- Selecting the right shower
- Instantaneous electric shower
- Mixer valve shower
- Instantaneous direct acting electric showers
- Gravity Fed Mixer Showers
- Shower pumps
Selecting the right shower
Making the right choice. Using this guide, our aim is to help you choose the very best shower for your application. In our experience many users select the highest profile product, regardless of its suitability because they are unaware of the options available, such as high performance mixer valves, shower pumps etc.
In order to make the most informed choice regarding your new shower and be sure you’re getting the best you can afford, you’ll need to understand the different showering options available and the type of plumbing system installed in your property.
Hot water for showering is provided either by a stored hot water system or by an instantaneous heater of some description that heats the water on demand. One could argue therefore that; ‘in general terms’, that there are only two different types of showering system:
A direct acting appliance such as an electric shower, which heats the water as it is drawn through the unit.
A shower that uses the same water system, that feeds your taps in the bathroom, kitchen, and utility room etc. Often referred to as a mixer shower.
However, hot water heating systems can also be divided into two ‘generic categories’:
Water that is heated; for example by an electric element (emersion heater) or a separate heating boiler; and then stored in a cylinder (which traditionally formed the airing cupboard)
Water that is heated on demand via an instantaneous boiler commonly known as a combination or multipoint type boiler.
Combination or instantaneous water heating boilers now account for approximately 50% of the UK, water and domestic heating market. Therefore when deciding which shower to choose you will need to consider three main options, follow the links to gain a brief over view of the benefits and pitfalls of each type of showering solution.
Instantaneous direct acting electric showers
Electric showers are the easiest showers to install in terms of compatibility with existing water heating systems and locations throughout the home. They draw water direct from the mains water supply and heat it as it is used for showering.
It can be used in most domestic showering applications e.g. over the bath, shower cubical’s, shower rooms etc.
(Redring Color Moods shower shown)
- Provides a shower that is independent of the main hot water heating system in the house, thus reducing the risk associated with breakdowns.
- Can be installed in almost any home throughout the world new & old.
- Instantaneous shower; it can be used at any time of the day.
- Requires electrical wiring from the shower unit to the main fuse box.
- Flow rate tends to be lower than showers that use the homes main water heating system, and it will vary between summer when the incoming water is warm, and the winter when the flow rate will reduce because the incoming water is significantly colder..
- Cost wise, the installation costs may be higher than showers that use the homes main water heating system due to the need for plumbing and electrical work.
- Higher kilowatt output showers have gone a long to help overcome some of the disadvantages of poor flow; (10 kilowatt showers are the equivalent of over 3 emersion heaters or 10 x 1 kilowatt bars on an electric fire) but to some an electric appliance fitted in the bathroom is perceived as a safety risk.
- This is not the case, providing it is properly installed, by a trained professional who knows what he is doing.
- Electrical appliances are often associated with water for example the kettle, washing machine or the electric cooker, which needs frequent washing.
If this is the shower solution for you make sure its fitted correctly and use a reputable brand that has an established reputation within.
(Mira Sport shown – link here)
Tankless water heater or Mains pressure showers
Showers that are fed from a domestic heating system that feeds hot water to the taps instantaneously on demand.
The combination boiler takes the practicality of an instantaneous ‘Multipoint’ water heater and combines it with a traditional boiler, hence the name ‘combination’ boiler. The great advantage is that you only use the water that you need.
You can establish whether you have an instantaneous boiler by the lack of any storage water cylinders. A simple test is to turn the central heating off, so that the boiler is not running; then turn a hot water tap on, the boiler should fire to supply water to the tap.
A combination boiler will switch all its heat output to water heating when demanded. This means that you will have a boiler capable of heating your whole house feeding your mixer shower.
Mixer showers that are compatible with instantaneous boilers will have a higher flow rate than electric showers, and are generally easier to install because there are no electrical connections.
(DEVA Modern Thermostatically Controlled Exposed Valve Shown.)
- High flow rates, similar to a powered shower because these showers are mains fed and designed for pressurized water systems.
- Easy to install, no problems with system design, location or compatibility with your existing water system, providing you have an instantaneous boiler that has been installed correctly.
- Instantaneous shower only heats the water when you need it.
- If your boiler breaks down you have no hot water for your taps or showering.
- Combination boilers start to heat water when a tap or shower is turned on. The length of pipe from the boiler to the shower determines the time taken for hot water to reach the shower, and it is often the case that large volumes of water need to be drawn off, before water of the correct temperature is achieved, this can be costly and frustrating. Good system design and installation helps to overcome this problem in most cases.
If this is the shower solution for you make sure its fitted correctly and use a reputable brand that has an established reputation.
Gravity Fed Mixer Showers
Showers that are fed from a stored hot water system, that can only feed hot water to the taps if the water has been pre heated in the cylinder.
Imagine a set of taps with a temporary, rubber, hand-shower attachment. The idea is very simple, you pre heat the water in your cylinder then turn the hot and cold taps to blend the water to achieve a comfortable showering or rinsing temperature. Mixer showers work on the same principal they are easy to install as they do not need any electrical connections, and work by blending hot and cold water together. They are ideal if you have an abundant supply of stored hot water.
The success of these types of shower is determined by the capacity of stored hot water that is available, and from a users point of view, the flow rate of water that is achieved from the shower rose. I shall attempt to explain without over complicating the issue.
The water flow rate from the shower head – GPM
If you hold the hose just below the level of water in the container the water will come out, but it can be held quite easily by squeezing the end of the hose. The pressure of water is low because the water is almost finding its own level.
Now let the hose fall to its lowest point. This time the water has a high flow rate and it is difficult to squeeze the pipe to stop the flow of water. The pressure of water is high because it is free to run and because it has the whole weight of the water in the container forcing the water out.
This is commonly referred to as the head of water: the difference between the bottom of the water header tank and the water outlet i.e. the tap of shower head. The bigger the difference the faster the water comes out, it’s as simple as that.
To find out if you have gravity system; first check to see if you have a lagged ‘hot water cylinder’, these are most commonly located within an airing cupboard.
Secondly check to see if you have a ‘cold water storage tank’, this will most likely be situated in your loft or in older properties, perhaps in the top of a cupboard within your bathroom.
Using the principal of gravity the water flows to feed the hot water cylinder (3) then when a tap or shower(4) is turned on, water is allowed to flow around the system under the ‘head of pressure’ created by the cold water storage tanks (2) location. Therefore the higher your cold water storage tank the greater the pressure available = and a more powerful showering experience.
When selecting a mixer shower for use on a gravity system, the most important thing to consider is the flow rate that is achievable from the shower rose. Unless you have water pressure of at least 0.5 bar, which is equivalent to a gap of five meters between the bottom of the cold water storage tank (2) and the shower rose (4) you will need to select a ‘Low Pressure’ shower valve, capable of supplying a satisfactory shower at water pressures as low as 0.1 bar, (which is approximately one meter difference).
You will be able to get a rough idea simply by observing the flow rate of water that you receive from the bath taps. Remember that you will be mixing hot and cold water but if it appears slow then the chances are that the showers performance will be disappointing.
The solution is to fit a shower pump that pushes the water to your shower mixer thus creating an invigorating powerful showering experience.
The capacity of stored water.
If you opt for the pumped solution you must ensure that you have plenty of hot water storage capacity, for pumped showers can deliver anything between 11 – 25 Liters of blended water per minute, and this will drain the average sized cylinder very quickly.
You will have an idea of the amount of hot water that you have available by looking at the physical size of your cylinder and monitoring your everyday usage. For example the depth of hot water that you are able to achieve when running a bath before the hot water runs out.
If you do not have large volumes of stored water, do not use a pump unless you alter the system to cope with it. Alternatively fit an electric shower.