What Is A Thermostatic Shower Valve? (Find Out Now!)
Many people consider showers to be the focal feature in their bathrooms. When remodeling your bathroom and you want to add a new shower, there are dozens of options to choose from. Of late, many homeowners have been opting for thermostatic showers. But, what is a thermostatic shower valve, and how does it work?
As the name suggests, a thermostatic valve helps to maintain water temperature in the shower at a safe level. If you have a hot water shower, it’s easy to get scalded or, worse, experience thermal shocks from hot and cold water. A thermostatic valve mixes the hot and cold shower water to a predetermined and consistent temperature, hence preventing scalding and cold shock.
Showers are prone to running either too cold or hot. Besides, there’s always the risk of consistent fluctuations in temperature, especially when the water pressure is too low. For instance, when a toilet is flushed somewhere in the house, the tank will get refilled. This causes a dip in the cold water pipes. If someone is taking a bath, they will get scolded. Having a thermostatic shower valve will prevent this.
Types of Thermostatic Shower Valves
These thermostatic valves sit externally on your bathroom wall. Typically, they are made from brass and ABS plastic for durability. In addition, most bar valves come with a chrome-plated finish and feature easy-to-read water flow and temperature control dials.
If you’re looking for a thermostatic shower valve that’s a little upscale, the exposed valve is excellent for you. This shower valve also sits on your bathroom wall and is designed to allow you to conveniently switch between two outlets (the handset and the overhead shower, for instance).
For a more discreet and sleek style, look no further than concealed thermostatic shower valves. All the mechanics of these shower valves sit behind a plate fitted flush to your bathroom wall. As a result, only the control mechanisms of your thermostat will be left exposed.
How do Thermostatic Shower Valves Work?
As mentioned earlier, thermostatic shower valves are often installed by homeowners who no longer want to worry about water temperature fluctuations while showering. The valves work by adjusting temperatures constantly based on changes in water pressure and temperature. This ensures you receive an even and full shower temperature.
Most thermostatic valves control how cold and hot water supplies mix. If there’s a fluctuation in water temperature or pressure, the valves will make the necessary changes to regulate it. Each thermostatic valve comes with four basic features for water pressure and temperature regulation. These are:
The Thermostatic Element
This component is attached to a piston, and it’s the part of a thermostatic valve that widens or constricts to regulate water pressure. The thermostatic element is sensitive to water temperature, and that’s what enables it to widen and constrict in size.
The thermostatic element often widens when water temperature increases. In the process, the attached piston moves across the entry portals to allow either cold or hot water to flow. This reduces the volume of hot water while increasing the volume of cold water flowing into your shower’s plumbing system, thus regulating water temperature.
The Return Spring
When temperatures rise and the thermostatic element contracts, the return spring shifts the piston back in position across the entry portals. This allows cold water to flow, thus maintaining a constant water temperature.
Besides the external casting of a thermostatic shower valve, this is the part you see and control. Often, the temperature control is designed as a dial that allows you to either reduce or increase the water temperature. The temperature control moves the piston manually. This changes the quantities by which cold and hot water flows get mixed.
Shower Valve Requirements
The growing popularity of thermostatic shower valves in recent years is driven by codes requiring the products to get installed in new construction. Besides, most plumbing certification organizations have been adopting anti-scald requirements. As a result, it’s now mandatory for plumbing systems to have in-built means of regulating water temperature delivered through showerheads and tub spouts.
This may leave you wondering, is it necessary to replace your current single-handle valve with a thermostatic shower valve? Well, it all depends on your preferences and bathroom remodeling budget. Nevertheless, installing a thermostatic shower valve will go a long way in enhancing your shower experience.
Pros and Cons of Thermostatic Shower Valves
Undoubtedly, the most significant advantage of using a thermostatic shower valve is that it allows you to adjust both water temperature and pressure. Besides, you can conveniently change the volume of flow without any effect on the temperature of the water. This is a great feature, which you won’t find in conventional shower valves such as the pressure balance valve.
Since a thermostatic valve allows you to regulate both water temperature and flow, water conservation is easy. For instance, you can turn down the flow of water when shaving or shampooing. The valve comes with a wax piece that instantly reacts to heat changes to balance the hot and cold water ratio.
If either the cold or hot air stops flowing, the thermostatic shower valve will automatically stop water from flowing from the other side. Thus, a thermostatic shower valve gives you full control over your shower water temperature.
With a thermostatic shower valve, protecting your shower against bacterial contamination is easy. For instance, if you set your water heater at 140°F, the water that comes out of the showerhead will always be 100°F. Therefore, it’s always advisable to set the highest output temperature on your thermostatic shower valve to guarantee maximum protection against bacterial contamination.
Thanks to the consistent water temperature when using a thermostatic shower valve, you’re guaranteed energy efficiency, better flow rates, and ultimately, lower water bills. Therefore, installing a thermostatic shower valve is one of the best decisions you can make.
Thermostatic Showers vs. Electric and Mixer Showers
Thermostatic showers often get confused with electric and mixer showers. If you’re remodeling your bathroom, it’s best to know the difference between these three types of showers. This way, it will be easier to find a temperature control unit that suits you best.
Manual mixer showers are designed to mix cold and hot water at a specified temperature. However, they cannot react to sudden water temperature changes like a thermostatic shower does. In case of a sudden change in water temperature, a thermostatic shower will instantly alter the temperature to what you pre-set. This eliminates the risk of cold shock or scalding.
Conversely, thermostatic showers differ from electric showers in different ways. However, the main difference is that a thermostatic shower relies on your home’s main water supply system to operate. Also, it works by regulating water temperature and pressure simultaneously.
Unlike thermostatic showers, electric showers come with an in-built heating element. Typically, the heating element is located inside the box mounted on the bathroom wall. Therefore, an electric shower only needs a cold water supply to operate. With an electric shower, the water temperature isn’t affected by usage in other parts of your home. Thus, heating your shower water is easy and economical.
How to Install a Thermostatic Shower
You need basic plumbing knowledge to install a thermostatic shower valve. Once you assemble the necessary plumbing tools, turn off the stopcock to drain water from the plumbing system. You should then choose the source of your cold and hot water.
If you fit the shower above a bath, it’s best to use your home’s tap water supplies. Likewise, if you fit the thermostatic shower in a cubicle or enclosure, use the nearest water source. This is often the piping under your home’s floorboards.
After connecting the shower valve to the water supply, switch the water supply on to check for leaks. Then, flush the system to eliminate any dirt that might be lodged inside before switching off the water supply via the stopcock once you ascertain there’s no dirt in the system.
You should then cut hot and cold outlet pipes to the required size before drilling holes for attaching the thermostatic valve. To ensure accuracy, mark the position where the thermostatic valve will sit as well as the screw points you’ll use.
The thermostatic valve needs to be aligned with the cold and hot water pipes. So, ensure its outlets fit snugly into the pipes. Once you do that, go ahead and turn on the water supply using the stopcock. While on it, check for leaks in the system, especially at the inlet. If there are no leaks, install the rest of your thermostat shower.
We all look forward to the best showering experience, and there’s no better way to do that than getting the water temperature right. Adding a thermostatic shower valve to your shower guarantees you precise control over both water flow and temperature.
Another advantage of installing a thermostatic shower valve is the peace of mind it gives you, especially if your kids and elderly family members use the shower. Thanks to the anti-scald feature of these valves, you’ll never have to worry about hot shower burns or cold shock.
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