I come from a family of mostly women. I have three older sisters and two younger nieces that are close in age. My oldest sister and 2 nieces didn’t live with us, I just wanted to give you a little incite into the troubles I went through ;)! Needless to say my house was always full and always had a queue for the bathroom, especially since only one bathroom had a shower! Even with this sibling conflict over shower time, one of my sisters regularly took 2 showers a day and sometimes even took 3 showers. She was a germ freak and also played sports throughout middle and high school. I didn’t think anything of it, really. It just bugged me that she was always in there.
Now that I have gone through college and lived on my own I have a different outlook on utility bills. I guess you could say that I have walked a mile in my parents shoes since I have been paying my own bills for the past seven years. All I really have to say is that my parents were either saints or incredibly naive for letting their children do things like that!
So in an effort to see how wasteful my sister was I decided to calculate how much the average shower costs. By no means am I an extreme frugal-ist (I don’t make my own laundry detergent and don’t intend to!) but I still think cost transparency is necessary for decision-making. Maybe not for decision-making per se, just necessary for budgeting even!
The Cost of Showering
What assumptions will I be making? Well, based on federal regulations new shower heads are supposed to flow at less than 2.5 gallons per minute when the line feed pressure is at 80 pounds per square inch. However, a more typical line pressure is 50 psi so I will set the number to a lower 1.6 gpm rate.
When is this a dangerous assumption? When you have an older high-flow shower head that is unrestricted. A lot of people have these without realizing it. Most older homes still have these because the homeowners haven’t bothered converting. These unrestricted shower heads can flow over 4 gpm with 50 psi. I will also calculate this number as a comparison point using 4 gpm even though 6 gpm could be feasible.
An average shower time of 12 minutes will be used because I find that reasonable, so adjust accordingly. Based on personal experience I think that the average shower depends on a lot of factors and in my household with all my sisters the time was probably closer to 15-18 minutes, but I will use 12 minutes so it does not look like I am trying to force a conclusion.
The cost per gallon was calculated based on my local rate and I tried to estimate all of the monthly fees that would be attributed to this usage. It is hard to do this because the fees are fixed costs and not usage based but I tried to do so fairly without exaggerating the per gallon price. When you look up your local rates they will probably be listed in dollars per thousand cubic feet so you will need to do some calculations to convert it to dollars per gallon. Moolanomy recently wrote a post on low-flow shower heads, though, and my cost is only different than his by $.001. I am using a rate of $.007/gallon.
I think these are fair assumptions but feel free to comment otherwise or run the numbers using different assumptions and post the results!
What does this chart tell us? The average person who showers once a day only costs about $4 per month with a restricted shower head and $10 per month with an unrestricted shower head. Not that much, really. When you go up to a family size of 5 (I used this number because that was the size of my family) the costs rise to $20 versus $50.
So, where do we go from here?
Unintended Findings, Get a Restricted Shower-head!
I intended to find that my sister was wasting a massive amount of money. However, my conclusion that one person showering only costs $4 or $10 over the course of a month didn’t really support that hypothesis. So what did I find instead? That it is a very wise decision to make sure your shower head is one of the “newer” restricted kind. If you are single you will save $6 per month or $72 per year. In a family of five you will save $30 per month, or $360 per year, if everyone showers once per day. In both cases, and any other cases you can come up with, the monthly savings would definitely cover the cost of a new shower head within the first month or two! The shower heads can be purchased for as little as $10-30!
Once family members start taking multiple showers per day the cost savings keep increasing. If you are an individual who showers twice a day, you will spend $8 per month with a restricted shower head and $20 per month with an unrestricted one. The cost savings equate to $144 per year if you convert to an unrestricted shower head. In a family of 5, if one of the family members showers twice a day and everyone else showers once a day the costs are $24 and $60 respectively. Now your family saves $432 per year… for changing a shower head. Calculate the return on that investment! ;)
Where to Get the Low-Flow Shower Head
SOME utility companies actually give low-flow shower heads out for free! Some give them away outright, some give them away for free after rebate or coupon if you buy one yourself, and some have no program at all. Contact your water company to find out if they have a program. Believe it or not water is becoming a resource so they want to conserve just as much as you should want to.
How easy is it to install? INSANELY easy. Take an adjustable wrench and unscrew the shower head. Notice the threads, are they on the outside or inside? If you are not mechanically inclined and have no idea just take the shower head to the store. Once you buy a new shower head and bring it home, look at the instructions that are included in the packaging. I say this just in case there is some preliminary setup involved. Once you are ready to re-assemble your shower put some soap on the threads for lubrication purposes. Use the adjustable wrench and tighten the new shower head back on. Voila, new and improved shower head!
Want to go one step further and save even more money?
Consider getting a low-flow shower head with a shut off valve. This lets you shut off the water at your discretion and instantly turn it back on. You could use the valve to save water while you are lathering soap on yourself and not really using the water, anyways. Once you are ready to rinse off you can turn the valve on and the water will start instantly. That could be an easy way to cut your bill by 10-20%… however long you spend with the water off. Oh, and it’s good for the environment, too.
Any one have experience?
Does anyone have experience going from an unrestricted shower head to a low-flow shower head? I have had a low-flow shower head for the past 4 years now that I looked at it so I have no idea what I would be paying in water without it.
I would be real interested to see how much this saves in practice!