The average American spends eight minutes every day
in the shower. That might not seem like a lot but for some, it’s the only time they get to be completely alone. Why not make it as refreshing and satisfying as possible? From minimal details to premium options with tons of bells and whistles, choosing the right shower head can take your daily shower from a basic flow of water that washes away the day to a spa-like experience.
Read on for everything you need to know about shopping for a new shower head.
What to consider before choosing a shower head
Whether you’re replacing an existing fixture or remodeling a bathroom, there are several things you’ll need to think about before making your choice.
- Will children be using the shower?
- How big is the shower?
- Will the shower be used for other tasks, like washing pets?
- Are there household members with special needs?
- What’s the budget?
- Style and finish?
- Replacing an existing shower head or remodeling?
- What features are important?
Working with existing plumbing may limit the type of shower head you can use. In many cases, rain shower heads that extend our from or sit flush with the ceiling will require new plumbing, which will increase installation costs and require the work of a plumber, electrician, and dry waller.
Your existing pipes may not be wide enough to accommodate some models, so make sure to have that evaluated before committing. If you’re planning to install a new shower system, consult a professional about your plumbing.
Oversized and more powerful shower heads may require more water pressure than your home can handle. Before deciding on a shower head, you’ll want to check your existing shower’s water pressure. You can buy a water pressure gauge at a hardware store to determining if it’s normal or low. If it’s the latter, you may have a plumbing issue that needs repairing.
If your home has low water pressure or your state mandates a low-pressure system, choose a shower head with EPA WaterSense certification. Certified shower heads will have a low flow rate, a metric that measures how much water is used in gallons per minute (GPM). A low flow rate shower head is 2 GPM per minute or less. The EPA reports that these shower heads can save the average household around 2,700 gallons of water per year. You’ll save money on water and electricity while helping the environment.
States that have restrictions on shower heads include California, Colorado, Hawaii, New York, Vermont, and Washington.
Existing fixtures and space
If you’re simply replacing the shower head, you’ll want to match it to your existing fixture as closely as possible for a clean look. You’ll also want to consider the size of your shower and bathroom. If space is limited, a large or oversized shower head may result in overspray out of the shower enclosure.
Types of shower heads
There are many different brands of shower heads in an extensive range of prices, but there are four basic types. Oversized shower heads with more holes tend to have less water pressure and more volume, while smaller shower heads will have a stronger spray and use less water. Smaller shower heads are better economically, but larger ones may make for a more relaxing and satisfying shower.
Read on for the details about the different options and how they will work in your shower and make your bathroom a place you enjoy spending time.
Standard wall-mounted shower heads
This style is the most commonly-used shower head. It’s straightforward to install or replace, and usually involves unscrewing the old shower head and screwing in the new one. These are attached to the shower wall with a short piece of metal tubing. Some wall-mounted models have adjustable water streams and allow you to change the angle and type of spray, with options for a soft mist or a pulsating massage sensation. Rain shower heads are available in wall-mounted options as well.
The cost of a wall-mounted shower head ranges from $10–$200.
Hand-held shower heads
A hand-held shower head will operate with most existing wall-mounted plumbing, so they can be installed without much work. You can either replace an existing shower head with a hand-held model or add a hand-held model to the shower you already have installed. Some models come with lots of extras that make them both practical and indulgent, including multiple sprayer options and massage jets. A good choice for hand-held shower heads is to attach them to the wall on an adjustable rod, making them easy for people of all heights to use comfortably.
Hand-held shower heads are an excellent choice for bathrooms that are shared with small children or those who need to be seated while showering. Their adjustable, moveable nature makes them easy to maneuver and target. These shower heads also make cleaning your shower a breeze.
A hand-held shower head attachment will cost $30 – $250.
Top-mounted shower heads
Typically called rain showers, top-mounted shower heads have become increasingly popular. Rain shower heads are usually mounted to the ceiling (though the can be mounted high up on the wall with the arm extended out) so that the water falls straight down, mimicking rainfall. They also tend to be much larger than standard shower heads (8–14" in diameter) to ensure your whole body is enveloped in water, and have lower water pressure.
While they can make a shower feel like a luxury experience, top-mounted shower heads are best used when building a bathroom from scratch or during a renovation: plumbing needs to be present in the ceiling for a top-mounted shower head to make sense. And since they tend to be larger in diameter, the water spray covers more area and is more likely to spray outside the shower enclosure. Therefore, consider a smaller rain shower head or only use one in a shower that's enclosed by walls/glass.
The cost of a top-mounted shower head is $30 – $500.
If you’re looking for a custom, luxurious option for your bathroom, a shower panel may be the way to go. A long panel affixed to the shower wall and plumbed through existing piping, shower panels come in various configurations and controls. They typically include an overhead shower, handheld shower, and/or body sprays, along with temperature controls. Many shower panels can be installed with existing plumbing—all they need are typical hot and cold connections—but depending on the complexity of the attachments and options, you may need professional installation and even a plumber.
Shower panels start around $400 and can go up to $8,000+ more for the top-of-the-line brands.
How do I shop for a shower head?
Standard shower heads are sold at hardware stores and anywhere that sells plumbing supplies. Shopping online will likely yield a wider range of options, but if possible, try to see a few in person to get a sense of what style, finish, and size you prefer. (This is also useful if you’re considering a handheld option and want to test the weight of the shower head.) Smaller, boutique plumbing retailers may carry higher-end, more unique items.
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