Finally, a good shower

Showers are a part of my daily routine. And I've been putting up with a lousy shower head for too long. But I've finally found a new one, one that I like.

Yep, that's right, I've written an entire blog post about a showerhead. It's a bit of a review, a bit of me having a little nerd-out over a "gadget", and hopefully an interesting article.

The past

A lot of people will agree with me when I say that showers don't feel as satisfying as they used to. Not much has changed, the US national shower maximum flow rate is still 2.5gpm, and has been since 19921. Some states have lower maximum standards, and so manufacturers have been targeting lower and lower flow rates.

Shower head manufacturers attempt to juice their showerheads, make them deliver a shower like the ones we used to have, by a variety of tricks. Aerating the water, decreasing the number of holes, spreading them out, nozzle design, and so forth. The problem is that these all fundamentally don't work. They make the streams feel weak, prickly, cold, dispersed, or otherwise unsatisfying.

I've tried many showerheads over the years, both as they come from the factory and with the flow reducer removed (in one case, drilled out). Things would get a little better, but still nowhere near as good as I remember the showers I had as a child at my grandparents house was. They had an old speakman showerhead, and that thing would just absolutely drench you in water.

Some people would point out that you can probably find such a showerhead on Ebay or at a Garage sale. That's true, you can buy an older shower head and experience torrential showers again, but there is something to be said about using a bit less water. At the very least, your water bill stays low.

The problem

In my home, we have 5 bathrooms. The previous owner left behind a variety of showerheads, the most common being simple Waterpik brand sprayer, with "6 spray patterns" proudly silk-screened onto the white plastic side. These are adequate, but ultimately unsatisfying.

In the master bathroom, I replaced it with a Moen magnetic showerhead, something we moved with us from our previous apartment. This shower works, has a wand and fixed unit, and was "good enough" for me to put up with.

I put a Delta equivalent of the Moen shower head in the main bathroom on the upper floor, which was mostly used by guests, and forgot about it. I never really cared for it, but it got the job done for a few years before being replaced by the Moen.

I hadn't given much thought about replacing any of the showerheads, until my father-in-law was visiting for Thanksgiving, and mentioned that one of the waterpik showers, in the kids jack-and-jill bathroom, was far superior to the Delta. He's visited us several times, but this was the first time it came up. Chagrined, I apologized for the lackluster shower, but didn't really plan to do anything about it, as modern showerheads are unilaterally pretty terrible.

I mentioned it on the phone to my parents, who, when visiting us, typically sleep in a bed on the ground floor, not upstairs, and have their own small bathroom adjoining. This bathroom has a waterfall style showerhead. They told me that this showerhead was very unsatisfying as well.

So I've now had two complaints about crappy showers. This nagged at me, and eventually I decided to see if I could fix it.

The fix

Browsing online, I searched wirecutter shower to see if Wirecutter had a new review on showerheads. They'd praised the Moen and Delta showerheads I'd had before, so I wasn't really hoping for much, but lo and behold they'd updated their review. They still push the multi-head units I'd used before, but in the "also great" section, they mentioned a new brand, High Sierra.

The review was generally positive, but the showerhead was critiqued for its lack of features. I've never used anything other than "spray," and so this didn't bother me. Figuring I could return it if I didn't like it, I bought one of the 2.0gpm fixed sprayers.

The future

"showerhead"

When the shower arrived, I was initially impressed. Inside its extremely minimal packaging, it sits, with no flair. It's heavier than the other showers I have, which are physically larger, but made of plastic. It's got very simple construction, and everything feels well-made. The ball pivot joint moves freely, the toggle is smooth and easy to articulate, and installation was a breeze, as the mount has two flat sides, so you can get a pair of smooth-jawed pliers around it, to cinch down and prevent leaks.

Turning the water on is surprising. You'd expect a 2gpm shower to have less presence than a 2.5gpm one, but that was not the case. Immediately a thick, wide spray of water came cascading down. Angling the shower up to spray my head, and not my torso (being tall has its own issues), I was very quickly soaked. Toggling the water off, I lathered up with a shampoo bar, rubbed some Dial soap on the important areas, and turned the water back on. Rinsing off was a treat, the water easily carried the soap and grime away.

Taking a moment to just relax and enjoy the shower, I noted that it generates a fantastic amount of steam and vapor. This made the whole shower feel warm, not just the area under the spray.

Stepping out, I decided to purchase these for all 5 of my showers.

"master bath shower combo unit, showing two showerheads"

For the master, I've installed a combo unit, which has two 2.0gpm units, one fixed and one on a hose. You can turn them on and off independently, so if you want you can have a 4gpm shower.

For the upstairs main, I ordered a handheld unit, as it is a shower tub, and the handhelds are useful for cleaning the tub, a dirty child, and filling mop buckets.

For the other two bathrooms, I've ordered more of the fixed unit that prompted me to write this article.

You seriously wrote an article about showers?

Yup. I've always had a strong sense of "If you're going to do something, do it right." Particularly for things you do every day (hopefully). Programmers endlessly tune their programming environments, changing and configuring editors, shells, terminal emulators, browsers, tooling, and endless other changes, designed to improve their experience. Why not apply this to the rest of your life?

Additionally, I just feel impressed by the company that makes the shower heads. They're a small company, making their showers here in the US, using metal, and not going in for heavy marketing or packaging budgets, or really anything other than the showerhead itself. I want to see them continue to succeed, and so I'm waxing poetic about them.

Addendum: Don't waste hot water

I don't have a water recirculation pump. I want one, but it's not in the budget for the near future. So I just let the shower run for a few minutes until it gets hot.

In a previous rental property, we had a very long line between the shower and the water heater, so we'd have to let the shower run for a fairly long time, typically 2-3 minutes. But if you didn't catch the shower as soon as it got hot, you wouldn't get much hot water, as it would very quickly drain the tiny heater.

As a child, we had scald protectors on faucets. These simple devices have a mechanical thermostat inside, that expands and shuts off the water very quickly when the temperature exceeds a factory-determined value. Remembering these, I wanted to see if there was a similar product for showers. And there is.

ShowerStart TSV is the product.

You install it between the wall tap and your shower head, and it will let cold water pass through freely. As soon as the water gets hot, it shuts off. You can then come and pull the cord that hangs down from it, and the internal mechanism disengages and allows the hot water to flow freely.

In practice, this means you get up, turn on the shower, go brush your teeth, play with the cat, and check your phone, and when you hear the water stop, you know it's time to get into the shower. Assuming you didn't wait too long, you get in, pull the cord, and have an instant hot shower.

Footnotes

  1. The U.S. Energy Policy Act of 1992 established this limit.
The article "Finally, a good shower" was written on , and updated on
© 2023 Jeff Sandberg
All writings are my own, and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of my employer, wife, cat, or any other entity.