Showers and ways to reduce their water use

There are a variety of ways of reducing water consumption in the shower, some automatic as well as manual, some are controllable, other not. Some work on electric showers, others only on domestic hot water (DHW) systems. So it can all start to be a bit confusing, so I shall try to bring a bit of clarity (or at least spell out the options).

The cheapest way to saving water is to just turn off the shower when it is not needed. So get yourself wet, have a good lather and then rinse off. However most people choose to have the shower running all the time to experience warmth and refreshment. But this option does not mean changing your shower, so no expense and it will have a similar effect on your water consumption.

Electric showers are generally already rated in such a way to have a certain flow rate
so fitting new shower heads to electric showers will not normally save a
lot of money or water. However they are produced, but be aware that
most shower heads are designed for DHW based showers, so don’t waste
your money on the wrong equipment.

If you are installing a shower then we would generally recommend using the DHW system for your hot water this means that you can maximise any water coming from solar thermal panels (either now or in the future) and it is also generally cheaper to run and also gives a better pressure. However we would also recommend that you insulate the pipes going to the shower as you do not want to lose the heat on its way from the boiler / tank to the bathroom. If your tank or boiler is a long way from the shower, then an electric one might be better as the ‘dead leg’ between the heat source and use will mean that a lot of water is wasted (as well as heat).

So onto the mechanical ways of reducing water use. There are three main types:

1. Restrictors

2. Aerators

3. High frequency pulsators

1. Restrictors – these have been given away for free by some water companies. They are ‘in-line’ equipment that fits into the water output that just reduces the flow. These are a cheap and easy way of reducing flow, but be careful. Reduced flow can easily lead to ‘cold feet’. Because of the low flow the water cools quickly and by the time it reaches parts of you it can be much cooler. The shower then becomes much more functional and less pleasurable as it takes longer to rinse etc. So these are really for the die-hard showerers who see it as a means to an end.

2. Aerators – these effectively draw air into the water mix and create a ‘champagne’ effect that makes the water feel bigger than it really is. These then get away from the cold heat and the water is effectively increased in volume. These shower heads can come with a variety of settings and are the most popular types of water saving shower heads. However the thing that they never tell you is that they are quite noisy.

3. High frequency pulsators – one company makes these and effectively it has a pressure system in it that releases a flow that switches on and off 30-40 times a second. So you don’t notice the change in flow at all, however it also has the effect of reducing surface tension and thus making the water wetter, so you get a better shower. So where the aerators create a champagne effect this still gives the more traditional shower pressure and feel. However it also is loud.

So to reduce water consumption in the shower does mean compromise somewhere. Either in making the showering experience just functional (restrictors or turning off), bubbly and loud (aerators) or loud (high frequency pulse).

The most well known / regarded manufacturers are:

Aerators – Ecocamel, Oxygenics, Mira

Pulse – Nordic Eco