If you want to learn how to find and buy a shower head that will meet all your needs and leave you feeling completely refreshed, you’re in the right place. Shower heads, like most things these days, come in all kinds of shapes and sizes. They can be handheld or ceiling mounted. They can be low-flow, high-flow, and everything in between. Having all of these shower head options may feel overwhelming when first starting your search, but I like to think about it a different way.
The way I see it, with so many options available to us, there’s gotta be one out there that will be perfect for you. You just have to know what to look for.
If you’re not sure what to look for, you’re not alone. And that’s probably why you are reading this article to begin with. So, let’s get to it and figure out what kind of shower head is going to work best for your bathroom.
How To Buy A Shower Head- Choose Your Type
Shower heads can be classified several ways depending on what style or feature you are concentrating on. The easiest way to think about shower heads (for me anyway) is how they are mounted. If you can figure this one out early, it will really help narrow down your search and guide you in the right direction.
Wall Mounted Shower Heads
Wall mounted heads are the easiest to install and usually the most affordable. The traditional showers a lot of us grew up in had simple, single spray wall mounted heads. Nowadays, wall mounted showers heads come in various sizes with all kinds of features and settings. Here’s a look at some of the most common.
Single Spray- these systems are among the most affordable and easiest to install yourself. They don’t have any “massage” or “mist” settings, hence the “single spray” name. These shower heads can get the job done and work well with small showers. Single spray heads can be durable and can work well with homes or apartments with low water pressure or higher water pressure. We have one of these in our guest bathroom and we haven’t had any complaints.
Adjustable Head- these are the shower heads a lot of us have these days. You can turn a dial and choose between 3-6 different settings, such as “pulse”, “rain”, “power”, as well as differing combinations. You will pay a little more for these then a single spray system, but they are still pretty affordable. These heads are also easy to install yourself.
Handheld Shower Heads
Handheld shower heads are the ones that have a hose connecting the head to the wall mount. These heads can be docked on the wall mount to function as a wall mounted head, or you can grab the handle, take it off the dock, and move it anywhere you like.
Handheld shower heads are very popular and for good reason: they are super adaptable. I know from experience they come in very handy with children. We have one in our kids’ bathroom and we love it. Both of my kids are toddlers and sometimes it can be a little “difficult” to get them to cooperate during bath time.
That’s when we just detach the handheld shower head and hose ’em off. Handhelds are great for cleaning pets as well.
These shower heads are great for older folks too. For people who have to sit during their showers due to safety precautions or physical limitations, having a handheld shower head makes all the difference. You can safely clean each body part without having the water slam into your face for the duration of the shower.
Combination Shower Heads
If you can’t decide between a wall mounted or handheld shower head, you could get both. Combination heads combine wall mounted and handheld systems to give you the best of both worlds. These combination heads cost more than handheld units alone, with prices averaging between $35- $100+.
Sliding Bar Shower Heads
Sliding bar systems allow you to adjust the height of the shower head without having to hold it in your hand. Technically speaking, they could be considered wall mounted because the bar attaches to your shower wall. But they are in a class of their own if you ask me.
You sometimes find these systems in hotels. They are convenient if you will have multiple family members using the same shower. You can easily adjust the height of the shower head by sliding the head up or down the bar. It kinda looks like a handheld shower head that’s attached to a rail.
Sliding bar systems come in a wide range of prices and tend to cost a little more than a handheld or combination shower head.
Ceiling mounted shower heads have become increasingly popular over the last several years. These are the rainfall shower heads that a lot of hotels and homes alike are installing these days. We actually have one of these in our master bathroom. They are relaxing to stand under, but kind of difficult to bathe in if you ask me.
Ceiling mounted heads come in various shapes and sizes. Although most hang from a mounting arm, they can also be installed directly into the ceiling (this would require additional plumbing and significantly more cost).
These shower heads tend to cost more with most starting around $100.
I’m not sure if shower panels technically count as shower heads, but we might as well add ’em to the list for good measure. Shower panels are the systems you may have seen where there are jets attached to the walls that can blast you from all angles. These remind me of a car wash.
Shower panels are more expensive and obviously require professional installation. Preferably while you are building or renovating your entire shower.
Choose Your Features
I think determining which type or style of shower head you want is the most important place to start. Once decided, you should consider the additional features that are available (depending on the type of head of course). Here are some of the features commonly found on shower heads that should be considered when deciding on a new one.
Shower heads come in many different colors and finishes, but the most common are: brushed nickel, polished brass, chrome plated, gold plated, stainless steel, and white plastic.
The finish on most shower heads is purely cosmetic and does little to affect the actual function. So, choose a finish you like. If you don’t care, then don’t worry about it. My wife and I are partial to brushed nickel.
If you, like me, find yourself complaining often about not having enough water pressure in your showers, you will want to find a shower head that is designed to produce as much pressure as possible.
But, there is a good reason why showers these days feel so puny. The law was changed back in the early ’90s that significantly reduced how much water shower heads can deploy. In fact, showers aren’t allowed to use more than 2.5 gallons per minute (GPM).
This law was changed to reduce water waste and help conserve resources. I understand that this is good for the environment, but it sure isn’t helping my showers! If you want as much flow as possible, most standard shower heads use the max allowed, 2.5 GPM.
However, if you want to go green(er), you can find shower heads that use even less. According to the EPA, shower heads that use less than 2.0 GPM will have a WaterSense label indicating they have satisfied all requirements to qualify under water conservation and performance markers.
If looking for higher water pressure, look for shower heads designed to add extra pressure. They do this without using any more water and some are much better than others.
Some shower heads can also aerate the water as it passes out of the nozzle. This means that air is being added to the stream. Most shower heads that aerate do so to make the stream feel more impressive than it actually is. This feature is often found in lower-flow systems trying to make up for using less water.
Feelings about aerated streams are mixed. According to Consumer Reports, they tend to cause more mist and don’t hold water temperatures as well. If worried about this, look for a shower head with traditional laminar flow (no aeration, steady stream of water).
Yes, we are in the 21st century where even our shower heads can be high-tech if we please. Here’s a list of some of the cool, high-tech features you can find in shower heads if you prefer:
- Bluetooth- some shower heads offer bluetooth connectivity, allowing you to listen to music and answer phone calls while in the shower.
- LED Colored Lights- ever get bored of the same old “water colored” water? Well, if you do, you should look for shower heads with LED changing lights to add a little flavor to your showers.
- Misting- some high-end, luxury shower heads “atomize” water streams into a fine mist as they fly out. This not only feels invigorating, but also saves a lot of water.
- Temperature Control- there a lot of showers systems out there with high-tech digital temperature controls and custom user settings, etc. If you often find yourself waiting for your shower to heat up, there’s even one that will decrease the water flow when the desired temperature has been reached (until you get in to shower that is).
Know Your Price Range
I know for a lot of us that price will be the biggest contributing factor for deciding on a shower head. But, there are options for all price ranges, so don’t worry too much. I recommend you determine your price limit and stick to it. If the options in your range aren’t to your liking, wait and save up a little more before purchasing- no point in buying something you know isn’t going to do the trick.
Here are a few examples of what you should expect from different price points. Just keep in mind that these are estimates and there are always exceptions to the rule.
- $25 and below: these are typically very simple wall mounted shower heads, you can find both single spray and adjustable units in this price range. Some very basic single spray heads are even less than $5.
- $25 – $50: this is where you are going to find most of your adjustable spray wall mounted heads as well as some basic handheld models. In this price range you will have some choice in finish and style.
- $50 – $100: there are a lot of nice shower heads in this price range. You can get upgraded adjustable heads, handhelds, and combination units. You can even find some basic ceiling mounted rain heads here. This is a great price range to be in.
- $100 – $500: shower heads in this range are going to include sliding bar systems and significantly upgraded ceiling mounted systems. Basic shower panels can also be found in this range.
- $1000 and above: luxury, luxury, luxury. Shower heads over a $1000 are usually ceiling mounted rain heads or more advanced panels. A lot of the super high-tech models may be in this arena. P.S.- shower heads can go well beyond $1000, I was just looking at a $6000 shower head…wow.
So as you can see, shower heads are available regardless of your price range. If you are looking for a basic single spray head to replace a leaky one, you may be able to get one for under $10. If you want a show stopper, you could be looking at anywhere between several hundred bucks to well over a grand.
A lot of good quality, nothing-too-fancy shower heads are found in the $50-$100 range though.
Finally, you should consider installation when purchasing a new shower head. Are you going to install yourself or hire a professional? If you are a professional, then problem solved! But if you aren’t, this is something you need to think about.
If you are going to install it yourself, you need to make sure you are buying something you actually have a realistic chance of installing successfully.
Wall mounted units are straightforward and pretty easy to do-it-yourself. Most unexperienced handy men (and women) can replace a simple single spray or adjustable spray head. Nothing to it.
Even most handheld models are pretty basic to install. Sliding bar units take a little more doing because you are usually drilling holes and measuring stuff to place the bar. Depending on the make of your shower (tile for example), you have to be really careful with drilling.
Rain shower heads and shower panels are better left to the professionals. Unless you already have a ceiling mounted head and are just replacing or upgrading- in that case, you should be fine to give it a go.
But if you don’t already have a ceiling mounted head, it’s going to require additional plumbing that is best left for a professional plumber. Same goes for shower panels.
Just keep in mind the additional cost of having a plumber install the new shower head when purchasing something you can’t do yourself.
Bringing It All Together
That about does it. If you made it through all that you should have a good idea of how to buy a shower head. Just in case you missed something, let’s summarize. When looking for a new shower head:
- Choose a type based on how it’s mounted
- Decide which features you would prefer
- Determine your price range (and try to stick to it)
- Keep in mind installation
A lot of us might be starting at the price range and going from there. And that is ok. Determine your price range, and then use the other considerations to find what works best given your options. I don’t think I mentioned above, but you may also want to consider which bathroom you are putting the new shower head in.
If it’s going in a guest bathroom that is rarely used, you may want to go with a less expensive model.
If it’s going in your master bathroom, you may want to splurge a little more. After all, if you’re anything like me, you love a good shower and can’t start your day without one.