Thursday, October 29, 2009

Here's an inexpensive, easily maintained 2.5 gpm (gallons per minute) low flow hand held shower head that's also extra versitile

 I've used hand held shower heads for 25 years. I've done quite a bit of thinking about them and experimenting with different models. Why? Because I am a nut and cheap that's why!

My favorite is the one I use now. It is by far the cheapest, most useful, lightest and most easily maintained. The only cheaper model I've used was a piece of rubber tubing which I squeezed over the spout of a claw foot tub back in the low rent days but it wasn't low flow and didn't have a cut off valve unless you count my thumb pressed over the end.

My favorite hand held shower head isn't found with the other hand held units because it is actually a low flow economy shower head (the cheap ones sold at Big Lots and bargain stores) mounted to a shower arm (the pipe that screws into the pipe in the wall) which is attached to a shower hose which is then screwed into the shower arm that goes into the wall.

With this set up I can direct the full flow of water to small area for washing or rinsing. I like having a strong flow through a smaller area. I use the cut-off valve to stop the flow of water while soaping up and save more water. It rinses more effectively than any hand held shower head I've used and the flow is strong enough to force clean razors that get clogged with beard hair.

I know some people like to get a massage in the shower. This set up doesn't offer that but with the money you save you can buy a specialized battery powered massage device and have a really good time if that the sort of thing that floats your boat.

Some people also like to stand underneath a shower head from time to time and with this arrangement you can't. But now that I am used to my hand held unit I am uncomfortable having to twist and contort to put the part of my body I want rinsed under a fixed stream of water coming from a shower head.

But, I never would have tried this system if I hadn't had trouble with standard hand held showers clogging. In our area we have hard water and lime builds up anywhere water evaporates. When hand held units clog up, commonly it is thought that they have become clogged with lime mineralization.

For years people I know have soaked those hand held units in vinegar or even used stronger products like Lime-Away to try to clean out the units. Sometimes they work a little better but eventually the fail.

That's because the real problem at least in my house isn't lime. It is the tiny bits of metal that flake off the inside pipes. In my 90 year old house I get them in every bucket of water I draw and they are almost impossible to get out of standard hand held units because you can't completely disassemble the typical hand held unit.

But an economy low flow head is easy to disassemble. Once I take it apart, I just use a pin to clear out the holes in the small plate that the water is forced through. Recently I got a stone bit in the cut off valve chamber. Even that chamber can be taken apart. Now I never worry about lime build up because with this unit the tiny rocks are the problem, not lime.

Furthermore when you need to fill a bucket it is easy to unscrew the end portion of the head and let 5 or 6 gpm flow through. Because the economy head has a cut-off valve it can be used to provide water to spray clean anything within reach of the hose. The cut-off makes dog washing and shower and bathroom clean up much easier. I recommend splurging on a longer shower hose. The ability to reach the a larger portion of the bathroom can be helpful.

The cut-offs for these head do wear out after a few years. But because the heads themselves generally cost no more than five dollars you can go through a number of them before they equal the cost of one standard hand-held.

The one problem that I haven't solved with this arrangement is the heat that builds up in the shower arm. The shower arm serves as a handle and it does tend to get hot. Until some one makes a shower arm from some material that doesn't transmit heat as well I'll just continue holding it gingerly.

So if you want the cheapest, most useful, easiest to maintain, most effective rinsing hand held shower head now you know what I think it is.

If anybody has a solution to the hot handle problem I'd love to hear it.

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