low-flow showerheads require less energy, they reduce the need for fossil fuels and produce fewer CO2 emissions. So, low-flow units are excellent for the environment and your bank account.
  • Some low-flow models are adjustable, allowing you to choose your flow rate between .5-1.5 GPM – this setting is done through the regulator. 
A homeowner in a shower holds her hand under the showerhead to test the water temperature
  • Certain low-flow showerheads have a trickle switch – the switch reduces the stream of water to a trickle when turned on. This feature is helpful if you want to save water further when you’re lathering up (or need to step out to grab the shampoo you forgot on the counter). The trickle switch isn’t the same as the regulator, a device inside the shower head.

Both low and high-flow showerheads have various features, so the main difference is the flow rate and the impacts on energy efficiency. 

For great tips and tricks on saving energy, check out our posts on eco-friendly homes and appliances

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, you can tell you’re working with a low-flow showerhead if the label states the tap works at 1.5 GPM (gallons per minute). If there’s no label, you can use the trusted bucket trick to determine the gallon rate of the shower head. Remember, a rate higher than 1.5 means you have a high-flow showerhead. 

Low-flow models provide sufficient water pressure while reducing the amount of water and energy you need to use every time the shower gets turned on.


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