all kinds of shower heads

Are Shower Heads Universal?

Shower heads come in many different shapes and sizes. When replacing a shower head it’s important to know if you need all new plumbing or can replace just the shower head. In this article, I will explain if shower heads are universal.

As a general rule, shower heads are universal. But, the valve to adjust the temperature and pressure of a shower head differs. In the USA and Canada, it’s called ½-inch NPT; in the UK, it’s called ½-inch BSP; in Australia, it’s called G ½. All shower heads also have the same thread.

Shower valves are not universal, and you may want to get a new shower valve. Below, I will explain whether a shower valve will fit an existing shower and whether you can put any shower head on any shower. As well as, if you can increase the water pressure of a shower.

The Specs Used For Showerheads and Shower Valves

When getting a new showerhead, there are a few specs. Removing an existing shower head and putting in a new one is very easy. Any shower head will fit on any shower stem. As you may know, virtually all shower heads can be turned anti-clockwise to loosen them. 

Then ANY new shower head can be screwed into the same shower stem. In rare cases, a shower head will have a nut that also secures the shower head to the shower stem, and if it does, this will need to be removed with a wrench.

Here’s a good video from Home Depot where they show how a shower head is replaced:

By looking at the spec sheet on the online description, you can be very sure of this fact when buying a new showerhead. Or by asking the sales rep at a shower store what the thread is for the shower. 

They can then look up this info for you. However, in general, a sales rep will know that shower heads are universal and can quickly tell you it’s a half-inch NPT – in the USA and Canada. The abbreviation after the half inch refers to the type of thread a showerhead has. 

As you may know thread, are the grooves that allow something to be screwed into something else. On a shower head, the thread is the 5 to 6 grooves on the outside of the connection on a shower head. 

These screw into the matching thread on the shower stem. For this reason, it’s important to get the right thread. Otherwise, it won’t screw in a create an airtight and watertight seal. With shower heads, this thread is universal. But, in different countries, the thread and diameter are called different things. 

In the:

  • USA and Canada – ½ NPT, which stands for National Pipe Tapered thread
  • UK – ½ BSP, which stands for British Standard Pipe thread
  • Australia – G ½, which is thought to stand for Gas, although this spec is used for water pipes 

(source: GC Hydraulics)

Shower Valves Are Different – If You’re Changing This Too

Although shower heads are universal, shower valves are not. The shower valve is the fixture with the knobs you use to turn the shower on and adjust the water pressure and temperature. There are, broadly speaking, 8 different types of shower valves. 

The two main categories of shower valves are concealed or exposed. If you’re also getting a new shower valve, you must be careful to get the right type. Because they are not universal.

I explained in detail in this article what the different types of shower valves are and how they differ. To make it easier, it’s a good idea to take a photo of your shower valve and take it with you when you go to buy a new shower valve. Or, use the info in that article to figure out what type of shower valve your shower has.

Can You Put Any Shower Head On Any Shower

a man is instaling a new shower head, attaching it to the shower valve

Shower heads come in many different sizes, shapes, and designs. Suppose you are installing a new shower or replacing an existing shower head. In that case, ensuring the new shower head will work is important. So, here’s whether it’s possible to put any shower head on any shower.

As a general rule, you can put any shower head on any shower. Shower heads screw into the stem of a shower. The width and thread of the stem and the shower head are all the same. But, there are two main types of shower valves, so not all shower valves are compatible and can be interchanged.

Shower heads are often sold with matching shower valves. So, if you’re also replacing the shower valve, you need to ensure you’re getting one that is the same type you have. This is explained in more detail in the head above titled ‘Shower Valves Are Different – If You’re Changing This Too.’

Can You Increase Water Pressure in Your Shower

Shower pressure needs to be over a certain level, and provided the water coming out of the shower is over a certain pressure, it works well. But, if the shower pressure is too low, it’s not enjoyable to take and takes much longer to shower. So, this is if it’s possible to increase the water pressure for a shower. 

Overall, you can increase the water pressure in your shower. There are two ways to do it, you can install a shower pump, or you can install a higher flow shower head. Shower pumps are common. But, the one downside is your shower doesn’t work during a power outage.

A shower pump is reasonably small – about one foot long by half a foot in diameter (30 cm x 15 cm). It sits next to the hot water cylinder, and hot water goes into a shower pump from the hot water cylinder. 

Because of this, if there is a power outage, the hot water has no way to get to the shower. Whereas, without a shower pump, a shower will still work for at least a day until the water in the hot water cylinder goes cold.

But, power outages are reasonably uncommon in most areas. Therefore, overall a shower pump is a great way to increase the water pressure in a shower.

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