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Replacing an existing shower system is more straightforward than installing and positioning a brand-new shower from scratch. If you are reasonably happy with the existing set-up, as far as power and rate of flow is concerned, then it’s likely your existing water supply will cope with a replacement system. However, if you want to boost the flow and change the position of the shower, or install a shower in a bathroom that was previously without one, professional advice should be sought regarding the installation implications.
TYPES OF SHOWER SYSTEMS
Thermostatic Mixer Showers
A thermostatic mixer valve (which can be exposed or concealed) will provide water at a constant temperature, regardless of water being used elsewhere in the house, making the shower safe for everyone, especially children or elderly users. An exposed valve means that the shower temperature/flow controls are wall mounted and protrude from the wall. A concealed valve is set flush into the wall.
A power shower has an integral (or built-in or an added) pump which boosts the flow of water to the shower head, ensuring a constant and reliable flow. Usually needed for homes with a low-pressure water system.
Digital showers are becoming increasingly popular, and allow control of flow and temperature by the touch of a button, using wireless technology. Control panel/buttons can be sited just outside the shower enclosure, inside the enclosure or even via a remote-control handset. Digital showers are complex and should be installed by a suitably qualified and experienced electrician and plumber.
Manual Mixer Showers
A manual mixer shower does not guarantee a constant temperature – if hot or cold water is used elsewhere in the house, the shower temperature may rise or fall accordingly. A cost-effective option for budget-conscious home improvers.
An electric shower has a single cold feed only, which can be from the cold-water tank or mains fed, and the electric control box heats water instantly – but doesn’t pump it. The shower will need a separate circuit which is RCD protected. Electric showers need to be installed by a suitably qualified electrician.
SHOWER SYSTEMS: THINGS TO CONSIDER
The Type of Water System: There are three main types of hot water system in the UK; Open Vented, Unvented and Instantaneous. Open Vented systems have an immersion heater or a boiler to heat the water, plus a cold water cistern. An Unvented system provides hot water at mains pressure. An Instantaneous system usually uses a combination boiler to heat the water, which is not stored and is instantly available.
Your Water Pressure: Most of us don’t need to know the technical ins and outs of water pressure, and it’s best to be advised by a bathroom specialist, plumber or your bathroom installer. A low-pressure tank-fed system usually operates at 0.5 bar or less. A high-pressure system operates at around 2.1 to 3 bar pressure.
Fixed: A fixed shower head is generally wall mounted; the bracket comes straight out of the wall and the head points straight down.
Adjustable: The angle of the head and perhaps the spray pattern can be altered to suit. The height can also be adjusted if the shower has a slider bar.
Ceiling Mounted (also known as overhead, drench and rain shower): The shower head can be fitted flush with the ceiling, or on a bracket so it can be positioned at a more suitable height. Ceiling Mounted shower heads are often large-scale designs, providing a luxurious, drenching shower experience.
Body Jets: Vertical side rails that are positioned to provide jets of water at (perhaps) shoulder, waist, thigh and calf height to give a massage-like shower experience.
Aquasymphony by Grohe: Surely the ultimate shower experience, combining Light Curtain coloured lighting effects and music. Spray patterns include Rain Spray, Drizzle Spray and Bokoma Spray for a massage sensation.
STYLE & SIZE
Styles and sizes of showers vary so much it’s an absolute must to visit at least one or two bathroom showrooms to get the feel of the shapes, sizes and scale of the systems available. Surface mounted shower valves have the control valve, dials and handles protruding beyond the shower wall, recessed versions sit virtually flat or flush against the wall but will take up space behind the wall for all the pipes etc. Sizes range from slim, microphone-style heads to over-sized rectangular, square or circular heads which are designed to become a focal-point in the bathroom.
OTHER FEATURES TO CONSIDER
Extra features and fittings can include soap dispensers or dishes added to riser rails, and smooth hoses instead of coiled hoses. In general, it’s a good idea to keep fittings simple and sleek; a shower enclosure can easily suffer from limescale deposits if you’re in a hard water area. A hand-shower is a worthwhile inclusion if you have a fixed head shower, it’s useful for rinsing down the enclosure and for hair-rinsing!