If you are thinking about changing your shower you may well have looked around a few bathroom shops and been surprised by the number of choices you have. Even choosing a shower valve can be a confusing business so here's a guide to tell you what is what when it comes to showers.
Manual Shower Valves
This is the most basic type of shower. Most manual showers have a single lever control that you use to control the flow of the water and the temperature. They are very simple to use and usually are not expensive.
Thermostatic Shower Valves
The great advantage of a thermostatic shower valve is that it can provide a constant, even temperature and cope with fluctuations in the flow and temperature of the hot and cold water feeds. Most thermostatic valves have extra anti-scald safety features and will cut off the flow of water if the cold water supply fails.
Concealed and Exposed Valves
Concealed / Exposed refers to the way the shower valve is mounted on the wall. A concealed shower valve is built into the shower wall so that most of the valve is hidden and only the control levers are visible. An exposed valve is mounted onto the shower wall so that the whole mechanism is visible. Many shower valves can be mounted either exposed or concealed.
Twin Shower Valves
Unlike a single lever valve, a twin valve has two controls, one control for the rate of water flow and a second control for the water temperature.
Triple Shower Valves
A triple valve has three controls; one for the water flow, one for the temperature and a third which is usually a diverter. The diverter is useful if you have two shower heads. It's becoming more common to have a fixed shower head above the shower and a hand-held shower head as well. The diverter on a triple shower valve allows you to select which shower head water is fed to.
Sequential Shower Valves
This is one we get a lot of questions about. A sequential valve has a single lever that works rather like the knob on your cooker. When the lever is fully anti-clockwise the shower is off. As you rotate the lever it turns the shower turns on. With a sequential valve "on" means fully on so you have full pressure straight away. As you rotate the lever further you increase the temperature of the water.
A recent newcomer is the shower panel or shower tower. This is a single unit that contains everything you need for a sensational shower. Specifications vary but usually include a shower valve (often thermostatic), a diverter, a fixed shower head, a hand held shower and several body jets. Shower panels are easy to install but can require quite high water pressure to work well so you may want to install a shower pump as well.
These days, shower components are standardized enough that you can pretty much pick and choose the parts you want to create the shower of your dreams. You can choose from hundreds of shower valves, diverters and stop valves, have multiple heads, ceiling mounted heads, riser rails, rigid risers or body jets to build exactly the shower you want, individual and customized to your own needs. After all, how else will you get a shower with 16 jets and a 12 inch shower heads?
Electric showers heat the water as it passes through the shower so they only need a cold water supply so you have simpler plumbing and don't need any hot water to run them. Electric showers are particularly popular in en-suites.
A power shower is basically a shower with a built in pump. A power shower needs both hot and cold water supplies. A power shower does not heat the water; it pumps water through and increased water pressure, giving you a stronger shower. Power showers are ideal where you have low water pressure, perhaps in a bungalow.
So there you have it. Not quite everything you need to know about showers, but a good start!