According to the U.S. EPA WaterSenese website, showering represents about 17% (17 gallons) of the 100 gallons of water used per day by the average person. A scan of information available on the Internet shows the average shower is said to last 5-10 minutes.
For example, if you took an 8-minute shower every day in a shower with a standard 2.5 gpm (gallons per minute) showerhead, that daily shower will use 20 gallons of water a day or 7,300 gallons over a 1-year period.
We’re always looking for ways to reduce water use and the shower seemed a good area to tackle. We decided to try two options, an inline shower shut off valve and a low flow handheld showerhead. This post is about the shut off valve option.
What is an Inline Shower Shut Off Valve Anyway?
In my quest to save water while showering, I didn’t automatically leap to an inline shower shut off valve as the answer. In fact, I didn’t even know such a thing existed. This is how I discovered it.
While trying to stand out of the water spray in the shower, I thought to myself, “it would be great if there was an easy way to temporarily stop the water flow while I soap up and wash my hair.” At first, just turning the shower tap off and back on seemed a viable option.
The shower I usually use has one of those rounded knob faucet handles (of indeterminate age) that does not respond well to incremental temperature adjustments. In addition, I can hardly see the shower without my glasses. I turn the water on, adjust the temperature with my glasses on, take them off, and jump in the shower. Turning the shower off and back on without my glasses did not work well. I probably wasted more water trying to turn it back on and adjust the temperature than if I had just left it on.
I suppose we could have replaced the whole faucet and showerhead but I wanted to try something simple and inexpensive.
After listening to my story, my spouse suggested an inline shower shut off valve and explained what it was. It is a small piece of pipe one installs between the shower pipe and showerhead with a valve (knob) that temporarily stops the water flow when turned or in some cases when one pushes a button. Perfect. We purchased one for less than $10 at a home improvement store.
A Funny Thing Happened During the Installation
You cannot imagine my amazement when my spouse asked me to look at the showerhead and pointed to the shut off valve built into it. I’d never looked at it that closely with my glasses on. Sure I’d noticed the little knob while cleaning the shower but just thought it had something to do with how the showerhead was installed. I could have been saving water the entire 5 years we’d lived in the house—I was bummed and felt dumb.
Taking a Shower
I got over it and tried out the showerhead built in shut off valve during my next shower. It was easy, turning the knob reduced the flow to a trickle. Turning the knob again resulted in an instant flow of water. Success. And I didn’t even need my glasses.
Using the shut off valve saves 1 to 3 gallons of water per shower, depending on if I wash my hair or not. That’s 365 to 1,095 gallons of water saved a year, plus energy savings.
Measuring the Showerhead Flow Rate
Next, I wanted to measure the flow rate of my showerhead. The flow rate for a standard showerhead is 2.5 gallons per minute (gpm) and 2.0 gpm or less for a low flow showerhead.
The moderately scientific method I used was holding a bucket under the showerhead while my son timed 1 minute on a smartphone stopwatch. Unfortunately, the bucket was too small for 1 minute so we had to stop at 45 seconds. After measuring the water, and doing the math, it was a pleasant surprise to find that at approximately 1.6 gpm, I already had a low-flow showerhead—go figure.
Next, we moved on to the low flow handheld shower project…