“Go Zero” Hacks, Solve Climate Change From Home: Hack #1 — The Lowly Showerhead

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Every month or so, we’ll profile a small lifestyle change, or cheap technological switch, that anyone can make to “Go Zero.” The goal is to highlight some of the low-cost and overlooked, yet extremely impactful, ways to save energy and money and fight climate change.  

Today’s Go Zero Hack involves a glorious and luxurious take on an old favorite – shower time. For not too much money and 5 minutes of install time (here’s some instructions for installing a high efficiency showerhead), a water-saving showerhead offers more bang for your buck than most realize:

You save water. Showers are the second biggest users of water in the average home.  Efficient showerheads leave more water for fish and farming as well as save the energy it takes to pump water to your house.

You save energy. This is because heating water for a shower requires a lot of energy.  17% of a home’s energy use goes to heating water — 6% to showers specifically.

You save wastewater. Little known fact, most people pay this as a utility bill each month and don’t even know. It’s charged at a higher rate than the water coming into the house, and often based on a calculation from your local water utility, meaning the less water coming in, the less they assume is going out, and therefore the lower this 3rd piece of utility bill is for you each month. 

You prevent sewage from going into rivers. Less water going down the drain means less water to pump to the sewage treatment plant to treat and clean. It also means that during rain storms, when many sewers overflow into rivers (because they get too full), less raw sewage will go into waterways. Less water in sewers means less overflow in rivers during storms.

You save money

What Your Old Showerhead is Costing You

The average showerhead in the US uses 2.1 gallons of water per minute. That equals 17 gallons of water per average 8 minute shower and a whopping 6,200 gallons per year — enough to fill a small pool.

To heat that water in a standard electric water heater (though, you should get a heat pump water heater (for 3 and under people) or solar water heater (for 4 or more) ASAP), you’ll need about 1000 kilowatt-hours of electricity. That will cost around $118 per person.

So, you’re probably spending close to $250, per person, per year, on showers.

With this Go Zero showerhead hack, you can cut your energy use and spending by 40% simply by switching out your showerhead for a more efficient one.

That translates to $100 of savings per person per year, plus 2,500 gallons of water and the energy equivalent of many pounds of coal. For my family of four, that means we’re saving $400 a year on showers alone.

But Wait, There’s More! 

In the past, some people (including Seinfeld) thought that a more efficient showerhead made for a poor showering experience.

No longer. Those were “low flow” technology (and I use that term very loosely) where they inserted a flow restrictor into existing pipes, meaning a showerhead designed to use 3 gallons of water would then seem very wimpy. Modern, “high efficiency” showerheads provide a deluxe showering experience, with sometimes half the water. You’ll likely notice no difference in shower quality, and many say it’s actually an improvement over what they had before.

This hack also works well for both homeowners and renters alike. Renters can replace the showerhead in their rental house or apartment (just store the original in case your landlord takes issue with the replacement when you move out) and benefit from lower energy and water bills.

Time to Go Zero

Whatever you purchase, we recommend a showerhead that uses 1.5 gallons per minute. It’s a bit more than half the standard showerhead rate (2.5 gallons per minute) and you won’t notice a difference in your showering experience. If you’re not sure, start with a 1.75 GPM. 

So, what are you waiting for? Go Zero. Replace your showerhead(s): save $100 per person at home, a pool full of water, and lots of coal, every year, all while doing your part towards solving climate change today.

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Joe Wachunas

Joe lives in Portland, Oregon, and works to promote electric and decarbonized buildings. He believes that electrifying everything, from transportation to homes, is the quickest path to an equitable, clean energy future. Joe and his family live in an all-electric home and drive an EV.

Joe Wachunas has 66 posts and counting. See all posts by Joe Wachunas