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Choosing and Fitting... Shower Valves

The actual shower in the bathroom comes in four categories, electric, combi-boiler, power and tanked gravity fed showers. All have distinct advantages and how you wish to use them is what distinguishes one against the other.

Electric showers give instantaneous hot water and are usually temperature stabilised to avoid scalding water being delivered. The big advantage is that if you come in to a cold house with the tank still cold or you have other people in the house who hog all the hot water you can still have a hot shower.

The way that all electric showers work is the water inside is heated and the greater the Kilowatt rating the quicker the water can flow through and still be warm. Usually the minimum I would go for is an 8kw, if you can fit higher you will be definitely more satisfied, but the kilowatt rating you can fit will be determined by the cable supply you are able to couple to it. It should be a minimum of 6mm BUT ALWAYS use a qualified electrician to advise and fit the shower. It is possible to buy electric showers which have the controls separate from the heater unit to make a neater overall finish.

If you like a forceful shower by far and away the best is a power shower which uses a pump to force the water from your heated tank through a shower valve and it will be the positioning and capacity of this that determines which models you can choose. You will need to find out if the tank is below the head of your shower or below and if so by how much. Also when choosing your cubicle some have seals which make them unable to cope with the heavy water flow. One important thing to think about is you will always need hot water to enable your shower to be anything other than cold!

Combi-boiler fed showers are extremely good as the combine the reliability of a shower valve and the instantaneous heat of an electric shower, with usually a reasonably heavy flow of water. Care must be given to the compatibility of the valve you are wishing to use with the bar pressure delivered by the combi-boiler, check with your installer.

Gravity fed shower valves are generally reliable and relatively cheaply installed, but are only as good as the amount of fall from your header tank, if this is too near the height of your shower head the water supplied to the shower will only be a trickle, (it won’t work at all if it is lower than the shower).

An add on feature available with many of the shower options are body jets which, as long as there is sufficient water pressure, will give an invigorating massage action to all parts of the body.

One feature I would insist on when choosing the valve for either gravity or power shower installations is that it is thermostatic, making it much safer. This to me is extremely important as thermostatic valves will stop temperature fluctuations caused by other taps or washing machines etc reducing or increasing the hot water reaching the valve. Obviously it’s uncomfortable if it makes your shower run cold, but it’s positively dangerous if it causes scalding water to come out of the shower head.

When choosing the shower valve, there are basically two options, Exposed or Concealed, neither will effect how they perform technically. It’s in the ease of installation that the main difference occurs, Concealed units are extremely neat and easy to clean but require the valve and pipes to be let into the wall, Exposed showers have the valve and pipes mounted onto the wall.

The selection process doesn’t finish there, once you’ve selected your shower valve you will need to think whether you want a compatible, slider rail with detachable shower spray head, (with or without variable sprays), a spray head only or a fixed head. Some fixed spray heads are designed to give a ‘drench’ shower effect and be available in a variety of sizes and shapes. Really good shower valves will offer you a variety of options of these in either a modern or traditional style.

If you are choosing a shower with a hose, I would always recommend a plastic type, (some of these are clear plastic with a chrome or gold finish interior visible), and not a wound steel spiral version. The latter can be easily damaged if twisted past a certain angle, unwinding and exposing the unsightly inner hose.

Published on in Choosing and Fitting, Shower Valves, Showers by Fran