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Buyer's Guide: Showers

Whether it is in a dedicated shower enclosure or over a bath, a shower is often a key part of our hygiene routine. In this guide, we will look at the considerations needed when buying a shower. There are many types of shower for you to choose from but the first consideration is identifying what type of water system is installed in your home.

What is my water system?

Understanding the type of water system in your home will help you identify what your water pressure is like and what shower type is most suited to your system.

Water pressure is the force of the water through the pipes in your home, whereas water flow is the volume of water delivered. Therefore, a lower pressure means the water is delivered slower and therefore the flow rate is worse than if the pressure was higher. Water pressure can be impacted by factors such as the type of water system installed, where the property is located in relation to a water reservoir and the time of day the outlets are used. If your water pressure is low, the flow rate will be lower also.

The three most common systems in the UK are as follows;

1. Combi Boiler System

2. Gravity Fed System (low pressure)

3. Unvented system (high pressure)

Combi Boiler System

A combi boiler system takes water from the mains and heats it on demand so there is no separate hot water tank needed. They are wall hung and typically located in the garage, kitchen or downstairs cupboard and rely solely on the mains water pressure. The hot water feed tends to have slightly lower pressure than the cold feed due to the heating required.

Gravity Fed System (low pressure)

One of the most common systems throughout the UK a gravity-fed system has the mains water fed into a cold water storage tank (usually in the loft), which as it fills, assisted by gravity, the water is fed to a hot water cylinder below (usually in an airing cupboard) where it is heated by an immersion heater or boiler. The continuous feed of water from the cold-water tank above creates the pressure needed to push the heated water from the tank.

This system has a lower water pressure compared to a combi boiler or unvented system. However, there are showers on the market that can help counteract this (such as with a pump mechanism to boost water pressure).

Unvented System (high pressure)

An unvented system takes cold water from the mains and heats it either directly in a tank via a heating element or indirectly via wall hung boiler. When the water is heating it causes pressure within the hot water tank resulting in hot water than can be delivered at a higher pressure (compared to a combi boiler). They require a hot water cylinder typically located in an airing cupboard.

Types of Shower

Showers fall into the following four categories; Mixer, Digital & Smart, Electric, and Power.

Mixer Showers

Mixer showers mix the hot and cold water together within the shower valve, where the temperature is regulated, before sending it to the shower head. They come in two main designs, exposed and concealed. Exposed mixer showers have the entire unit is mounted on the wall, whereas with concealed mixer showers the value is visible but the majority of the pipework is hidden from view inside the wall.

Manual or Thermostatic?

With a manual mixer shower, you adjust the temperature like you would a mixer tap until you are happy with the temperature (same as if you were running the bath). However, with a thermostatic mixer shower it will stay withing two degrees of the chosen temperature. The benifit of a thermostatic mixer shower is that it will stay at the chosen temperature even if someone else uses hot water in the house.

Tip: This type of shower typically performs best with a combi boiler system or unvented system (as there are no additional pumps increasing water pressure and flow through the shower)

Tip: Tend to be more powerful in comparison to electric showers but are dependent on water pressure. There are however some options available that are compatible with lower pressure water systems.

Digital and Smart Showers

Smart and digital showers come with a range of technology features for functionality. They offer customisable settings for pressure, temperature, and flow for an individualised showering experience. Overall, they work similarly to a mixer shower with additional customisable features.

Tip: Available for all types of water systems! (Some have an in-built water pump to counteract low water pressure) Particularly useful for gravity fed homes.

Electric Showers

Electric showers offer hot water on demand by drawing cold water from the mains into the unit, to be heated by an element within. One of the biggest advantages of an electric shower is it isn’t affected by a boiler. Modern electric showers offer thermostatic control to adjust temperature and come in a range of contemporary and traditional designs.

Tip: Electric showers require adequate levels of pressure from a mains system.

Tip: Electric showers are compact, space savings and have easy installation

Power Showers

Power showers are invigorating and often feature massage systems for sore muscles and soaping up. These are the kind of luxurious showers you find in spas!

Tip: They can be used in homes with low pressure water systems as the shower system includes a pump to boost water flow.

Tip: They offer the best water pressure however use more water and electricity than other shower models

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