Water-saving showerheads have a bad reputation, despite the fact that good design can keep the water pressure high even as less comes out. (“If you’re like me, you can’t wash your beautiful hair properly,” former President Trump said in one rant two years ago before loosening water efficiency standards; the changes were later reversed by President Biden.)
One new showerhead saves more water by sensing when you need maximum flow. Before you step in the shower, or when you’re soaping up, the shower automatically slows down. But as soon as you step forward, it dials up the pressure. “Many times, people think saving water means a compromised experience, and that’s something we’re trying to change,” says Chih-Wei Tang, CEO of Oasense, the startup that designed the smart showerhead, called Reva.
The designers, who started working on the project in a Silicon Valley garage, went through 41 iterations to create the showerhead. Knowing when a person was under the shower can be challenging in a steamy, foggy room, so they needed powerful sensors to correctly detect when to adjust the flow of water. The next challenge was how to get power to those sensors; the team ended up adding microturbines to the design so that the flow of water powers the device as someone showers.
As much as half the time you’re in the shower, you may not actually be rinsing off. If you step back slightly, the showerhead reduces the water to 15% of the usual flow. For each shower, that can cut total water use in half. For a family of four in California, that could save 1,000 gallons of water a month, along with the energy used to heat the water, totaling around $250 in utility savings a year.
While the American West is going through the worst drought in 1,200 years, climate change is making weather extremes of both flooding and drought more common in other areas. Parts of the Midwest and Northeast are also experiencing drought now; more than 90% of Massachusetts is currently in a drought. Tang believes that the whole shower industry should move toward smarter tech. “I think this technology really should be a de facto solution for all showerheads in the future,” he says.