Installing showers: championing safety and efficiency

Historically, baths were the most popular method of washing. However, as the importance of water conservation became mainstream and convenience ruled supreme, showers became the go-to option for a quick and convenient clean-up.

Although showers can help to reduce a home’s water consumption, the temperature, duration and frequency of showers can negate any potential savings over baths. Couple that with trends such as rain showers, which make the process less about function and more about relaxing, and water usage can start to creep up even further.

Therefore, when it comes to showers, installers not only need to champion safe and efficient products, but set customers’ expectations in terms of consumption.

Safety first

The Bathroom Manufacturers Association (BMA) issued an important safety warning in January this year, highlighting the scalding risk associated with stop-button showerheads, when used with instantaneous electric showers.

Following trends on social media, there has been a surge in the popularity of showerheads featuring a start/stop button. Although these present no risks for mixer-valve showers, which blend hot and cold water from separate systems, they can cause a significant safety hazard when used with instantaneous electric showers – around half of all showers in the UK.

“Electric showers function by heating cold water from the mains over electric heating elements to achieve the desired outlet temperature,” says Tom Reynolds, chief executive of the BMA. “UK-manufactured electric showers are tested, and third-party approved with showerheads and controls all made to UK and International standards. Showerheads not supplied with the shower unit should be approved by the shower manufacturer. This keeps electric showers safe, reliable and an energy-efficient way of showering.”

Start/stop-button showerheads used with instantaneous electric showers stop the water flow at the outlet without deactivating the heating elements. This causes the water within the appliance to overheat rapidly, potentially reaching temperatures as high as 80°C. When the shower is resumed, scalding water that can lead to severe burn injuries can be discharged.

“Under normal operation and with the manufacturer’s supplied showerheads, instantaneous electric showers have several safety devices installed to ensure safe operation,” points out Reynolds. “However, the BMA is concerned that too few suppliers of start/stop-button showerheads are providing clear warnings not to use their products with instantaneous electric showers. Clear advice should be provided both at the point of sale and in the product instructions.”

The association is collaborating with Trading Standards authorities to make consumers aware of the dangers of this type of showerhead being incorrectly installed and this is something that installers can help with.

Showerheads with a start/stop button have become increasingly popular

Take caution

When installing new showerheads and hoses, it’s essential that installers check the suitability of products to ensure safe operation. Showerheads or hoses that are damaged, worn or blocked can lead to the unit cutting out and could make the shower unsafe.

“The nation’s installers are rightly trusted to provide necessary guidance and advice to homeowners,” says Martyn Brown, contracts and technical manager at Triton Showers. “So it is important to confirm that products like showerheads and hoses are fit for purpose. The best practice is to refer to the manufacturer’s guidelines to ensure replacements are chosen and installed correctly.”

It’s advisable to fit anti-kink hoses to avoid blocking the flow when twisted, such as the brand’s anti-twist cones and showerheads that have been designed to maintain a steady flow and are quick and easy to install. While the majority of options available are designed for use with most electric units in the UK, installers are encouraged to refer to the product’s specification for clarity, where this will be clearly noted.

“Triton advises anybody fitting spares and accessories on behalf of their customers to consult the shower manufacturer’s website first to avoid unwittingly damaging the shower and voiding warranties, but more importantly risking users’ wellbeing.

“Triton supports the BMA’s recommendation to prioritise safety when purchasing third-party bathroom accessories, in addition to clear labelling from manufacturers to highlight the dangers of using start/stop-button showerheads with electric showers.”

Soft touch

Although a quick shower with an efficient showerhead typically uses less water than the average bath (around 80 litres), some power showers may actually use more. According to Waterwise, baths and showers account for over a third of water consumption in homes, so it’s an area well worth covering with customers.

Simply switching showerheads can have a significant impact on water consumption. The average showerhead uses around 0.2 litres of water per second, which, for a 10-minute shower, equates to 120 litres. Power showers consume 150 litres in the same time.

A great option for consumers who want to reduce their water consumption is fitting an aerated showerhead. These use air infusion technology, which reduces the water flow by around 50%, without impacting the pressure, producing light and soft water droplets.

“While the CIPHE supports the use of products that reduce water consumption, installers need to be cautious,” says Jerry Whiteley, technical manager at the CIPHE. “These products are designed to reduce the flow rate to save water, but installing an incompatible product could impact performance and possibly cause overheating. Before purchasing an aerated showerhead, installers should read the manufacturers’ instructions to ensure the product is compatible and won’t invalidate the warranty.”

Stop/start button showers can pose a risk if installed incorrectly

Under pressure

Combi boilers are now commonplace in residential properties up and down the UK, offering energy and water savings compared to conventional set-ups which rely on hot water storage. However, when it comes to water pressure, some showers supplied by combi boilers are falling short of consumers’ expectations.

Combis require a strong incoming mains water flow and pressure rate to operate at optimum performance, so residents may experience issues if there is inadequate incoming mains water. Consequently, a combi boiler with a low flow supplied by the mains will require extra assistance.

“Low water pressure can result in slow flow rates and inconsistent temperatures, causing inconvenience and frustration for homeowners, plumbers and heating engineers alike,” explains Mike Oxley, training manager at Salamander Pumps. “Low water pressure becomes particularly disruptive when water demand is high, especially when multiple outlets are used simultaneously across multiple floors. When this is a problem for homeowners, selecting and installing the right pumping solution is critical to ensure the hot water system continues to operate efficiently.”

Power boost

Combi boilers need a minimum water pressure from the mains supply to function at their best. Insufficient pressure can affect the activation of the flow switch and stop hot water delivery.

One solution to combat low water pressure issues commonly experienced with combi boilers is to install a mains booster pump on the incoming mains water supply, which will increase the water pressure and flow.

“By installing a mains booster pump directly on the incoming cold-water supply, water pressure and flow is increased, ensuring the required force and supply reaches the combi boiler,” explains Oxley. “As a result, the pump delivers improved hot water flow at taps and showers, and enhanced boiler performance and efficiency.”

Salamander Pumps’ HomeBoost, for example, is an intelligent inline mains booster pump that has been designed to increase the incoming mains water supply to the entire house, with a consistent flow of up to the legally allowed limit of 12 litres per minute.

It operates by detecting instances of low pressure and flow, effectively boosting the performance of the mains water when required, either directly or indirectly through the combi boiler, ensuring a steady flow of water.

“For properties suffering with poor mains water supply, AccuBoost Accumulator Vessels will deliver increased water flow up to 36 l/min, improving the performance of a combi boiler,” explains Oxley. “Available in pumped and unpumped models depending on the property requirements, the accumulators are suitable for larger homes or homes that require multiple outlets to run simultaneously, where demand is expected to surpass the 12 l/min limit.”

The accumulators operate by storing water under pressure, which is then released when an outlet is opened, delivering a higher water flow rate. Models ranging from 60L to 180L are suitable for combi boilers, while the 330L and 450L options are designed to boost water supply to unvented cylinders.

To find out more about Triton’s range of suitable showerheads, visit www.tritonshowers.co.uk/shower...


Spreading the word

Excessive time in the shower and the number of showers taken is one of the biggest overuses of water in the bathroom. Plumbers have a crucial role to play in influencing consumer choice and helping to educate consumers on the range of water and energy-saving products on offer.

“Recent research by The European Energy Network found that labelling can be a key tool to help reduce water use and optimise energy efficiency in water use,” says Yvonne Orgill, MD at the Unified Water Label Association. “The UWL is a smart tool which is simple, clear, and concise and offers a cohesive message to help consumers make an informed choice.

“Plumbing and heating engineers who support the use of Unified Water Label products, and encourage consumers to purchase, will be contributing to an overall reduction in water, and energy use.”

Engineers show customers how much water is used by inputting product data into the UWLA’s Water Calculator, which has more than 17,000 products currently registered. To find out more, visit: www.uwla.eu

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