Instead of a normal shower, imagine standing up every morning inside of a storm cloud: The shower curtain bucking and bellowing in the wind; the air, hot and humid as a heavy mist envelopes you, washing away soapy suds. That's what it's like to use a Nebia, the shower system that's won over the biggest names in tech without a single "smart" feature. No sensors, no Bluetooth, no Wi-Fi, but it feels goddamn glorious.
Nebia Shower System
What is it?
A shower system crowdfunded by billionaires.
It saves water and surrounds you in a pleasant mist.
You'll need a mop for the pools of water in your bathroom.
Nobody else at Gizmodo seems to believe me, but Nebia's bizarre, water-saving design has won me over - like it wooed investors Tim Cook, Eric Schmidt, the founder of Airbnb, the founder of Fitbit, as well as the company's many thousands of Kickstarter backers. It's a masterwork of fancy shower design; near perfection in the form of eco-friendly mist and fog. I only delayed installing the damn thing because I was, admittedly, a little afraid. After scanning the how-to installation videos, I thought I might wind up leaving my bathroom in shambles - pipes broken or tiles smashed.
Installing the dang thing
The big fat box Nebia shipped in sat open on the floor of my apartment for days before I willed myself to install it. It came neatly packed and pre-assembled - the halo shower head and sliding bracket in one piece, a wand, a magnetic mount, and many, many attachments made to accommodate most shower types.
The system looks like something Jony Ive might design a few years into retirement, with sleek aluminium and white plastic. It's priced like an Apple product, too, at $US650. If you can afford to drop that kind of cash on a shower, you can hire somebody to install it for you, but you don't need to.
I was able to remove my original shower head and arm without any tools - but only after two trips to Home Depot, a few instructional videos on "How to Use A Wrench," and an emergency FaceTime call to Nebia cofounder Philip Winter, in which he told me to adjust my grip on the pipe and turn.
From there, it was pretty easy. I measured the distance of the pipe in my wall, cautiously applied plumbers tape, screwed in an attachment, and basically just plopped the unit on top of the tile. A handier human with light plumbing experience could have installed it in 30 minutes. Glossing over a few details, that's about all the energy it took. And after four weeks, the shower has yet to collapse on top of me in some comically tragic event. The shower and I are both fine, thank you, and if you're worried about installing this thing, well, just look at me.
All images: Gizmodo
Inside the fog
Standing underneath the Nebia means replacing a typical stream of water with a thick halo of mist. A gust of "atomized" droplets. In my ridiculous, overactive imagination, especially while my brain's still fuzzy in the early morning, the experience feels like standing in the spray of a waterfall. This (at least in my mind) is a good thing. But some things about Nebia aren't great out of the box.
This shower is, in one word, "wet." In two: "Very wet." Unless you suction your curtain to the wall (or buy a heavier one), your bathroom is going to feel wetter than normal. Much like a waterfall, this shower's head and wand create misty air currents, sometimes causing water to puddle up outside of the shower. Bathrooms are supposed to get wet, so this doesn't seem like a big problem. I just plopped a towel on the floor and moved on.
All that moisture - on the walls, the floor, maybe even the ceiling - may seem like a big waste, but at peak efficiency, Nebia claims its most efficient setting can save up to 70 per cent of the water a typical shower wastes. At its most-wasteful setting (my favourite setting), a Nebia can still cut your water use by 40 per cent, as a forceful mist spews out from both the wand and the halo shower head.
But does the shower feel low-flow? Nebia says its mini nozzles turn a pipe full of water into millions of tiny little droplets. The result is a feeling like you're surrounded by water floating around in the air, and it's almost, but not quite as effective at rinsing away soap as a normal shower. In casual chats about the shower at the office, my colleagues have fixated on it. "Harrison, this sounds terrible!" But Nebia gets the job done; it just takes a little more time. Even my girlfriend, whose hair is very thick, says the shower can rinse out large amounts of shampoo and conditioner pretty easily.
But there's one sticking point my girlfriend and I can agree on: Sometimes the shower doesn't feel hot enough. No matter how warm the water gets, the sensation is both hot and cool. Under the halo, the mist shoots out and warms the air, but then the air cools the water droplets. If you live somewhere that gets frigid-cold in the winter like New York, I have a solution: Run the shower for a few minutes before getting in, keep the door shut, and turn off vents. Problem somewhat solved. But this makes my small bathroom all the wetter. It also sort of works against the point of an eco-friendly shower.
But it's pretty much worth it
Even though I flat out love the Nebia, I feel a little insane recommending a $US650 shower head and wand. I've never sought to upgrade my shower experience before, and now, suddenly, this mist machine has whisked me away to the far off land of half-a-grand bathroom appliances. Just like all those tech millionaires who invested in it, I've spoiled myself to the point of no return. I am stuck here now.
If you're looking for a minor upgrade to your shower, or if you want to use up a little less water at home, you can find an adequate shower head for less. That's if you want a normal shower. Otherwise, you just might want a Nebia.
Some people may find the price tag easier to swallow than others. If you own an apartment or home, maybe it's an easier sell - an investment!? If you pay a water bill, depending on where you live a Nebia could save you money over time. Or maybe you just want to feel like a tech billionaire every morning.
My doubters will never believe me without trying it out themselves, but I'm convinced. This shower is the stuff of overpriced dreams. A luxurious experience you can plop into any old bathroom to spice the place up. I can't really afford it - nope, I cannot - but if I had to veer either way, I'd say I'm sold.
- It feels great - unlike any shower you've probably ever used
- $US650 sure seems like a lot for a shower head upgrade
- Eco-friendly vibes are a solid plus
- Water gets everywhere, but all that extra moisture is worth it