The vagaries of antiquated plumbing systems can result in poor flow, long pipe runs that deliver gallons of cold water before hot water reaches the taps, and erratic temperatures, which are caused by other fittings or appliances drawing water away from taps and showers when they are in use.
A sudden rise or drop in the bathrooms water temperature is not just inconvenient; it can pose a serious safety hazard from accidents caused by scalding. If you have an old system, it is worth getting it checked over by a plumber before you install new, state-of-the- art shower to find out whether it will cope and give optimum performance with the increased demand.
Although the flow of hot water to taps in the home is usually adequate for general use, most standard showers in the UK do not have sufficient force. The pressure head or “head of water” is dictated by the cold water storage tank in an upstairs cupboard or roof space. For showers to operate well, there should be at least 3.6m (72ft) vertical pipe drop between the tank and the shower head. Electric showers take water directly from the mains to supply a constant heat and water flow.
With several different valve options on offer, it is possible to select the unit most suitable for the bathrooms purpose – whether a high-flow combination shower for a bathtub filling or a water-saving shower mixer for a bathroom basin. When it comes to taps and shower fittings, thermostatic valves or controls are well worth investing in as they automatically maintain the selected water temperature. Single control thermostatic valves are the simplest to use, with a lever or knob that is turned from the “off” position through “cold” to “hot.” Dual – control thermostatic valves feature two controls – one sets the required temperature; the other regulates the flow of water. It is possible to pre-set the temperature so it always runs at a comfortable level. Some incorporate a safety button that must be pressed to produce hotter water than the usual; these are particularly useful in homes with young children or those with special needs.
Although many shower units can be used without a pump, this may be required for some shower systems to give the water pressure an additional boost. Depending on whether the pump will be required to supply just the shower or the whole bathroom, a single or twin pump may be needed. Always ask your bathroom specialist or plumber for advice since pumps are not suitable for every situation.
More generally known as grey water, waste water is not under pressure as it leaves fixtures and appliances, so most waste pipe and connecting joints are manufactured in plastic. To drain away swiftly, waste pipes should slope downwards towards the soil pipe or outside waste pipe. Air from the vented soil pipe equalises the pressure to help grey water and sewage be washed away easily. All appliances, from toilets to basins, need a trap or “U”-bend that holds water forming a “seal” to prevent the smell from drains drifting back into the room. Basins, showers, and tub wastes should include a filter mechanism to trap hair and stop small objects from being accidentally washed away; these should be cleaned periodically.
There will always be occasions when the location of a toilet, shower, or basin causes plumbing problems since conventional gravity drainage cannot be relied upon. This often occurs in basements, en-suite bathrooms, and under-stair conversions where it is not feasible to link the toilet directly to the soil pipe. Electronic pumps can be installed vertically or horizontally to pump grey water away from basins, showers, tubs, and bidets into the sewer. Macerator pumps fit neatly behind the toilet or panelling and are automatically activated when the toilet is flushed, The macerator turns waste and water into a sludge that is then pumped through pipes to the main soil pipe.