What Is a Flow Restrictor?

Charity Delich
Charity Delich
Taps with high pressure tend to deliver large amounts of water and is often more than is necessary for washing hands.
Taps with high pressure tend to deliver large amounts of water and is often more than is necessary for washing hands.

A flow restrictor is a gadget designed to limit the amount of liquid or gas, such as water or air, that comes out of a tap or other dispenser. These devices are often environmentally friendly, and can be helpful in lowering water bills. For example, flow restrictors can allow users to reduce the amount of water needed when washing dishes or showering.

Homeowners who install flow restrictors often lower their energy use while cutting down on utility bills.
Homeowners who install flow restrictors often lower their energy use while cutting down on utility bills.

Water pressure and the valve size of a tap typically determine how much water is emitted from a tap. Taps with high pressure tend to deliver large amounts of water, often more than is necessary for performing tasks like washing hands or bathing. As the name implies, a water flow restrictor limits the amount of water that is let out of a tap. It is often used in plumbing for the purpose of controlling water flow in showers or faucets.

Flow restrictors may be installed inside a shower head.
Flow restrictors may be installed inside a shower head.

Flow restrictors that are installed in faucets are typically either screwed onto the tap or installed inside the faucet. Many of them have aerated nozzles that produce a fine mist of water rather than a solid flow. Hardware shops or plumbing supply stores typically carry a wide variety of flow restrictors for sinks as well as for showers.

A shower flow restrictor is installed either inside or outside a shower head, and it works to reduce water use. For example, the average person uses about ten gallons (approximately 38 liters) of water for each minute he or she showers. The installation of a shower head flow restrictor can cut this figure in half, allowing users to save on water expenses and water heating costs in addition to promoting green living. For the most part, high quality restrictors do not decrease the overall quality of the shower and are therefore virtually unnoticeable.

Flow restrictors that are installed in faucets are typically either screwed onto the tap or installed inside the faucet.
Flow restrictors that are installed in faucets are typically either screwed onto the tap or installed inside the faucet.

A variety of shower restrictors exist, including internal and external restrictors. Internal restrictors typically look like disks with holes in them, and they usually come in metal or plastic. They are fairly easy to install because they simply fit inside the shower head and water pipe. External restrictors work similarly, but they are visible from the outside because they are screwed on between the shower head and the water pipe.

An air flow restrictor is used to control air flow and pressure, and it can be useful for a number of different purposes. These devices are sometimes installed in engines to limit power. For example, some motorcycle engines contain air restrictors that limit their ability to speed. Air restrictors may also be installed in toy guns to reduce their power when firing.

How To Remove a Flow Restrictor From a Showerhead

The way you remove a flow restrictor from a showerhead varies slightly depending on what type of showerhead you have. Typically, though, you will need the same types of tools for any showerhead. Before you get started, gather your adjustable wrench, a rag, some paper clips, a pair of needle-nose pliers, a flathead screwdriver, and some Teflon tape.

Most homes have an embedded showerhead, which is the type that comes with the place when you purchase or rent it. To remove the flow restrictor from this type of showerhead, you will first need to unscrew it from the pipe on the wall. It may be as simple as unscrewing it from the wall, but if the showerhead is on tight, you may need to use your wrench to loosen it up. Once unscrewed, look for the washer inside the unit. It will look like a tight black seal that is keeping a mesh screen in place. Use the needle-nose pliers to remove the seal and screen. Then, use the flathead screwdriver to pull out the restrictor. It will be the plastic disk inside. Once removed, you can reconnect the showerhead. You may need to add more Teflon tape to the shower arm to prevent leaks when you put the showerhead back on.

Most other types of showerheads work very similarly. If you have a handheld showerhead, you will usually be able to find the flow restrictor inside the arm of the showerhead, where the handle connects to the tubing. Once you find the flow restrictor, follow the same instructions that you would with an embedded showerhead. Regardless of which type of showerhead you have, be sure to disassemble and reassemble everything carefully to avoid doing damage and having to buy a new product.

How To Remove a Flow Restrictor From a Kitchen Faucet

Like showerheads, kitchen faucets have had flow restrictors since 1994. After a while, sediment and other debris builds up and further reduces flow. If you'd like to remove the flow restrictor from your kitchen faucet, you'll need an adjustable wrench, a towel, and a screwdriver.

One of the biggest issues you may face when removing the kitchen faucet's flow restrictor is the loss of small parts. Spread the towel across the sink's drains to keep screws from falling into them. After the drains are blocked, unscrew the faucet's aerator by turning it counterclockwise. If you can't do it with your hand, the adjustable wrench can help to loosen it up. To protect your faucet's design, wrap it with a rubber band before using tools on it. Keep in mind that if your faucet has a concealed aerator, you will need to purchase a special tool to remove it.

Once you remove the aerator, you can remove the flow restrictor. Use the screwdriver to twist the restrictor until it loosens up. After it's loose enough, use the wrench to pry it off of the faucet. Once it is removed, clean the aerator of any debris and place it back on the faucet.

How To Install a Flow Restrictor

Installing a flow restrictor is basically doing the opposite of what you did to remove one. First, you will want to make sure that you purchase the right size flow restrictor, so be sure to measure your faucet or showerhead in advance.

Once you have your flow restrictor, unscrew your showerhead. If you need to, use your adjustable wrench or a pair of pliers to loosen the showerhead so you can remove it. After you remove the showerhead, place the flow restrictor, its mesh cover, and the black seal into the faucet. You may need to wrap the area with thread sealant to hold it into place. You may also need to add thread sealant on the shower arm that holds the showerhead into place. Once wrapped, screw the showerhead back onto the arm and test to ensure there are no leaks.

If you want to add a flow restrictor to your kitchen faucet, it will work much the same. First, you will need to remove the aerator so that you can install the flow restrictor. Install the flow restrictor according to the manufacturer's instructions, as the installation process will vary slightly depending on which type of kitchen faucet you have. Once you have the flow restrictor installed, use thread tape as needed and then screw the aerator back on. Finally, check your faucet to make sure there are no leaks.

Discussion Comments

anon1004604

38 litres per minute for a shower?

This is wrong - showers in the UK and USA are limited automatically to 8 litres per minute

Oceana

I think that the heads on watering cans can be considered a type of flow restrictor. I use a one gallon watering can in my garden, and the cap at the end of the spout has several holes that allow just a small amount of water through at a time.

Using a garden hose can be hard on plants if you let the water come out full force. That's why I prefer to use a sprinkling can. It's very gentle on the flowers.

Kristee

@OeKc05 – I think that flow restrictors in a shower system are simply the ones that lessen the flow of water, rather than shutting it off altogether. I have been in showers that had such a strong flow of water that it actually hurt my skin, so I really appreciate flow restrictors. They turn the shower into a drizzling mist that is pleasant and not painful at all.

OeKc05

Is a button that pauses the flow of a shower considered a showerhead flow restrictor, or are flow restrictors just the ones that minimize the flow, rather than shutting it off altogether? I have one of these buttons on the side of my showerhead, and after I've gotten wet, I push it to stop the flow of the water while I lather up.

After I have lathered, I push the button from the other side and the shower resumes. It's a really convenient way to save water. The only problem is that when the water comes back on after being off for a couple of minutes, it is usually cold!

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    • Taps with high pressure tend to deliver large amounts of water and is often more than is necessary for washing hands.
      By: Myimagine
      Taps with high pressure tend to deliver large amounts of water and is often more than is necessary for washing hands.
    • Homeowners who install flow restrictors often lower their energy use while cutting down on utility bills.
      By: Ariwasabi
      Homeowners who install flow restrictors often lower their energy use while cutting down on utility bills.
    • Flow restrictors may be installed inside a shower head.
      By: Yuriy Chertok
      Flow restrictors may be installed inside a shower head.
    • Flow restrictors that are installed in faucets are typically either screwed onto the tap or installed inside the faucet.
      By: sima
      Flow restrictors that are installed in faucets are typically either screwed onto the tap or installed inside the faucet.