Selecting the right shower valve is essential for a comfortable and enjoyable showering experience. This guide explores the three main types of shower valves available: pressure balancing, thermostatic, and full diverter shower valves. Understanding their functions will ensure you select the perfect valve for your showering satisfaction.

  1. Pressure Balancing valve
  2. Thermostatic shower valve
  3. Diverter Valve
new shower mixer fitting
concealed shower mixer fitting

What is a shower valve?

 

The shower valve is the heart of your shower system, hidden behind the wall. It controls both the water flow and temperature for your showering experience. It is a device that regulates water temperature, flow, and output to the showerhead, tub spout, and other shower accessories. The cartridge in the valve connects it to the external trim handles as a supporting player in controlling the water flow and temperature.

Types of Shower Valves Explained

Pressure Balancing Valves: The Reliable Champion

The pressure balancing valve reigns supreme for maintaining a consistent and comfortable water temperature. Imagine stepping into a steaming shower without sudden bursts of scorching or icy water – that’s the magic of a pressure-balancing valve.

How it Works:

This ingenious valve acts like a thermostat for your shower. It constantly monitors and adjusts the hot and cold water flow to maintain your desired temperature, even if there are fluctuations in the main water pressure. Popular brands like Bristan, Aqualisa, and Triton offer a wide range of pressure-balancing valves to suit various needs and budgets.

Benefits

Effortless control: A single handle or lever regulates both water temperature and flow, making it easy to find your perfect shower setting.
Affordable choice: Typically more budget-friendly compared to thermostatic valves.
Ideal for: Homes with relatively consistent water pressure and those who prioritize ease of use.

Drawbacks

Temperature Adjustments: Requires minor tweaks if water pressure fluctuates.

Not ideal for big swings: Struggles to maintain a consistent temperature with extreme water pressure changes.

Potentially less durable: Budget-friendly models might need repairs sooner.

Fewer safety features: May lack anti-scald protection compared to some thermostatic valves.

Pro Tip:

Install a shut-off valve behind the bathroom wall. Adding a shut-off valve behind the shower wall allows you to easily isolate the shower for maintenance or repairs without shutting off the entire water supply to your bathroom.

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The Thermostatic Shower Valve: The Master of Consistent Comfort

Imagine stepping into a shower where the water remains hot throughout, no matter what happens elsewhere in the house. That’s the magic of a thermostatic shower valve – the ultimate controller for a luxurious and consistent shower experience.

How it Works:

Unlike a diverter valve that redirects water flow, a thermostatic shower mixer valve acts like a dedicated temperature control system for your shower. It receives hot and cold water from the main supply and then mixes them to achieve your pre-set temperature. This ingenious valve constantly monitors the water mix and adjusts it as needed to maintain that temperature, even if there are fluctuations in the water pressure. Leading brands like Grohe, Hansgrohe, and Bristan offer a variety of thermostatic shower valves with innovative features.

Beyond Basic Temperature Control:

Modern thermostatic shower valves go beyond just maintaining a consistent temperature. Some advanced models offer additional functionalities, such as:

  • Anti-scald Protection: This crucial safety feature automatically shuts off the hot water supply if it detects a potential for scalding temperatures. This is ideal for households with young children or those who are sensitive to sudden temperature changes.
  • Digital Temperature Display: Some shower valves feature a digital display that shows the exact water temperature, allowing for precise control and peace of mind.
  • Eco-Friendly Options: Certain models incorporate water-saving technology that reduces water consumption without compromising showering performance.

Benefits:

  • Luxuriously Consistent Temperature: Ensures a constantly comfortable shower experience, ideal for those who crave unwavering temperature control.
  • Enhanced Safety: Many models offer anti-scald protection for added peace of mind.
  • Precise Control: Allows you to set your desired temperature with accuracy and maintain it throughout your shower.
  • Modern Features: Advanced models offer functionalities like digital displays and water-saving technologies.

Drawbacks:

  • Typically More Expensive: Thermostatic shower valves are generally more expensive than pressure balancing or diverter valves.
  • Slightly More Complex Installation: Compared to simpler shower valves, installing a thermostatic valve might require a qualified plumber, especially with models featuring advanced functionalities.
  • Potential Maintenance Needs: While reliable, occasional cleaning or service might be required following the manufacturer’s recommendations.
Bathroom fitting including a new bathtub

Diverter Shower Valve: The Master of Multitasking Showers

The diverter shower valve is the ultimate control centre for a customized showering experience. Imagine switching seamlessly between a rain showerhead for a relaxing soak and a handheld sprayer for targeted cleansing, all with the twist of a knob. This valve’s magic lies in its ability to redirect water flow between different front shower head outlets.

How it works:

A diverter valve acts as a traffic cop for your shower water. It receives water from the main supply and then, based on your selection, directs the flow to one or more outlets simultaneously (depending on the valve’s design). Popular brands like Grohe, Triton, Hansgrohe, and Mira offer various shower diverter valve name options, including:

  • Two-Outlet Diverter: This is the most common type, perfect for showers with a fixed showerhead and a handheld sprayer. Simply turn the knob or lever to switch between the two, or use them together for a truly immersive experience.
  • Three-Outlet Diverter: For showers with additional features like body sprays, a three-outlet diverter provides even more control. You can enjoy a full-body spa experience by directing water flow to the showerhead, handheld sprayer, and body sprays simultaneously, creating a luxurious and invigorating shower.

Beyond Basic Functionality:

Modern diverter valves go beyond just controlling water flow. Some advanced models of shower diverter shower valves, particularly from brands like Grohe and Tristan, offer additional features like:

  • Integrated pressure balancing or thermostatic control: These combine the versatility of a diverter with the consistent temperature control of a pressure balancing or thermostatic valve. This ensures a comfortable shower experience regardless of water pressure fluctuations.
  • Volume control: Certain diverter valves allow you to regulate the water flow to each outlet independently. This lets you create a customized showering experience with varying intensities.
  • Stylish design: Gone are the days of plain, utilitarian shower valves. Many manufacturers offer diverter shower valves with sleek and modern designs that complement the overall aesthetic of your bathroom.
Bathroom fitting project with new taps, sinks, and shower

Benefits:

  • Offers greater showering versatility, allowing you to customise your showering experience.
  • Perfect for showers with multiple showerheads or body sprays.
  • It is convenient for rinsing off after showering or targeting specific areas.

Drawbacks:

  • It may not be necessary for showers with a single showerhead.
  • It can slightly increase installation complexity.

Concealed Shower Valve:

shower tray inspection by our plumber

Imagine a shower where only the sleek handles and a minimalist escutcheon plate grace the wall. That’s the beauty of a concealed shower valve. The valve body and most plumbing are hidden behind the wall, creating a clean and modern aesthetic. This space-saving design is perfect for smaller bathrooms, maximizing the feeling of openness. Additionally, concealed valves often feature thermostatic controls, allowing you to set your desired temperature with precision for a luxurious and consistent showering experience. However, the hidden nature of this valve comes with a trade-off. Installation is more complex and requires working within the wall cavity, potentially increasing the cost. If repairs become necessary, accessing the valve body might also involve opening up the wall.

Exposed Shower Valve:

Exposed shower valves offer a traditional and straightforward approach. The valve body and controls are mounted directly on the shower wall, making them readily accessible. This translates to simpler and potentially less expensive installation compared to concealed valves. Additionally, repairs are a breeze as the valve is easily reachable. Exposed valves come in both pressure-balancing and thermostatic options, although some may be simpler models with less precise temperature control. While exposed valves might not boast the minimalist look of concealed models, they offer a timeless aesthetic that complements various bathroom styles. However, keep in mind that exposed valves take up wall space and might feel visually intrusive in smaller bathrooms.

Exposed Shower Valve vs. Concealed Shower Valve

Deciding between concealed and exposed shower valves depends on your priorities. Concealed valves offer a sleek, minimalist look as they’re hidden behind the wall, ideal for smaller bathrooms. They often feature thermostatic controls for precise temperature but require more complex installation and may be trickier to access for repairs. Exposed valves, mounted directly on the wall, are a classic choice with simpler installation and easy access for repairs. However, they take up wall space and might feel visually bulky in a compact bathroom. While exposed valves can be thermostatic, some may offer less precise temperature control compared to concealed models. Ultimately, consider your desired aesthetics, available space, budget, and the importance of precise temperature control to choose the perfect valve for your shower. Consulting a plumber is always recommended to ensure compatibility with your existing plumbing system.

Choosing the Right Shower Valve:

Consider these factors when making your decision:

  • Showering habits: Do you prefer a consistent temperature or like to adjust it frequently?
  • Water pressure: Does your plumbing system experience frequent pressure fluctuations?
  • Shower features: Do you have a single showerhead or multiple outlets like a handheld sprayer?
  • Budget: Pressure balancing valves are typically the most affordable, while thermostatic shower valves offer the most advanced functionality but at a higher cost.

Other things to consider:

  • Number of Valve Ports: Plan your shower layout – walk-in showers need a 3-port valve (hot, cold, showerhead), while tub/shower combos require a 4-port valve for an additional tub spout.
  • Isolation Valves: Convenience during repairs – these shower valves allow you to shut off water only to the shower valve, not your entire building (great for apartments!).
  • Shower Valve Brands: Opt for reputable brands like Bristan, Aqualisa, Triton, Grohe, Hansgrohe, or Mira.
bathtub fitting with new sink and radiator

Top Shower Valve Brands recommended by us

Choosing the right shower valve brand is crucial for a smooth installation, reliable performance, and a luxurious showering experience. Here are some top London picks to consider:

  1. Bristan: Renowned for affordability and reliability, Bristan offers a wide range of shower valves with stylish designs. They prioritize user-friendliness and are known for being a good value for money.
  2. Aqualisa: Specializing in showering solutions, Aqualisa stands out for innovative features like easy-grip handles and temperature memory in their shower valves. These features enhance comfort and convenience in the shower.
  3. Triton: A well-known UK brand specializing in showers and electric showers, Triton provides budget-friendly and easy-to-install shower valves. They are a great option for those looking for a practical and cost-effective solution.
  4. Grohe: Renowned for German engineering and innovative technology, Grohe offers high-quality thermostatic shower valves with features like precise temperature control and sleek designs. If you value cutting-edge technology and a luxurious feel, Grohe is a top contender.
  5. Hansgrohe: Another German brand known for luxury and innovation, Hansgrohe offers thermostatic shower valves with advanced features like EcoSmart technology for water conservation. They prioritize quality, design, and sustainability.
  6. Mira: A leading UK brand specializing in showers, Mira offers a variety of thermostatic shower valves with user-friendly controls and excellent safety features like anti-scald protection. Safety and ease of use are key priorities for Mira.

Shower Valve Selection Mishaps: A Costly Headache

Here’s what can go wrong if you don’t consult a plumber before selecting a shower valve:

  • Compatibility Issues: You might purchase a valve that’s incompatible with your existing plumbing (e.g., wrong connection type). This would necessitate returning the valve and potentially delaying your project.
  • Outdated Valve: If keeping the existing valve, you might not realize it’s not a pressure-balancing type, leading to inconsistent temperature and potential code violations in the UK.
  • Incorrect Trim Selection: Without knowing the brand and model of your valve, you might purchase shower trim that’s not compatible, requiring another trip to the store.
  • Unexpected Installation Challenges: Unawareness of your connection type (compression, BSP, PEX) could lead to difficulties during installation, requiring additional parts or delaying the process.
  • Safety Concerns: You might unknowingly choose a non-compliant valve that doesn’t meet UK safety regulations, potentially leading to safety hazards or future issues during inspections.

 

Shower renovations can be exciting, but selecting the right shower valve is crucial to avoid costly delays. Consulting MML Plumbing before you embark on your concealed shower valve shopping spree ensures a smooth experience. We can help verify compatibility with your existing plumbing, confirm the valve meets UK regulations, and ensure a seamless installation.

brass wall hung tap fitting

Valve-Trim Compatibility: The Key to a Cohesive Shower

Imagine renovating your shower and having everything planned perfectly – a sleek new valve and a stunning shower trim kit. But then, disaster strikes! The trim kit doesn’t fit the shower valve type or body. This frustrating scenario highlights the importance of valve-trim compatibility.

  1. Shower Valve: The hidden control centre behind your shower wall. It regulates water flow and temperature.
  2. Shower Trim Kit: The visible part of the shower system, including the handles, escutcheon plate (decorative plate around the valve), and sometimes the showerhead.

Valve-trim compatibility simply means that the specific shower trim kit you choose must be compatible with the brand and model of your shower valve. They need to work together seamlessly for proper functionality and a cohesive aesthetic.

Ensuring Compatibility:

  • Brand and Model: Always check the brand and model of your shower valve before purchasing a trim kit. Look for compatible trim kits recommended by the valve manufacturer.
  • Universal Trims (Limited Option): In rare cases, some universal trim kits might work across different valve brands. However, this is not a guaranteed solution and is best discussed with a qualified plumber.
  • Professional Help: If unsure about compatibility, MML Plumbing can help you identify your valve model and recommend compatible trim kits.

Shower Valve Connection and Installation

Shower valves control water flow and temperature, but connecting them requires expertise in different connection types (compression, BSP, PEX) and building regulations. For safe and leak-free, exposed shower valves, consider calling a qualified plumber to handle the installation.

 

Consult An Expert Plumber – MML Plumbing

Shower valve selection can make or break your renovation. Don’t risk incompatibility or regulation issues. MML Plumbing’s expert consultation ensures your chosen valve works seamlessly with your existing setup, meets UK standards, and guarantees a hassle-free installation.

FAQ

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Usually, you can identify the brand and model by looking for markings on the valve body itself, behind the trim plate. If unable to find markings, a plumber can help identify them based on an inspection.

Both divert water flow, but they differ in functionality:

  • Diverter: Typically used with a single shower outlet (like a showerhead), it allows you to switch water flow between the showerhead and a handheld sprayer (if present).
  • Transfer Valve: Used with multiple shower outlets (like a showerhead and body sprays), it lets you transfer water flow between these outlets, not simultaneously.
  • Thermostatic Valve: Offers the most precise temperature control by mixing hot and cold water to your exact pre-set setting.
  • Pressure-Balancing Valve: Maintains a consistent temperature by automatically adjusting the hot and cold water mix to compensate for pressure fluctuations. It’s simpler but less precise than a thermostatic valve.

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