Our latest showerhead tests found that you don't have to sacrifice satisfaction to save water. But the $500 Hudson Reed Theme Thermostatic AS333 shower tower's forceful spray seemed too good to be true—or legal.
Showerheads made after 1994 can't pump out more than 2.5 gallons per minute at a pressure of 80 pounds per square inch, according to federal regulations. Most shower towers or multihead showers get around the rules by limiting each head or spray to 2.5 gpm. So if you have four sprays, they could legally use 10 gallons per minute. But the main showerhead on the Hudson Reed used a whopping 3.95 gpm, on average. A test of a second sample confirmed those results. We've contacted the Department of Energy, which administers the water-use regulations.
But even a shower tower that stays within federal limits might get insufficient pressure when the water is spread to multiple jets and might overload the capacity of your water heater. And if your water utility has a tiered rate structure that charges the heaviest users the most, you might get more of a soaking than you intended. So if you want a stimulating shower and lower water bills, stick with the $50 Moen Inspire 21777, which has seven settings, or the $50 American Standard Flowise Dual-Function 1660.717. If you prefer a rain shower, consider the $190 Moen Velocity 6320.
For more information on showerheads, see our August 2009 report that includes reviews and ratings of 18 single- and multi-setting fixed and handheld models. While several of the showerheads were very water-efficient, our panel of eight testers found only one model that could produce an invigorating spray—and too weak a stream might result in longer, water-wasting showers.