When I first moved to Portland, Oregon, I worried about how I’d survive the endless, gray, rainy winters. A friend advised me to find a way to get warm—really warm—at least once a day. I don’t have regular access to a sauna or a hot tub, so I take a hot shower every morning to defrost my chilly toes before I stuff them into wool socks and leather boots. That hot shower is an indispensable part of my day.
When the box from Nebia arrived, I pounced on it. For a showerhead, Nebia has a very glamorous origin story. In 2010, cofounder Carlos Gomez Andonaegui was working as the CEO of Sport City, Mexico City’s largest gym club chain. He and his father designed the Nebia prototype to save water in the showers, with the novel idea of using atomizing nozzles normally used in agricultural and aerospace fields.
He met Nebia cofounder Philip Winter in Mexico City, while Winter was working at Endeavor, a nonprofit that encourages entrepreneurship in different parts of the world. After bringing on another cofounder, Gabriel Parisi-Amon—a former Apple engineer—Nebia installed a prototype in an Equinox gym in San Francisco. It quickly attracted the attention (and dollars) of various Silicon Valley illuminati, most notably Tim Cook.
The original version cost $500. Several years later, Nebia has partnered with venerated faucet manufacturer Moen for a much more accessible version at $199. (On Kickstarter you can currently preorder it for a $40 discount.) Nebia sent me the version with the magnetic hand wand, which will retail for an expected $269. Preorders will begin to ship in mid-March.
It’s easy to install—just unscrew your current showerhead and neck pipe, screw the Nebia by Moen in, and stick the sliding arm and the round magnetic dock on the wall (you can screw it in, too). It’s incredibly beautiful. After I installed it, my husband and I took a few minutes to admire it in our humble bathroom, like having a Valentino gown hanging in the closet next to your jeans and ratty old sweaters.
But after three weeks, my husband rebelled and took it down when I was on a work trip, and I haven’t put it back up. In the dead of a Portland winter, even a luxury, high-tech showerhead just wasn’t warm enough.
Low-flow showerheads aren’t exactly new technology; I used one before the Nebia came, with a flow-rate of 1.75 gallons per minute (the average showerhead uses more than 2 GPM. Low-flow showerheads save homeowners in both water and energy costs since you don’t have to heat as much water. You can also try making one yourself.
Undoubtedly, the Nebia by Moen showerhead looks much better than anything you could build on your own. Nebia sent me a sample in gleaming, spot-resistant nickel, but it also comes in an equally attractive black, or white and chrome.
The showerhead is a massive 8 inches wide, a circle with six tiny nozzles around the rim. Nebia’s atomization technology disperses the flow into millions of tiny droplets while reducing flow to a remarkably low 1.35 GPM. At that rate, you could save up to 10 gallons of water per shower compared to average showerheads. (With the hand shower on, the Nebia’s flow rate increases to 1.7 GPM.)
The Nebia also has a few other handy design features. The showerhead tilts and swivels in multiple directions for optimal positioning. It’s also mounted on a slide rail that has 17 inches of travel. It’s very easy for each showerer to manipulate. There’s a 10-inch height difference between my husband and me, and we could both grab at the showerhead one-handed to spray an inch or two above our respective scalps.
I don’t recommend purchasing the showerhead without the hand unit. I didn’t do this, but you can position the hand unit at the height of your lower back and turn it on to cover even more of your body’s surface area. Instead, I used it to spray my chilly legs and feet. After I rinsed off, I simply touched the hand unit back onto the beautiful, magnetic dock.
Most people have used a mist shower before. On hot days, those small, silky droplets feel heavenly on my arms and shoulders when I walk through a playground. In fact, “nebbia” means fog in Italian. Unfortunately, I don’t spend most mornings luxuriating in an Italian fog. I need a more carwash-type setup, where I can restore blood flow to my extremities and rinse out my hair in five minutes or less. CEO Philip Winter notes that the Nebia by Moen showerhead is halfway between a steam shower and a regular shower.
“When you atomize water and make smaller droplets, there’s energy transfer, and so the droplets want to cool,” he said over the phone. “This is the biggest challenge we’ve been fighting. You’re combating physics.”
If you’re in an enclosed shower stall, you might be considerably warmer than I was in my bathtub—a cold douse in the morning is far from what I want. An enclosed stall would also solve the problem of containing the Nebia by Moen’s diffuse spray. Atomizing nozzles were originally used to water fields, and so the Nebia by Moen watered my whole bathroom if I wasn’t careful about yanking the shower curtain shut immediately after I turned it on.
You also can’t turn off the main showerhead and just use the hand unit. Winter said this feature is one of the biggest customer asks, but Nebia currently can’t implement it because that would violate the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials’ showerhead regulations. It’s a shame because, without a separate hand unit, I couldn’t use the Nebia by Moen with my kids or dog. Rather than soaking the entire bathroom, I banished my dog to the back deck to get sprayed off by a freezing hose. (In retrospect, this was just punishment for rolling in a rotten fish.) I also couldn’t pop a pantless 2-year-old in the tub and rinse his legs off after he had a potty accident.
In drought-stricken areas or places where potable water is scarce, water conservation is a very real problem. And in warmer places, a gorgeous, misty showerhead like the Nebia by Moen might be a viable solution. But here, some considerations outweigh others. At the moment, I’d prefer to find other ways to conserve water and energy rather than sacrifice my only 10 warm minutes per day.
The good news is, the Nebia by Moen is very easy to install. Until I can sneak it past my husband to enjoy cool mist in July, I’ll daydream about all the sunny, tropical places where I wish I was showering instead.