A good shower head can help
you prep for the day
If your morning shower is more like a depressing
drizzle, a new shower head could be the solution. Not only do today's water-efficient
shower heads have improved flow compared to earlier versions, many have
variable settings so you can pound those tight muscles with a water massage or
be soothed by a gentle fall of rain.
Types of Shower Heads
This type of shower head is the most common and can range from extremely basic, with just a single spray setting, to more sophisticated, with a variety of spray choices that you access by turning a knob or dial. Fixed shower heads are generally easy to install. Flow rates for these shower heads generally fall in to the 2.5 gallons per minute (gpm) range, which means they are not WaterSense certified (see below).
In most states, shower heads are required to use
no more than 2.5 gallons per minute (gpm), which is significantly less than the
flow rate of some older shower heads. However, if you want to save even more
water, you can choose a shower head bearing the Environmental Protection
Agency's (EPA) <a href="http://www.epa.gov/watersense/products/showerheads.html" target="new"><u>WaterSense label</u></a>. Models with this label are guaranteed
to use no more than 2 gpm and may be required in some areas, such as California,
Colorado and parts of New York. Many of the shower heads we recommend come in
both 2.5 gpm and low-flow 2.0 gpm versions. Purchasing a low-flow shower head
may qualify for a rebate that will defray much of the cost of the new shower
head. You can find out if your shower head qualifies for a rebate by visiting
the <a href="http://epa.gov/watersense/rebate_finder_saving_money_water.html" target="new"><u>EPA website</u></a>.
These are one of the hottest trends in shower heads. These can-shaped shower heads have broad, flat faces that drop water straight down onto the user to simulate rainfall. Many reviewers rave about the luxurious feel of this type of shower, but it's not for everyone. Most rain shower heads use the full 2.5 gpm allowed by law, and some people still find the flow too weak. Rain shower heads tend to be pricier than other shower heads, and installation can be more complicated, as well.
This type of shower head is a shower nozzle attached to a flexible hose. Nestled into a wall-mounted cradle, it can function just like a fixed shower head or be removed from its mount and directed onto particular parts of your body. Reviewers say they're also handy for cleaning the shower itself or washing the dog. Installation is straightforward; in most cases the flexible hose is attached in place of a fixed shower head.
If you can't decide between fixed and handheld, you may like a dual shower head. Some dual shower heads combine a fixed shower head with a handheld one; others combine a regular shower head with a rain-type shower head or have two regular or two rain-type shower heads. The fixed shower head/handheld combination gives you the best of both worlds, while two side-by-side shower heads make it more convenient to shower with a friend. Most dual shower heads can be installed by a handy do-it-yourselfer.
Finding The Best Shower Heads
"The Best Shower Head"
"Showerheads & Handheld Showers"
To find the best showerheads of all types, we
looked at professional tests and expert reviews, especially those evaluations
that include flow rate verification and other specific measurements, as well as
hands on testing by more than just one person. From there, we consulted
hundreds, sometimes thousands, of user reviews on sites like Amazon.com and HomeDepot.com
for feedback on how these shower heads work in real homes, which gives great
insight into long-term performance and durability as well. The results of our
research is our picks for the best shower heads on the market, including low-flow,
handheld and rain shower heads. One is sure to make your morning toilette a bit
The best shower heads
Fixed shower heads are pretty straightforward --
they attach to a pipe that comes out from the wall or ceiling and water comes
out. From there, though, things can get more interesting, with spray options
that include everything from a gentle, dispersed flow to an invigorating
massage. The best of these shower heads offer a flow that is strong enough even
to rinse shampoo from long or thick hair, while still meeting the maximum flow
rate requirements of 2.0 to 2.5 gpm (check your local or state regulations for
Among standard fixed shower heads, reviewers
have nothing but good things to say about the (Est. $75 and up). Made of solid brass, this shower head features
six individual spray jets that offer 48 different spray options and can
function in three different patterns, from a gentle rinse to a full-flood
stream. To switch between settings, there's a side-mounted lever that's reported
as easy to grip even with wet or soapy hands. This shower head is a popular
choice with professional reviewers, who describe the spray as
"invigorating" and "rewarding." Professionals and owners
alike are impressed with the Speakman's heavy-duty construction and stylish
The Speakman Anystream has a 2.5 gpm flow rate, the
maximum allowed by law, but users say it feels plenty strong in spite of those
limitations. It also comes in a WaterSense certified 2.0 gpm model, the (Est. $80 and up). However, some users say even
the 2.5 gpm version doesn't work very well with lower water pressure. The
Anystream comes in five finishes: polished brass, polished chrome, polished
nickel, brushed nickel and oil-rubbed bronze. Many owners rave about its
stylish looks, and say it's extremely well-built. Quite a few who felt that the
Anystream was rather pricey for a shower head eventually concluded that it is
worth every penny.
It's a fraction of the price of the Speakman, but
the (Est. $30) gets top ratings in one professional roundup, earning Best Buy
status as well as a Very Good for shower feel, which measures how powerful the
spray feels to testers. What keeps it out of our top spot is that it has only
one setting -- most people prefer at least a massage setting -- and that it gets
lower ratings from owners and many fewer reviews than the Speakman.
Still, if price is a serious consideration for
you, this American Standard deserves serious considering. It has a 2.5 gpm
flow, and most users say it feels plenty powerful. There are others, of course,
as with any shower head, who beg to differ, but most agree that it has a good,
strong stream that feels very refreshing. One other quibble we saw was that the
relatively small shower head has a correspondingly narrow stream that some say
makes them feel like they have to move around too much. However, if you just
want a good, basic shower head, this is a great choice.
If you'd like an even more budget-friendly
option, the (Est. $22) earns kudos
from both experts and owners for its performance and value. This Delta shower
head offers dual flow rate settings, 1.85 and 2.5 gpm, using up to 26 percent
less water than a dedicated 2.5 gpm shower. Reviewers say the flow at the lower
setting feels plenty strong thanks to Delta's proprietary H2OKinetic
technology. Quite a few say they just leave it on the 1.85 gpm setting and they
can't tell the difference. We also saw a number of comments from users who have
seen a noticeable decrease in their water bills.
The Delta 75152 has only four jets in contrast
with the Speakman's six, but reviewers say it offers a steady, consistent
stream that offers a good, full shower feel. As with many shower heads, if you
already have low water pressure, this one may not work as well, but some say
it's fine even with lower water pressure. We did see a few comments from those
who felt that the air diffused the spray too much, especially at the higher 2.5
gpm setting, which they found annoying. The 75152 only comes in one finish
option -- chrome -- and there are a few complaints that it looks and feels
Ultra-low-flow shower heads great water savings; are
required in some areas
The future of the shower head -- and the toilet
and the kitchen faucet and just about everything else that uses water -- is in
constantly decreasing flow rates. In California, Colorado and some zip codes in
New York, newly installed shower heads must have flow rates of no more than 2.0
Fortunately, there are a few shower heads out
there that meet these requirements and perform well. A standout in this
category is the (Est. $45 and up). It has a nice
selection of three spray patterns (full spray, turbine massage spray and
combination spray) and a stylish flared design. Although it has extreme water
saving features -- using between 1.5 and 2 gallons per minute, depending on
spray pattern -- reviewers say the stream feels generous and strong. It's also
a top performer in professional tests, with high scores for water feel, ease of
adjustment and hot water temperature. One feature users don't generally love is
the fact that the shower head automatically resets to its lowest-flow setting
when you turn it off. The American Standard FloWise 1660.717 is available in
polished chrome or in satin nickel (which costs about $20 more).
The (Est. $12)
is an ultra-low-flow shower head, using just 1.5 gpm, that gets very good
reviews for performance from hundreds of reviewers, as well as hundreds of
comments that talk about noticeable savings on the water bills. Many say the
water flow feels surprisingly strong considering the low flow setting, and it
feels like a full flow shower head. Of course, as with any shower head, a lot of
the user's satisfaction depends upon the water pressure in the home.
The Niagara has three spray settings and nine
jets and reviewers say it's easy to adjust by turning the dial on the nozzle.
Although it's an inexpensive and very basic unit, plenty of owners say they
like the way it looks. It's available in chrome and white.