Different types of shower heads
Updated: Jun 3
Did you know that there are many different kinds of showerhead?
Which one you choose is purely a matter of preference. But, it’s a good idea to know a bit about the other showerhead types, so you know what’s available in case you decide to move house or redecorate your bathroom.
You’ll find that there are handheld and permanently fixed showerheads. Some with massage units and pulsing sprays. When you look in a catalogue, all the different types of showerhead can be quite intimidating at first. And, you’ll find there are many kinds of showerhead available. So, it’s worth starting your search with a few bullet points listing what type you want and what features you would prefer.
Therefore, start looking with a vague idea of what type you want, and the number of showerheads suddenly becomes more manageable.
The two main types of showerhead
These are also known as rain showerheads. They’re called fixed because they’re plumbed in permanently and you can’t move them around. The showerhead fits onto the ceiling and usually has a large diameter so it discharges like a rain shower. Hence the name.
Some fixed showerheads fit onto the wall so you can have an angled shower as well. But unfortunately, many have no way to adjust their height above floor level, so bathing the kids can be difficult. Fixed showerheads are very popular in the USA, and in new houses where the plumbing can be hidden behind walls during building. Many fixed showers have a small room next to the shower with exposed pipework for ease of maintenance. Usually, fixed showerheads use hot water supplied from a central furnace and stored in a hot water tank. Centrally heated water has been common in the USA for many decades, so it makes sense for the fixed showerhead to be used.
In the UK, fixed showerheads are more common in public and communal wash areas such as swimming pools, gymnasiums, sports clubs etc.
Although fixed showerheads are great, handheld ones have many more advantages. The showerhead attaches to a hose and is removable from its wall bracket. This means that you can concentrate on washing certain parts of your body. For example, washing your feet without getting your hair wet. It also means you can shower the kids in the bathtub or shampoo the dog if you want to.
Showering as opposed to using a bath-tub, has only become popular in the UK over the last 40 or 50 years. A completely different shower to the American type had to be used to retrofit an existing bathroom plumbing system to include a shower. Hence, the surface shower unit and handheld showerhead, common in the UK. It’s only recently that the combi water heater has made hot water available for washing at the turn of a tap, so up until now the most common type of shower was an electric shower unit with flexible hose and handheld showerhead.
Similarly in Europe, the handheld showerhead was popular for rinsing suds after having a bath and would be connected to the bath taps. It’s only a small step from this to having a shower unit with a flexible hose, which is now common all across Europe.
Just like a fixed showerhead, there are many different types of hand-held showerhead and if you’re browsing for a new one, it’s worthwhile having a few bullet points written down.
Now we’ve mentioned the two main showerhead categories, we can start to talk about the different subcategories available. Remember that most of these are available as fixed or hand-held.
Some showerheads are designed for areas that have naturally high water pressure. Unfortunately, not everyone lives in a high-pressure area, but you can install a power shower that turns low-pressure water into high pressure.
One of the biggest advantages of having a high-pressure shower head is that they come with a range of different features. You can have a powerful massage spray pattern that relaxes tired muscles after a hard day at work or a stimulating needle spray to wake you up in the morning. Another advantage of high-pressure shower heads is that you need less time to clean yourself. This results in less water being used and lower utility bills.
We talked earlier about installing a power-shower to increase the water pressure in a low-pressure situation. This isn’t always necessary. Some manufacturers such as StoneStream® produce showerheads that operate efficiently with low-pressure water or in fact, under almost any water pressure.
By the way, many shower manufacturers advertise their showerheads as being able to increase the pressure of the delivered water. Unfortunately, you can’t increase the pressure to a showerhead without an additional or more powerful pump. What they probably mean is that the showerhead constricts the spray and so increases the velocity of the water jet hitting your skin. This gives the impression of having higher water pressure. But, you actually use less water at a higher velocity. You might have experienced this phenomenon by placing your thumb over the open end of a garden hose. The jet of water shoots out faster and travels farther, but you haven’t increased the water pressure.
Some showerheads, such as some of the StoneStream® range, come with an inbuilt, replaceable filter cartridge, or you can use the Universal Shower Water Filter. These are designed to remove foreign particles from the water stream and are especially useful if your plumbing is old and has rust and limescale particles floating around the system. Rather than allowing the particles to block the shower nozzles or contaminate your skin and hair, the filter removes the particles. Some filters have an extremely small mesh and can remove foreign particles around the size of bacteria.
Water softening showerheads
Instead of filters, these showerheads include components to remove dissolved minerals from the water.
Some areas have underlying geology of chalk or limestone. And, these minerals dissolve in the domestic water. This results in hard water that will clog up shower nozzles, and deposit crystalline precipitate around taps, on shower room tiles and wherever the hard water comes into contact with surfaces.
To fix this problem you can either install a water softener as part of your domestic water system or you can use specialised water softening units at outlets such as your showerhead. Fortunately, StoneStream® also sells products to soften your water. The EcoPower showerhead incorporates water softening cartridges as well as filters.
These are relatively new on the market and result from a need to be environmentally friendly. This type of showerhead allows you to use less water but still have a satisfying showering experience. The showerhead mixes air with the water flow to reduce the amount of water at the spray nozzles. Using these, you benefit from lower utility costs.
This relatively new type of showerhead is for those people who have almost everything. The latest technology allows LEDs to shine with colours depending on the temperature of the water. It’s a fun thing to have but only improves the shower experience by providing an extra dimension.
Hot water generates mainly red lights, warm water produces yellow and green sparkles while cold water produces mainly blue light. You can buy many different types of these, and they all try to have a gimmick to set themselves apart from the rest. However, if you buy one, make sure you purchase a durable and high-quality unit as many on the market are made from poor quality materials.
Handheld showerheads with an On/Off switch
You will find this type of showerhead is very handy when using it as a hand-held device rather than in its wall bracket. If you’re washing individual parts of the body, bathing the kids, washing your dog, or even rinsing the ceramic tiles, it’s often useful to be able to turn the spray on and off without reaching up to the main shower unit and adjusting the water flow. This makes even more sense if you’ve found the perfect temperature. These showerheads often incorporate a switch to allow you to change the spray pattern as well. You can thus alternate between a rainfall, pulse and massage spray whenever you want. StoneStream® has a choice of handles on its EcoPower showerhead. One with a STOP button for use with hot and cold mixer showers, and one without a STOP button for use with any type of shower. We advise you do not use the STOP button with domestic electric showers, RVs, caravans and trailers, and campers of all kinds as this can be dangerous.
As you might expect, these units (they’re also known as combo showerheads) have two independent showerheads providing the same or different experiences from each spray. There are various configurations of two showerheads available, depending on the manufacturer and the purpose. Because these provide double the amount of water, they are ideal for one person having a quick shower. They’re also useful if two people enjoy using the shower together but like different spray patterns.
Where do we go from here?
As you can see, you can choose from many different categories of showerhead and of course, there are many different designs, shapes and colours available within each category.
As we’ve said before, before you go out shopping for a new showerhead, make a few bullet points. Choose what type you want and then look at the various models within each category. It will probably take a long time, but if you choose wisely, you will end up with a showerhead that fulfills all your requirements and ticks all the boxes.
Remember, choose wisely and enjoy your shower.