How To Replace A Showerhead
Imagine that it’s 5:00 in the morning and the only thing between you and the workday is a nice hot, steamy shower. Bring any good feelings to mind? It does for us. Could there possibly be a down side? How about running out of hot water while you still have soap all over yourself? Running out of hot water is bad enough. Or, receiving a utility bill that would choke a horse? What about getting such a large water bill that it could be used to cover the horse you just buried?
The good news is you don’t have to run out of hot water. You don’t have to use gobs of energy to heat shower water. And, taking a shower can be a water conserving experience without giving up the comfort we described in the last paragraph. All you have to do is know a trick or two.
Everyone knows that if you replace your showerhead with one of those new-fangled low-flow types that you can reduce water waste. At the same time you can enjoy the benefit of reduced water-heating costs. Unfortunately, some reduced-flow showerheads are so poorly designed that they don’t produce a sufficient spray. The result – a spray which is so fine that it won’t wash the soap off your skin, and by the time the water reaches your knees it’s cold. Our guess is that the people who invent substandard devises love cold showers, don’t take showers at all or enjoy inflicting pain on others. You wouldn’t think that a company would sell a showerhead that didn’t work well, but poorly engineered showerheads are readily available on the open market. They might save water and energy, but you might not get a comfortable shower. Which, in our opinion, is equally important. Our advice – come big or stay at home! Replace, but make it a must to replace with a top quality unit. Better quality reduced-flow showerheads modify the volume of water used without vaporizing the water before it reaches you. One of the finest showerheads made in the world sells for about $45.
Another way to save water and reduce energy is to install and use a showerhead shut-off valve. The showerhead shut-off valve is installed between the shower arm and the showerhead. In the off position a small trickle of water is allowed to continually flow keeping the water warm until the valve is returned to the on position. In combination, the low-flow showerhead and the showerhead shut-off valve can reduce waste beyond belief. Older model showerheads use water at a rate of 5- to 8-gallons per minute. A ten-minute shower would use 50- to 80-gallons of water – an average of 65 gallons of water per shower. Two persons showering every day would use just under 50,000 gallons of shower water each year. Figuring half the water used as hot, that’s about 800 water heater refills. A 2 ½ gallon showerhead would reduce water use to under 20,000 gallons per year and about 300 water heater refills. A shut-off valve could reduce use an additional third. You make the two-shower comparison. Would you prefer to pay for 50,000 gallons of water and 800 water heater refills or 14,000 gallons of water and 200 water heater refills?
If your showerhead replacement procrastination is based on a previous – and unhappy – showering experience, then you should do yourself a favor and look into the benefits of a better quality low-flow showerhead. If you try a high-end low-flow showerhead, and don’t agree with us, you’ll be out about $40. On the other hand, if you discover our low-cost alternative to be a pleasant experience you may end up saving thousands of dollars.
Changing a showerhead is easy. Use a pair of pliers to unscrew the showerhead and reverse the procedure to replace it. Wrap half-inch Teflon tape around the shower arm threads for a good water seal. If you also decide to add a showerhead shut-off valve, screw it onto the shower arm first and then follow with the new showerhead. Don’t forget the Teflon tape. Caution: use a towel between the showerhead and the jaws of the pliers to prevent denting or scratching polished surfaces. Occasionally, a second pair of pliers is needed to steady the shower arm while the showerhead is being removed.
Mineral build up on the showerhead-to-shower arm connection can make the showerhead difficult (if not impossible) to remove. Here’s a trick that turns it into light work. Pour about 2-cups of vinegar (any kind) into a plastic food storage bag. Place the mount of the bag around the shower arm immersing the showerhead (and as much of the shower arm as possible) into the liquid. Tie the mouth of the bag to the shower arm with a string or hold it in place with a large rubber band. Let stand for 24 hours. Remove the bag and begin the replacement. No fuss, no muss, no bother.
If your shower arm is loose (flopping around in the wall), you can make a repair that will hold it tightly in place. First, replace your showerhead. Slide the escussion (the trim ring that surrounds the shower arm that covers the hole in the shower wall) down the shower arm and away from the wall. Hold the shower arm in place with small wooden wedges (a couple of halved clothes pins will do). Next, use an expanding foam sealant (with a long skinny nozzle) to fill the void in the wall that surrounds the loose pipe. After about an hour or so (read the drying instructions on the can) remove the clothespins, replace the escussion, and please, take a shower!
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