Today, a clever new spin on a concept that we’ve seen before: an in-shower device that tells you to finish up lathering yourself in microbeads and belting out Fleetwood Mac’s entire back catalog to an audience of no one as you, my friend, are dangerously veering into water-wasting territory.

This time around, the green (keep on enjoying that hot, luxurious shower) and red (please kindly turn the faucet to the off position) light system is integrated into the shower head itself. The illuminated shower head gently/subconsciously reminds you how much time that you’re actually spending in there — a conservation-minded, shame-inducing hourglass for the 21st century, if you will — and by no means forces you to retreat mid-hair conditioning. For that, we’ll have to wait for device that automatically shuts off the hot water, screams expletives, barks like a dog, and/or starts banging on the bathroom door.

The shower head, dubbed Uji, is the creation of Tufts University grads Brett Andler, Tyler Wilson, and Sam Woolf who developed it during a mechanical engineering course. Although the light-up shower head (price tag: $50) isn’t yet commercially available, the Uji team hopes to bring it to market at some point next year. Grants from the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Energy Lab enabled to Andler, Wilson and Woolf to prototype and test the concept. What’s more, four universities have expressed interest in piloting Uji shower heads once they become available.

Andler tells NPR: "We were all interested in green technology and saving the environment. So we were looking at an untackled problem and realized, shower heads. We wanted a product that will pay for itself really quickly and look and feel just as good as a non-eco-friendly counterpart."

He adds: "It encourages [people] to take shorter and more energy-efficient showers. By letting people become aware of how long they're in the shower, we've actually been able to cut shower time by 12 percent."

Andler and his colleagues anticipate that Uji will pay for itself in about seven months, thanks to saved energy and water costs (three months in a university setting). After that, Uji has the potential to save users $85/year installed. Not too shabby at all. And as pointed out by its inventors, Uji can come in especially handy in homes with small hot water tanks and perhaps the worst offenders when it comes to egregiously long showers: teenagers.

The big question, of course, is how long? The LED interface on the prototype Uji starts fading from green to red at around the seven-minute mark. However, Andler explains to NPR that if the shower head does indeed become commercially available, that time may be tweaked or future models may be fully adjustable: “We're still looking to find the best balance between savings and comfort.”

Think you'd invest in an Uji to help keep the duration of your shower in-check? Or are you already pretty well-trained to keep them short and sweet?

Via [NPR]

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Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

Suds with a side of guilt: Shower head turns red when you're dawdling
Three Tufts grads develop the prototype for a shower head with a LED interface that fades from green to red when users start to enter water-wasting territory.