Choosing a shower can be a complicated task. The first step is understanding what kind of hot water system your home has as some showers only work with certain types of water systems. Our quick guide to the most common types of UK water system will help youassess how the hot water is already heated in your house, and help you choose the shower that’s right for you.
Low Pressure Gravity Systems
Low pressure gravity systems are the most common in UK homes. They usually consist of a cold water tank or cistern (typically in the loft) and a hot water cylinder in the airing cupboard. Water is kept under pressure by gravity fed water delivered from the cold water tank or cistern. For a shower to work there must be at least one metre between the shower head and outlet from the cold tank.
High Pressure – Mains Pressure Combination Boiler
High pressure combination boilers heat cold water direct from the cold mains supply as soon as you turn on a shower or hot tap. The system is becoming increasingly popular as the boiler can be fitted anywhere in the home and heats the water as you use it.
High Pressure – Unvented Water Systems
With high pressure unvented water systems there is a hot water cylinder in the airing cupboard but no cistern or cold water tank in the loft. The hot water is stored under pressure in the tank and is heated in a number of ways through either immersion heaters, central heating boilers or even solar water panels. Other systems that give hot water at mains pressure are known as thermal store systems.
Cold Mains Supply
Mains cold water systems can be fitted direct with electric showers if you don’t have stored hot water or you don’t want to use it all up through having a shower. This heats up the hot water within the shower unit and flows as soon as you turn the shower on.
Mixer showers take water from both hot and cold supplies and mix it to create the ideal temperature. If you have a high pressure water system the flow is generally faster than electric showers. If you have a low pressure system you can further improve the flow by adding a separate shower pump (see page 164). Ideal for homes with a plentiful supply of hot water either through a gravity fed or high pressure system.
Digital Mixer Showers
Like mixer showers, digital showers take water from both hot and cold supplies, but they use built-in digital technology to ensure the desired temperature is reached. They have the added benefit of the shower valve (or processor) being sited remotely from the showering area, usually meaning less mess and disruption during installation.You can choose between pumped or high pressure versions (do not use a pumped shower if you have a high pressure water system). Like mixer showers they are ideal if your home has a plentiful supply of hot water.
Electric showers only take water from the mains cold water supply and warm it up like a kettle by passing it safely over heating elements contained in the shower unit. Extremely convenient, electric showers are ready to use at any time of the day or night and work even if the boiler fails. When you have a shower you don’t use up any stored hot water so they are ideal for households where there is a limited supply of hot water, or large families with a constant demand on the hot water supply. The higher the Kilowatt (kw) rating the more forceful the shower performance.
Power showers take water from both the stored hot and cold water supplies and mix it together to create the desired temperature. The flow of the water is then boosted by using an integral pump so they provide a more impressive and forceful spray than mixer or electric showers. You can choose an-all-in one power shower or create the same effect by adding a pump to a mixer shower. Never use a power shower with a high pressure water system.