What to consider when choosing a new shower
The good news first: Your perfect shower is out there - you just need to pause a moment before pushing any buttons.
What to consider when choosing a new shower
Firstly, ask yourself three key questions:
- Have you chosen the most suitable type of system?
- Will the water pressure in your home support the shower you want?
- Will it do exactly what you need it to do?
Still not sure? Read on, and we'll guide you through everything you need to know
Showering: the basics
First things first: find out more about your water system and the water pressure level in your home. If you don't do this, you'll end up scratching your head when shower system suppliers stipulate a minimum set water pressure requirement for their products. A lack of water pressure will mean certain types of showers won't operate well, or even at all.
Water system types
Here in the UK, there are three common types of water system, and the type feeding your home will dictate whether you have high or low water pressure.
- Gravity-fed low-pressure system which is most common and which means a cold-water tank in the loft and a water cylinder directly below it, usually situated in an airing cupboard.
- Unvented high-pressure system is where a hot-water storage cylinder takes cold water directly from the mains. This means that no cold-water tank is needed as the water is heated by an in-built coil. The water in the cylinder heats up ready for use as the coil gets hot.
- A combi boiler system heats water on demand whenever a hot tap is turned on, with the water feeding in directly from the mains, without a cylinder or tank.
Your water pressure
Once you know what kind of water system you have, the choice of shower is more straightforward. Each shower system, showerhead and handset is labelled with its water pressure requirements, measured in bars. A 0.1 bar rating is low pressure, while 1.0 bar and above is high pressure.
How to calculate your water pressure
You'll probably need a qualified plumber to test your system to establish the precise pressure of your home system. However, you can get an estimate number by simply using a measuring jug (1-2 litres) and a timer, the following the simple steps below:
- Place the measuring jug under the tap or shower you wish to measure and turn the water on full.
- Start the timer
- Time how long it takes for the water to fill the jug
Now enter the time and amount of water into this helpful calculator from our friends at waterpressureproblems.com
This will then produce a result which indicates whether your water pressure is low or normal/above average. You can then use this information to find the shower that's most suitable for your home.
Okay, so now you've figured out what water pressure you have to play with, get choosing that shower!
Although they tend to have a weaker flow than power showers, electric showers are the obvious choice if you don't have a hot-water supply or boiler. Electric showers heat the water to the perfect temperature - and while you'll probably struggle to achieve the water volume of a mixer style head, you can improve pressure by choosing an electric shower with a built-in pump.
Everyone knows electricity and water don't mix, so always get a qualified fitter to install an electric shower. You'll also find that many manufacturer warranties won't be valid unless the installation is done by a qualified professional.
Mixer showers combine hot and cold water on demand, but remember to check whether the one that catches your eye is suitable for low or high pressure water systems. Unsurprisingly, most of those sumptuous rain showers need high water pressure. If your water pressure is low, it might be an option to buy a seperate pump to increase flow.
Bath shower mixers
If you're combining your bath with a shower then you'll need a bath shower mixer. Your are sure discover an amazing range to choose from. A popular option is a tap with a diverter that means you can fill the bath or, by pulling the diverter, switch to the shower instead. Always choose a good quality diverter that is easy to use.
Available in electric or mixer models, digital showering is the latest bathroom trend, integrating wireless shower panel technology. So your digital shower thermostatically blends hot and cold water to the precise pressure and temperature you choose. Ta-da!
Although usually more expensive than other showers, the digital option is easy to install, because it's no longer necessary to access pipes. Most digital showers have pre-programmed settings, meaning a smoother shower experience and no more squeals when someone turns on a kitchen tap while you're mid-shower!
Shower valves - the bottom line
Okay, they may not sound particularly thrilling, but it does make sense to know your shower valve. It's the widget that drives the water to your shower handset or fixed head, effectively controlling your shower's water flow and temperature. Shower valves are concealed or exposed unless you have an electric shower, when the valve is contained in its own unit.
Although its controls are on the surface, a concealed valve is aesthetically appealing as it is recessed into the wall with all the water outlets and associated pipes also hidden inside the wall. This usually means more design options, with manufacturers offering a wide choice of concealing plates and handles. You can also use concealed valves with a multitude of different shower heads and handsets. Although concealed, these valves are designed to be easily accessed. This is for maintenance and repair as you can remove the concealing plate.
Exposed valves tend to be more affordable and are simple to install (no messing with tiles). Usually they feature water controls and a horizontal bar, with all the outlets and associated pipes visible on the wall. Exposed valves can also boast thermostatic temperature controls, eco-flow and pre-set maximum temperatures, but design options are more limited with exposed valves, which typically take up more space in your showering area and are less aesthetically pleasing.
So what next?
So that's it - everything you need to know to understand the choices out there. Now the pressure is on (in more ways than one!) for you to get that awe-inspiring shower that transforms your bathroom.