Types of Shower Heads – Pros, Cons & Buyer’s Guide

What are the Different Types of Shower Heads?

Shower heads needs to be replaced from time to time. They somehow don’t last for as long as we may want them to.  If not issues to do with low water pressure, the finish will start peeling off necessitating a replacement.

Shower heads in the United States and Canada fit the same. They have a universal connection of ½ inch NPT. You can therefore replace your shower head with pretty much any other shower head available in the market.

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So, what type of shower head is the best, and what should you look for when buying a shower head? To answer those question, we will first need to look at all the types of shower heads available, their pros and cons, and only then can you make an informed choice based on your specific needs.

There are 10 types of shower heads. These are:

  • Wall mount shower heads
  • Rain shower heads
  • Handheld shower heads
  • Sliding bar shower heads
  • Filtered shower heads
  • Dual shower heads
  • Shower panels
  • High-pressure shower heads
  • Low-flow shower heads
  • RV shower heads

1. Wall Mount Shower Heads

Wall-mounted shower heads, also known as fixed shower heads are the most common types of shower heads in most homes. They have are connected to a short and curved shower arm which allows the shower head to be installed facing downwards.

Wall mount shower heads are the most practical shower heads for people with a shower-bathtub combo. They are also the best option for people with a small bathroom, as they are usually very close to the bathroom wall.

Modern wall-mounted shower heads are multi-functional, meaning they allow you to choose the spray pressure and width you need. You can opt to have a narrow and strong spray or a wide and gentle spray depending on the body part you are targeting.

The disadvantage of wall-mounted shower heads is that they look old/traditional. If you would like a more modern bathroom look then you should explore other shower head designs and types.

2. Rain Shower Heads

Shower heads provides a way for water to reach every part of your body from a point of elevation, making cleaning up easy and fast. Rain/rainfall shower heads do more than that. They create a sensation of rain falling on you in the shower.

Unlike other types of shower heads, rain shower heads are bigger in size with even more nozzles which helps create the rainfall effect in the shower. There are different shapes, designs, materials and even sizes of rain shower heads.

Rain shower heads can either be wall-mounted or ceiling-mounted. The difference between standard wall-mounted shower heads and wall-mounted rain shower heads is that wall-mounted rain shower heads have a longer shower arm and hence you don’t need to stand very close to the wall.

Ceiling-mounted rain shower heads as their names suggest are threaded on a pipe connection mounted on the bathroom ceiling. If you don’t already have the connection in place, you can engage a plumber to route your shower pipes through the ceiling for this awesome experience.

Just like in the standard wall-mounted shower head, there are single function and multi-function rain shower heads. Which one should you go for though?

If your shower head connection is very high (especially for ceiling-mounted rain shower heads) such that you need a stool to access the shower head, you are better off buying a single function rain shower head.

On the other hand, if you can comfortably reach your shower head with your feet firmly on the shower floor, you can go ahead and buy a multi-function rain shower head. That way you can enjoy different shower head spray options without any struggle.

One thing to remember is that the wider the shower head the lesser the water pressure. This is in line with the Energy Policy Act (EPAct) of 1992 which mandates shower head manufacturers not to make shower heads with flow rate of higher than 2.5 gallons per minute.

To enforce this requirement, shower head manufacturers install a small plastic piece called a flow restrictor in the shower head. The flow restrictor, reduces the internal diameter and hence the flow rate of the shower head.

If you want more water pressure (higher flow rate) from your shower head, you can remove the flow restrictor from the shower head. Removing a shower head flow restrictor is totally legal.

The disadvantages of rain shower heads are that they are hard to install, they need a big shower and you might also have to contend with low shower head water pressure.

3. Handheld Shower Heads

Handheld shower heads have become more popular for their versatility. Although they are called handheld shower heads, you don’t need to hold them in your hand during the duration of your shower.

They come with a flexible hose and a wall-mount to attach them when lathering yourself up with soap and later detach them to clean any part of the body you may want. The wall-mount in most cases is also pivoting so you can change the direction and elevation of the shower spray as you wish.

In terms of age demographics, handheld showers care for everyone. Whether you need to help your young ones take shower or persons with limited mobility on shower commodes, handheld showers heads are the ones to install.

Handheld shower heads are usually sold as a complete set with the flexible hose and a wall mount. If you do not need the extra items, you can still buy the shower head separate. The only thing you will need to check is its flow rate.

The 2 most important things to look out for while buying a handheld shower head is the material and length of the hose (if you need one). A metal (stainless steel) hose is easier to clean and more flexible than a plastic one. Make sure that the length of the hose is also sufficient.

4. Sliding Bar Shower Heads

Picture a scenario where a household has several members of varying heights. The thing about shower heads is that the further you are from them the less the water pressure hitting your body. And that is where sliding bar shower heads come in.

With a sliding bar shower head, a base is mounted on the wall of the shower where the shower head is attached and slid up and down in relation to the height of the user. Sliding bar shower heads can be fixed or removable.

5. Dual Shower Heads

Dual shower heads are a combination of fixed/wall-mounted shower heads and hand-held shower heads. You most often find rain-handheld shower head combos which add versatility, design and elegance in the bathroom.

As we have already stated, rain showerheads are really elegant but have several limitations. And that is where the dual shower heads come in. Handheld shower heads are used to complement the rain shower head and you therefore have everything you want in one installation.

While, you can (in some dual shower heads) run both shower heads at the same time, one thing you will need to consider is the water pressure. If the water pressure in your house is low, or if the shower heads are fitted with a flow restrictor, you will not enjoy the experience very much.

Running the shower heads independently provides a better experience, especially if you have a rain shower head in the combo. Just grab the handheld shower head to target some areas of your body where you might need a narrow but strong spray.

6. High-Pressure Shower Heads

Low water pressure from a shower head can be very frustrating especially if you like taking quick showers. It just takes too long to remove soap from your hair more so for people with thick hair.

And that is where high-pressure shower heads come in. Most often people confuse pressure and flow rate and come to the conclusion that high-pressure shower heads consume more water. That is however not always the case.

You could have thousands of gallons of water flowing through a pipe but at low pressure. Flow rate indicate volume, while pressure is the amount of force acting over a certain area. This is they the units for pressure are pounds per square inch (psi).

You can therefore still get a showerhead that does not use a lot of water but still have high water pressure. Their design is usually a little different from other showerheads which make them have the extra high pressure.

High-pressure shower heads can either be wall-mounted, ceiling-mounted or even hand-held. They also come in different styles and materials.

One advantage of high-pressure shower heads is their massaging sensation on the muscles. You therefore relax better after using one of this shower heads than any other type of shower head.

7. Low-Flow Shower Heads

The federal flow rate requirement for shower heads is 2.5 gallons per minute. You can however get shower heads with a flow rate lower that what the federal government stipulates.

WaterSense is a program by the United States Environment Protection Agency that encourages people to install low-flow shower heads (2 gallons per minute) by labeling them as such. It estimates that by installing low-flow shower head you will end saving 3000 gallons of water per year.

Some states even regulate the flow rates of shower heads and other water fixtures. In California for instance , shower heads should not have a flow rate of higher than 1.8 gallons per minute (1.8 GPM) in accordance with the requirements by the California Energy Commission (CEC).

There is however debate on whether low-flow shower heads help in water conservation or not. For instance, I have noted that when the flow rate from a shower head is too low, you tend to take more time in the shower than you would with high-pressure shower head which translates to more water used.

8. Filtered Shower Heads

Based on where you live, you may or may not need a filtered shower head. Have you ever finished taking a shower only for white scum to be left on your shower tiles and at the same time leaving your skin dry?

Those are the effects of hard water, and especially calcium. Filtered shower heads contain filter cartridges that filter out hard water deposits and in the process soften the water landing on your body.

The cartridges need to be replaced every 6 months otherwise they will be clogged up badly. This may be inconveniencing for some people though.

A better solution for folks with hard water is installing a water softening system, which will treat all the water flowing to all of your house fixtures. If you do not have the cash for it yet then you may install a filtered shower head in the meantime.

9. Shower Panels

Shower panels are not your ordinary shower heads. They are modern, stunning and really stylish. The panel which curves nicely towards the shower is mounted on the wall, mean you have to drill holes through your wall.

If you are remodeling your bathroom to include this fixture it is going to be quite expensive since you have to change the position of the water pipe and possibly even tear through the wall. Unlike other shower heads, this is not something you can install on your own.

Once the installation headache is over, you will enjoy lots of features from this fixture by the touch of a button. The shower heads have cool LED lights, massage sprays, water temperature display, adjustable nozzles and even handheld shower head combinations.

Apart from the installation cost, these shower heads are also pricey. Another thing to know is that should you ever have a problem with it past the warranty date it will cost a substantial sum to fix.

10. RV Shower Heads

RVs don’t usually have the luxury of endless water supply as you would have in the house. That is why they have specially designed shower heads to conserve water while at the same time supply sufficient pressure to clean yourself with.

Due to space limitation, RV shower heads are usually handheld. It also prevents vibrations during transportation. Their installation is however quite easy meaning you can replace one in a few minutes.

What Look for in a Shower Head

So, what should you look for in a shower head? Needless to say, shower heads are not universal. They have different specifications and that’s what you need to check out while buying one. The following are some of the things that I feel you need to look out for while buying a shower head:

1. Flow Rate

You can get a shower head with a flow rate of as low as 1 GPM or as high as 2.5 GPM. If you are keen on saving water then definitely go for the most water-efficient one. On the other hand, if you like a high-pressure shower head you know what to choose.

One thing you should do in regards to flow rate is check if there are regulations in your state on the maximum shower head flow rate. For instance, folks in California cannot buy a shower head with a flow rate of higher than 1.8 GPM.

2. Bathroom Size

If you have a small bathroom, there are some shower heads that will simply not be ideal for you. Rain showers for instance requires that you have a big bathroom, unless you are buying a wall-mounted rain shower head.

Shower-bathtub combos are just fine with standard wall-mounted shower head or even a handheld one. Rain shower heads are fantastic for people with a walk-in showers.

3. Spray Pattern

Do you want a shower head with a single spray or multiple adjustable spray pattern? As you answer that question, ask yourself how high the shower head is. Will you need to step on platform every time to change the spray pattern (unless you have a shower panel) or you can comfortably do it without straining?

Shower head with adjustable strong and soft water sprays are fantastic in offering massage sensation to the body. If this is something that would interest you then definitely look out for such a shower head.

4. Material

Shower heads are made of different materials. Do you need to match your shower head with other fixtures in your bathroom like faucets or toilet flush handles? If your answer is in the affirmative, then buy a shower head made of similar material/finish.

Just remember that shower heads with brushed nickel, oil-rubbed bronze and other high-end finishes will be more expensive that say, plastic shower heads.

4. Shape

The issue of shape often comes about when people are comparing round and square rain/rainfall shower heads. So, which is better between round and square shower heads?

Unfortunately, this is one of those questions where the answer is the non-committal, it depends. Honestly, it depends on your style, personality as well as your overall bathroom décor.

According to Mission West, square shower heads go well with contemporary bathrooms that already have other angular fixtures like bathtubs, sinks etc. Otherwise go with round.

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