Showerhead Definition Has Industry in a Lather

The US Energy Department is getting pelted by some industry groups that object to the way that DOE wants to define the word “showerhead.”  Plumbing contractors and showroom operators are in a big sweat because DOE is finally cracking down on manufacturers and distributors that have been skirting a nearly 20-year old law requiring that any “showerhead” sold or imported into the US be water- and energy-efficient. 

DOE’s new definition will rein in (rain – get it?) the sale of nontraditional showerheads, such as perforated ceiling tiles, that don’t meet today’s efficiency standards.  It will also put a damper on sales of so-called “shower systems” that produce more than one spray from a single set of controls.   Some of these are just simple double-head combinations on a single shower arm, while other set-ups involve multi-jet body sprays.  Environmental advocates and energy and water utilities have encouraged DOE to crack down on scofflaws, but the push-back from the luxury shower crowd has become quite a geyser.

Here’s a factoid to keep in mind.  If a typical household with an electric water heater were to switch from a standard showerhead to a double head, the extra electricity consumption (about 1,500 kilowatt-hours per year) would be equivalent to adding two new 28 cu ft side-by-side refrigerators to their home.  And that’s just a double head – the multi-jet shower systems would of course use much, much more.  These things are the Hummers of home products.

My hunch is that extravagant shower set-ups were an artifact of the McMansion craze, and now that the housing bubble has burst, plumbing contractors are worried about losing high-end sales that are not going to be coming back anyway.  What do you think?