Eco-Saturday: Replace your showerhead

A fast, easy and inexpensive way to cut your hot water consumption — which saves both water and the energy needed to heat it — is to replace your showerhead with a low-flow model. Prices vary, but you can get a good low-flow showerhead with a flexible hose (which comes in very handy for bathing pets, rinsing hair, and cleaning the walls of the shower stall) for about $20. Wall-mount models may be a little cheaper, or you can spring for a hybrid system that includes both handheld and wall-mount heads for about $50.

For my purposes, a handheld model with some type of on/off switch is perfect: cheap, practical and easy to install. Look for something in the $20 to $30 range; anything above that is a waste of money, and anything below is likely to wear out quickly.

You do NOT need any special plumbing skills or fancy tools for this project. You really need only two things:

1. Low-flow showerhead.
2. Teflon tape (available for less than $2 at most hardware stores if your showerhead doesn’t already have some in the package).

You’ll have to read the instructions to make sure there aren’t any goofy quirks with the model you bought, but in general, this is how you do it:

1. Unscrew the old showerhead from the wall.
2. After wiping down the threads, tear off about a four- to five-inch length of teflon tape.
3. Wrap the threads with the tape.
4. Screw the mounting bracket onto the threads.
5. Wrap another length of teflon tape around the threads on the mounting bracket and screw on the flexible hose.
6. Wrap the threads on the showerhead with teflon tape and screw it onto the other end of the flexible hose.
7. Mount the showerhead on the bracket.

Here is how simple this is: After we moved, I procrastinated on installing a new showerhead until the morning Songdog threw up all over his crate, necessitating a 5 a.m. bath. You have not lived until you have tried to bathe a 50-lb. collie mix with a standard showerhead, so once I got him cleaned up, I went straight to Wal-Mart, picked up a handheld model, and installed it as soon as I got home. Despite my general stupidity at 6 a.m., I had that showerhead out of the package and on the wall in under 10 minutes.