Shower Head and Water Pressure Q&A

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Dear NH,

How can I select a showerhead without purchasing it and installing it first? The ones I have now simply get me wet. They don't wash or rinse. Do they still make showerheads that stream water out?  I hate buying one only to be disappointed again!

JP from Apex, NC


I have installed countless showerheads and their sprays are all somewhat different! The same showerhead sometimes even gives different results in different homes! So I'm not comfortable giving a brand recommendation.

All new showerheads currently available in the U.S. are flow restricting (per "Uncle Sam"), limiting the flow of water to 2.5 gallons per minute. However, this is a deceptive figure as the testing is done at a constant water pressure of 80 PSI. No problem on most high-pressure municipal water systems, but if you have a 40-50 PSI well system, the difference in apparent pressure is dreadfully obvious! Even though these new showerheads are designed with smaller outlet holes to cause the "sensory illusion" of a great flow of water, the effect is of limited value with low-pressure systems.

So the question is... what is a guy who wants a decent shower to do? There are a few things. You could, of course, visit someone who has an older home and try to buy their used-but-wonderful old water-wasters. Then again, you could purchase a showerhead with a removable restrictor. I am not up on all the brands, so I can't make a recommendation. I know that the Waterpic Shower Massages "used to" have them, but I can't guarantee that is still the case.

A second option is to make a physical modification to the showerhead to increase the flow. Since the inlet hose/pipe running to the showerhead is about one half inch, you will notice that there is a smaller hole inside the threaded inlet connection of the showerhead. Drilling out this smaller hole with an electric drill bit to increase its diameter will increase the flow rate. The feasibility of this procedure depends on the design of the showerhead and the accessibility of the restrictor. Be sure to get all the chips out of the showerhead to prevent blocking the outlet holes.

Frankly, I have no idea if doing this is legal! Here's a toast to freedom of the press! I made some inquiries and I could not find anyone who thought that this would not be legal for the homeowner to do. However, there was mixed opinion as to whether a hired contractor could legally make this showerhead modification. Take that for what it's worth!