There are a couple of fundamental problems with most low-flow shower heads: People tend to see them as a less pleasant way to take a shower, and they’re easy to cheat. If people want more water pressure–and they usually do–they can just take out the flow restrictor and let the water gush out.
So when a new startup called Nebia decided to tackle the problem of saving water, they realized they needed to change how a shower worked more fundamentally.
“If we were going to have real global impact, we had to create an experience that people preferred,” says Philip Winter, CEO of Nebia. “It couldn’t just be a water-saving shower–it had to be something more than that.”
Instead of stepping into a stream of water, using the Nebia is more like stepping into a cloud. “You walk into this very immersive, high-density mist that gets your whole body wet at once,” he says.
The chamber of mist stretches two or three feet wide instead of the typical couple of inches under a normal shower. “The way we’re more efficient with it is we increase the surface area to volume ratio dramatically,” Winter says. “Essentially what we do is atomize water, so we create millions of tiny droplets and that creates a surface area that’s about 10 times greater than that of a regular shower.”
The shower head uses 70% less water than a typical shower, but actually feels like it’s using more because you’re instantly wet. It’s designed to be an experience that people will like better than the classic, high-pressure blast of water. “Once you step under it, and you’re there for 30 seconds, you totally get it,” he says. “It’s actually much more soothing. And much better for your skin.”
By changing the experience, the company plans to convert more people to water conservation. They took on the shower–something many people consider a sacred part of their day–because of the challenge. “Part of the reason we started with showers is because it’s also where we saw that people are least willing to make a change,” Winter says.
Ultimately, the company plans to roll out more water-saving products for the home, building on the success of the shower, which has raised over $2 million on Kickstarter and attracted investors like Apple CEO Tim Cook.
They also want to make the products accessible to everyone. Though the technology will be expensive to make initially (and retails for $399), they want to work to bring the cost down so it’s affordable globally. People also save money over time through lower water bills.
For now, one of the biggest markets for the San Francisco-based company is California. As the epic drought rolls on, the state is already pushing hard to save water in showers, and recently passed the toughest restrictions for new shower heads in the country. But the Nebia shower can save even more water–and, more importantly, might make people want to do it.