When you think about it, there’s not a whole lot separating one shower head from another. Sure, they can vary in flow from high pressure - which feels like painful, stubby needles - to low pressure - feels like it’ll take five years for the conditioner to wash out - but when it comes down to it, it’s just water that falls down over your head from a single focal point built into a perforated nozzel.
But now San Francisco engineering start-up, Nebia, has reinvented what it means to be a shower head. Instead of one focal point up top, you’ve got three, and with a second output of water that can be adjusted to hit you squarely in the back, it sure looks like a lot of flow for something that markets itself as using 70 percent less water than your average shower head.
The team explains how this works at the Nebia website:
"Our technology uses nozzles designed to atomise water under extreme pressure, so that a stream of water is broken up into millions of droplets. The surface area of these droplets is 10 times that of a normal shower water droplet, enabling the shower to use much less water but get you just as wet."
The developers say that while the average American shower can use up to 20 gallons (75 Litres) of water - which is up from 1999’s figure of 17.2 gallons - showering with Nebia technology can cut this down to 6 gallons (23 Litres). They’ve been carting their prototypes around Silicon Valley in hopes of some snagging some investors, the most high profile of which have so far been Apple CEO Tim Cook and the Schmidt Family Foundation, which was co-founded by Eric Schmidt, chairman of Google.
"Nebia’s showering technology has the potential to be transformative," Wendy Schmidt, president of the Schmidt foundation, said in a statement. "It’s innovative and elegant, and can also have a significant impact on water use - not just in California, where we’re experiencing a severe drought - but around the world where fresh water resources are limited."
It all sounds pretty great, right? But if Seinfeld has taught me anything, it’s to be extremely wary of low-flow shower heads of any kind:
And from all the "We heart big hair" proclamations on the company’s website, it would appear that even something as awesome-looking as this can’t run from the low-flow hair-washing issue. And I’m not exactly convinced by whatever they’re trying to say here:
"Our team of thermofluid experts have worked tirelessly to create the perfect balance of comfort, efficiency and efficacy. Translation: You can get all the shampoo out of your hair in equal time, even when you’re using 70 percent less water."
That told us literally nothing.
"We have tested Nebia with over 500 people, optimising for the greatest diversity of hair type and length. Our results show that people with this hair type have no problem rinsing their hair with Nebia."
"In my testing of a prototype, the multinozzle shower head produced a misty spray (the word nebbia in Italian means mist) that immersed me in water, unlike traditional shower heads that shoot pressurised streams of water. It made my hair feel flat and uncooperative, though my skin felt soft and relaxed."
Only time will if Nebia actually has a potential flat hair crisis on its hands - we're sure to hear about it when all the Kickstarter backers start testing it out - but any attempt to reduce the amount of water we use on a daily basis without even thinking about it is a worthy endeavour, so we hope it works out. And then we can go ahead and install fancy showers and taps in our houses and not feel ridiculous about it.