If you are looking to add a shower to your home then you might be considering an electric shower.
The first thing you need to establish is whether an electric shower is the best choice for you.
You will need to decide on:
- what shower works best with your heating system
- your budget
- how powerful you want your shower to be
- how easy the shower will be to install
We will look at each of these in turn.
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Electric Showers And Your Heating System
The great thing about electric showers is that they work independently of your heating system. So they will work with any type of heating.
They take cold, mains pressure water and heat it up, as and when required. No energy is wasted in keeping a tank of water hot all the time.
So isn’t the heating system irrelevant?
Well, yes and no!
If you have a combination boiler this will do the exact same job as an electric shower. It heats the water when you need it. So a mixer shower might be a better option in this circumstance. There are various models available that are specifically designed to work with combination boilers.
If you have a stored hot water system you might find yourself heating two lots of water. Your boiler will keep a tank of hot water on standby all day ready for washing dishes or running a bath. It will still do this if you have an electric shower. So you will be paying for your boiler to heat the stored water plus paying for your electric shower to heat the shower water.
But an electric shower might still be a good choice.
You might prefer to have an independent showering option: an electric shower will still work if your heating system fails. You might even just keep the electric shower as a backup and use your main heating system for general showering duties.
The location for installation might be in a different part of the house from the bathroom. So running both hot and cold water pipes to this place might be tricky.
There are so many variables but at least you are now armed with the knowledge of how a electric shower can be integrated into your home.
Is Installing An Electric Shower Cheap?
It can be. But, as usual, there are many variables to consider.
Electric showers are relatively cheap to buy so the main cost is going to be in the installation. They require two inputs: a mains water feed and a separate electricity supply.
Your bathroom will already have a mains water supply somewhere in the room. Running a pipe up or down to the shower should be relatively straightforward. Running a pipe down the wall from an attic above is the ideal solution as this will look neater.
A new, heavy duty cable will need to be run from the shower back to your fuse board. The route that this cable takes will depend on where it can be run and how effectively it can be hidden. It can be run in trunking but ideally it would be better if it were not seen at all. The electrical side of the installation will usually be more costly than the plumbing side.
Neat v Cheap
Both the cable and the pipework need to be buried in the wall for the neatest finish. You might be lucky and have an airing cupboard behind the site of the shower. This will enable the pipe and cable to be fed into the shower from the rear. But if you do not have such a set-up you have 2 options:
1. Run the pipe and cable on the surface
2. Chase out the wall and bury the cable and pipe.
Pipes and cables everywhere will spoil the look of the room but it will be a lot cheaper. You will incur the cost of redecorating if you chose to bury the pipe and cable. This might be relatively cheap if you have spare tiles. Or quite expensive if it means having to redecorate the whole room.
You could choose bathroom wall panels if you need to redecorate. This material requires little or no preparation and can be fitted on top your existing tiles. You can find out more about bathroom wall panels here
Electric Shower Power Rating
You will see that electric showers have different rating usually given in kilowatts.
What this essentially means is that a shower with a higher kilowatt rating will be able to heat more water as it flows over the heating elements. So a lower wattage will mean a less powerful flow of water.
Ideally you should opt for the highest rating you can afford as this will give the best performance. Keep in mind that higher rated showers will require larger cables be run to supply the electricity to the unit. They might also require a higher incoming pressure for your water supply.
Installing all of the cables and associated fuses is not a job for a DIYer so it is best to get a professional to check out your plumbing and electrical requirements before buying a shower.
The pipe and cable can be run to the shower unit from various directions as mentioned previously. Some of the better quality showers will accommodate these variations. They will have multiple entry points for the cable and the pipework. Some will have a moveable water inlet connection that you can turn to the direction that suits your installation best.
Do not tile around an electric shower because this can invalidate the guarantee. It should be fitted on top of the tiles or wall panels. Many manufacturers will also stipulate that they require a service valve be installed. This is a small water valve that can be shut off to enable the unit to be removed without having to shut down the water supply to the house.
Take into consideration the heights of the people using the shower. When fitting the slider rail ensure that all the users will be able to reach or fit underneath the shower head.
In general the higher the temperature you require the less flow of water there will be. This is why it is important to choose a shower with a high Kw rating. For any given temperature setting it will be able to heat more water.
People using water elsewhere in the house can affect an electric shower. Less water going into the unit can see the temperature rise. This should never get too hot as most showers are designed to cut out before this happens. There are thermostatic showers available that regulate the temperature more accurately reducing fluctuations in the heat levels that you experience.
Another safety feature you might come across is Phased Shutdown. It ensures that the heating elements are cooled down before the water shuts off when you finish using the shower. This is because water in the heating chamber can get very hot when the water stops flowing and the elements are still hot. If you turned the shower back on in this circumstance you could get scolded without the phased shutdown feature.
Other Design Features
The shower head on the unit might offer various spray patterns. This is not quite as exciting as it sounds as you will not be able to produce the wide range of spray patterns that a power shower would produce.
Very large shower heads might also be of limited use as electric showers simply do not produce enough flow for them to work as well as you would expect.
The Kw rating of the shower is the main determining factor in how powerful the shower will be not the design of the shower head.
Some hand-sets have a rub clean feature. The nozzles on the hand-set are made from a silicone rubber which enables them to be cleaned easily. They can block up with any contaminants in the water supply or with limescale. Rubbing your thumb across the jets dislodges and blockages and ensures a good spray.
Recessed electric shower are not very common but they are available. This moves away from the white box design and allows for a neater appearance with the majority of the functional components positioned behind the wall. They are an up-market option and are not something you will find at the cheaper end of scale.
Are Electric Showers Any Good?
Yes. They are great at what they are designed for.
If you are looking for pulse jets and a drench shower head then you will be disappointed. You would need to buy a power shower to obtain these levels of performance.
But if you want a quick, effective shower then they work perfectly well. They are also relatively cheap to buy and are very efficient in their use of power and water.
Buy an electric shower with the highest Kw rating available as this will be be the biggest factor in ensuring you are happy with its performance.