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A Better Low-Flow Showerhead?

by Chad Ludeman on November 23, 2010 · 10 comments

in bath

It’s been some time since we’ve spoken directly about low-flow showerheads and other plumbing fixtures. We recently suggested our favorite low-flow showerhead to a client, the Jet-Stream 1.5 gpm economy showerhead for trial in their home and some rental apartments to save on both their water bills and water heating bills. They not only tested the showerhead, but came back with a new recommendation that they claim to be even better than our beloved Jet Stream.

EcoFIT Bricor low flow showerhead image The low-flow Showerhead brand is Bricor and they sell a range of showerheads that range from 1.5 gpm to a stingy 0.5525 gpm! The model shown to the left is their most economical model at just $25 each and sports a low flow rate of 1.25 gpm which is 0.25 gpm lower than our Jet Streams. The bigger advantage, according to our test source, is that the water temperature is hotter at the same setting as the Jet Stream head. They noticed this by testing the Jet Stream first and had to turn the water temperature all the way up to get the same heat they were used to with their normal head. Once they swapped in the Bricor model, they were able to return their hot water setting back to it’s normal setting.

This combination of an even lower flow rate with hotter feeling water is the ultimate combination as it is even further reducing ones use of not only water, but the amount of heated water used in each shower. We learned from some folks at the Delta booth at Greenbuild, who gave Nic this 1.6 gpm showerhead to try out, that a lot of thought goes into the size of each droplet in these low-flow showerheads to ensure they are maximizing the heat they can carry. We’re assuming that the Bricor brand is simply doing a bit better job in this droplet shape category than the Jet Stream brand. Don’t get me wrong. Both showerheads are great and we’ve had no complaints about the attractive and budget-friendly Jet Stream models to date. We’ve been using one happily for almost four years now.

The economy model above by Bricor is OK, but I really like the looks and functionality of the B100 series from them. This model looks a bit sleeker, which is something we always liked about Jet Stream. It also has the added benefit of coming with a lever that allows you to turn the flow rate all the way off without needing to turn the water in the shower off. This is great for those trying to go the extra mile in water conservation during their showers by taking a “military shower” where the water is only left on when in use. The water stream can be turned off when lathering up your hairs or scrubbing the dirt from your skin and then turned on only for rinsing functions. A bit extreme for most American maybe, but still a nice feature for those that are interested in this type of shower.

One other tip we got from faucet manufacturers at Greenbuild, while we’re on the subject, is to ask the manufacturer for their own low-flow aerators for those seeking to get below 1.0 gpm on their residential lavatory fixtures. This may not be available from all manufacturers, but if it is, it will improve the look of your low flow faucet by eliminating the need for an additional clunky screw-on aerator at the end of it that may not match the design perfectly.

For those looking for more plumbing fixture recommendations, Nic posted some new bath faucets and kitchen faucets that we are now using in our Postgreen Homes. Enjoy.

If you enjoyed reading this post I can promise you'll love our new writing over at Postgreen Homes. Yeah, we know that's the same thing your favorite band said and their new album is nowhere near as good as their early stuff, but seriously, we are actually still getting better.

There also isn't much conversation to be had here . . . at least not with us. So come on over to the Postgreen Homes Blog and tell us what you think of our new(ish) digs and crazy ideas. We will be sure to tell you what we think of your opinion.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Matt November 23, 2010 at 2:00 pm

In my experience, the low flow requires a higher thermostat setting for the water heater because of the vaporization and evaporative cooling effect with the aerator in the head. The higher water velocity also causes the shower curtain to get sucked toward the shower wall, which is annoying.

I’ve wondered about the overall “green” tradeoff of a higher thermostat setting vs. more wasted water with a “high” flow head. That would be a fairly complex calculation, especially because time in the shower and preferred temperature varies so much person to person.

2 November 24, 2010 at 2:23 am

For years I’ve used showerheads* similar to the Jetstream, and they do work great. The tiny size of it generates the most complaints, here’s an excerpt from an email from a homebuyer: “Thank you for fixing the shower. I think there still should be a piece that extends out from the shower head, as this does not look right. It looks bent and funny.”

The lesson is that people expect a showerhead to look like a showerhead.

*The first company to produce these in the 80′s marketed under the brand name “Incredible Head”. They dropped the name when they were tipped off to the sexual connotation.

3 Larry Rose December 11, 2010 at 10:05 am

I was looking for a new shower head. I was tired of your old one, which had an aeroator an n cooled the water stream as it left the head. I was stingy on water, but left somyhing to be desired. I ordered the Bricor Ecofit, and Im impressed. The shower head doesn’t nearly produce the mist as my old one. the water stays in broken streams, and produces a nicer force on your skin. it is also quite a bit hotter for the same faucet setting. Most impressive, is that Bricoe wanted to know my water pressure, and called me directly to get it. This is so the unit is calibrated to my local conditions!!
When the unit arrived, I was curious about these calibrations, being an engineer and all. So I took the unit apart. there is an outer case, for looks. On the inside is a pressure vessel, which is the part they swap out for different pressures I assume. It is a well built unit. I will recommend it to my friends.

4 Chad Ludeman December 11, 2010 at 1:15 pm

Great feedback Larry, thanks!

5 David Malcolm January 21, 2011 at 4:18 pm

This is a nice looking showerhead, and I’m sure the spray is comfortable. But achieving low flow simply squeezing the water through smaller holes and regulators causes clogging if there are any minerals or impurities in the water. And if the droplet size is too small, or a few of the small nozzles get plugged up, the spray will feel wimpy and rinse hair poorly.

I agree with Matt regarding the tendancy of aerating showerheads to cool the water down. If you have to put more hot water in the mix, you it is costing you heating energy.

Then there’s the cleanliness factor. Showerheads can harbor bacteria, especially if made of plastic. Aerating showerheads can suck in bathroom bacteria and spread them around as a mist. Hospitals that use aerating showerheads may use models that contain silver nitrate to neutralize bacteria, but these devices are expensive and may need to have their parts changed out every two years.

Our company, HighSierra Showerheads, has overcome these challenges (but we’re biased, of course, being the manufacturer). Latest post on showerhead technology:

6 John Hiddema February 2, 2011 at 1:39 am

One more factor in selecting a showerhead that I’d like you (and others) to commment on Chad: have you tested any any handheld showerheads? Especially any affordable ones? If so, how did they work in comparison to a standard showerhead?

I currently use an older handheld because my young son enjoys using it. He *doesn’t* enjoy having water pour down on him from standard adult height, so that’s a non-starter. We’ve been using low flow aerators on all our faucets for some time and I’d really like to get a new low flow handheld showerhead.

Most of the models I’ve found in online searches are expensive compared to their standard-mount counterparts. Bricor, for example, has their EcoFit for only $25, while their only handheld is $90. Some others range up to $300. That can quickly make trial-and-error testing expensive. The less expensive options I’ve found are Niagara’s Earth Massage ($40 CDN), Waterpik’s Ecoflow ($50 CDN) and Oxygenics, whose products cost a bit more and use more water.

David Malcolm’s HighSierra showerhead looks interesting. It seems well-engineered and is inexpensive, but I don’t see a handheld product on his site. His point about bacteria from aeration is also interesting – I hadn’t thought of that one…

7 Jessica February 22, 2011 at 5:02 am


If there are any bacterial substances in the air in your bathroom that you are going to breath them in through your lungs just by walking into your bathroom to begin with. They will also get into your eyes, nose and ears just by walking into your bathroom too. Just because they are coming through an air shower head does not change the fact that you are still going to come into contact with them regardless as to if you are showering with an air shower head or not. It would be like me walking into my bathroom and breathing through a straw and you telling me that it is bad for me. About shower heads harboring bacteria that I agree with too to some extent. This is due to the water left over from the previous shower when last used. The amount of bacteria would depend on how much time has passed since your last shower. However that water is completely cleared out when you turn your shower head on and wait a minute or two for it to heat up. So whether a shower head is made out of plastic or metal does not seem to really matter in that instance.

As far as an aerating shower head cooling the water it might do so for the first minute if that. Showers produce gas in the form of steam. The steam that the shower creates is 100% saturated and at the same temperature as the shower water its self. So it would seem to me that the shower head will suck back in the steam which is at the same temperature as the shower water its self thus not causing a temperature change. This is why Larry commented as to not being able to notice a temperature change while using an air shower head.

8 Larry Rose February 22, 2011 at 8:29 am

your wrong about the temperature. The temperature delta between running the bathtub fill and the shower was 15-20 deg F, I measured it. (again, Im an engineer), I measured it with an IR gun pointing to a dish I had, in either stream. I did this so I could get a handle on the shower temp. Further, the fact of vaporizing water (liquid -> gas) lowers the temp. The energy to do this is called Latent Heat.
You can argue about what the reasons are, but reality is what happens, weather you believe in it or not.

9 Chad Ludeman February 22, 2011 at 9:14 am

Discussion, not arguing. Good comments, but let’s keep it courteous… Thanks!

10 Jessica September 30, 2012 at 4:24 am


I do not think that you know that the Bricor shower head uses a vacuum flow venturi. Last I remember the density of water to air at 1 atm and room temperature is about 780 to 1. Also factor in the fact that the specific heat of water to air is 3,25 to 1. Now lets factor in that the density of mosit air to dry air is less too. The steam that the shower head gives off is at the same temperature as the exiting water. Steam is not air and never did I say or make any reference that was in any way incorrect. I will admit that in theory the temperature of the water in the air induction shower head will drop how ever that drop will be negligable. It would be like going from 100 degrees F to 99.99 degrees F which is negligable. This is the reality of the situation.

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