Shower power: Our guide to buys that could transform your bathroom

Kya deLongchamps has practical advice for the ultimate shower fit
Shower power: Our guide to buys that could transform your bathroom
A shower is one of life's relatively inexpensive pleasures. Picture: iStock
A shower is one of life's relatively inexpensive pleasures. Picture: iStock

A SKIN-STROKING shower is one of life’s intimate, relatively inexpensive pleasures. Who can get tired of stepping into the stream and striking up a song? Still, we’re dealing with a tailored water sluice. Get it wrong and you could be grimacing in a puddle, enduring a feeble, fitful spit or cringing in a cramped tray under a thundering tsunami. I don’t want to rain on your bathroom parade, but let’s put aside app-operated thermostat tickled glamour and get down to the steamy need-to-know.

PRESSURE POINT

Hansgrohe Raindance E, from €1,373 from a range of suppliers, hansgrohe.ie. The lower wand of a twin shower is useful for smaller members of the family.
Hansgrohe Raindance E, from €1,373 from a range of suppliers, hansgrohe.ie. The lower wand of a twin shower is useful for smaller members of the family.

The bar requirement will be on the product specifications -read the box-. Both combi-boiler systems without a hot water tank, termed high pressure vented, and mains pressure unvented with a dedicated strengthened hot water cylinder -say matched to a heat pump-, are ideal for a classic high pressure 0.5 bar-2-bar mixer showers.

Gorgeous over-head, digital-controlled showering: The dream. Still, is your pressure, flow and water storage up to the challenge? Tiles shown is a classic Penny Round Mosaic style by around                             €189 per metre, originalstyle.com
Gorgeous over-head, digital-controlled showering: The dream. Still, is your pressure, flow and water storage up to the challenge? Tiles shown is a classic Penny Round Mosaic style by around €189 per metre, originalstyle.com

Only a pressure gauge in the right hands can read what’s going on in the pipes. With 0.1 bar pressure, it’s a choice of a gravity-fed electric shower, or a power shower (with its own internal electric pump using your hot water cylinder supply).

An experienced plumber will explain static and maintained pressure and address any inconsistencies, editing your choice of shower.

Take the plunge, with a comprehensive pump retro-fit, to boost water pressure all over the house. Pump prices range from €180–€600 depending on brand and power, ex.installation and complicating plumbing feats.

Tip: Don’t blow toddlers off their feet with an overwhelming, large-diameter over-head head. Choose a dual-head mixer matched to a digital thermostatic control, the lower diverter head on a riser rail with gentling independent controls.

FLOW AND SUPPLY

This is the volume of water in litres per minute (lpm) coming out of the showerhead and any jets (again — on the specs). Incidentally, showerheads of every kind often restrict the flow delivered from the pump and the pipes and can halve the delivery to your skin.

Is your combi-boiler or the volume of the water cylinder up to thirsty powerful shower units? If a pump added to kick up pressure, is delivering 15l of water a minute, in 12 minutes it will have guzzled most of the hot supply of a standard domestic cylinder.

With a combi-boiler you will still need to match the on-demand performance of the boiler to multiple showers used at once.

Mira’s technical team explains that the warmer summer temperature of the incoming water supply influences the flow rate of an electric shower: “Showering temperature flow rates during summer months are substantially higher than in winter when a greater water temperature rise is required.”

Take a look at its Mira Magni-flow technology which optimises the internal valve waterways, producing three times more flow than other mixer showers, from an overhead and even a hand shower when they’re on at the same time – even at low pressure. This recent guide is a really useful guide to pumped showers: mirashowers.co.uk/media/1455/miras-guide-to-pumped-showers.pdf

Tip: Environmentally aware? Restrictors and bubbling, refreshing aerators actually lessen, rather than increase flow while increasing the wetting of your skin. Water charges may have been fought off, but it’s unlikely the EU won’t enforce them in the near future

ELECTRIC DREAMS

Triton's choice in electric showers offer full thermostatic control, silent running and 9kW powered flow rates for low pressure installation from as little as 1.5kW per ten minute shower. Your plumber only needs to access the cold water supply. From €129, tritonshowers.ie
Triton's choice in electric showers offer full thermostatic control, silent running and 9kW powered flow rates for low pressure installation from as little as 1.5kW per ten minute shower. Your plumber only needs to access the cold water supply. From €129, tritonshowers.ie

They are cold mains or cold gravity fed, depending on the system you have available. The lower flow rates of electric showers mean less water usage, and they generally can take one mucky child after another without a pause.

With an internal pump housed in the unit, water pressure is easily boosted in one fitting by your plumber and a RECI certified electrician. Electric showers will deliver a modest 4-8l per minute -depending on the kWs of the unit-. It’s not going to knock your dentures out. The wasp in the ear has been designed out in the best showers, check out what Triton now offer in their Silent Running collection, demanding as little as 1.4kW for a ten minute 9.5kW run, tritonshowers.ie.

Use electric showers in secondary bathrooms in a larger household with a combi-boiler that’s struggling to meet demand at 7.30am. Prices from €130 ex. installation.

Tip: in extensions, attic conversions or renovations, an electric shower needs only the cold water supply — a potential saving on the price and practical complexity of tapping into the existing hot water pipes

DRAINAGE

Just as we match the flow of our taps to our smaller or counter mounted sinks, we have to get the drainage right and ensure water is moving in the right direction.

The tray and drain should catch and channel the water away from the floor or tray at the rate it’s coming down over you. With any tray and especially with fashionable low profile shower trays, the deluge can otherwise flood a relatively slippery tile within less than a minute.

Discreet but effective, water should be channelled away as fast as it lands by the tray and drain, especially in a wet room or walk-in with low level tray. Matki products available to order in any colour via RAL, Pantone and tile matching. Dealers include waterloo.ie
Discreet but effective, water should be channelled away as fast as it lands by the tray and drain, especially in a wet room or walk-in with low level tray. Matki products available to order in any colour via RAL, Pantone and tile matching. Dealers include waterloo.ie

Tip: A small, self-priming pump can remove water at a proper rate if the floor is lower than the drain. 50mm and 90mm fast-flow minimally styled wastes are available for muscled up power showers gulping down as much as 55lpm. From €310, sanisflosales.ie

SURROUND SOUND

Sturdy 6mm–8mm safety glass in panels and cabinets should not cause a problem with a stumble during showering or the most powerful jet feature shower. How and ever, the hinges, rollers and seals of a cheap door will soon be evident.

Ensure the product is not only industry-standard but really locks in place firmly once you’re inside. Concertina style bi-fold designs have a poor reputation compared to hinged, sliding and pivoting doors.

Choose the composition carefully, using quality fixtures, dedicated seals and a professional installation. In a wet room, make any step out visible by at least 10cm or it may be overlooked, tripping you flat-faced onto the terrazzo.

Tip: Tanking is a multi-level complex process of waterproofing, it’s essential to get it right. Don’t bury ongoing damp problems behind glorious, expensive tiling by being cheap on products and experienced input.

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