/ Home & Energy

Are you prepared to cut your shower time in half?

On average we apparently spend eight minutes in the shower. That’s double what we should be spending. And I mean ‘spending’ quite literally – at 30p a pop, UK families are wasting £416 a year keeping clean.

Put your left hand up if you’re a shower person, or your right hand up if you prefer a bath. Put your left hand down if you shower for less than five minutes.

If your hands are by your side, well done, you’re being relatively good to the environment. However, for some reason I expect most of you still have your arms dangling in the air, dripping wet from all the water you’re wasting.

Almost as much as a bath

A new survey by Unilever has found that the average shower lasts eight minutes – that’s 62 litres of hot water washing down your plug hole, compared to the average bath’s 80 litres.

The average shower was previously thought to be under five minutes, but this was based on anecdotal questionnaires asking people how long they thought they were in the shower. That obviously wasn’t terribly reliable, so Unilever took a more objective response.

No, they didn’t stand next to people showering with a stopwatch and clipboard. Instead, Unilever used ‘data loggers’ attached to the shower pipe of 100 families recording 2,600 showers over a 10-day period.

Why are we spending so long in the shower?

To be honest, I didn’t think eight-minute showers wasted so much water. I’ll get the stopwatch out next time, as I’m sure I’m in the water for about that long. But there’s a bigger sting than just the shampoo in my eyes – I use a power shower.

An eight-minute power shower uses 136 litres, nearly twice as much as taking a bath, and will cost about 63p. I shower once a day (unless I’m being a slob) so that’s me spending £230 a year on keeping clean and wasting almost 50,000 litres of sparkling clean steaming hot water. Am I worth it? Probably not.

But I’m not the worst. Some people I know have two showers a day, and even shower closer to the half an hour mark…

Tips to save water when you shower

Paula Owen, an independent environmental consultant, told the BBC that four-minute showers are optimal:

‘The results here show that the average time spent in a shower is double that. This wastes not only water, but also the energy needed for heating the water.

‘If you are partial to singing in the shower, pick a short pop classic to shower to; and when lathering up think about turning the flow off until you’re ready to rinse.’

If those tips don’t float your boat, I have some others to save water when you shower:

  • Invest in a water-saving shower head.
  • Keep your showers to no longer than five minutes, or use a water-saving timer that lets you know when you’ve exceeded 35 litres.
  • Try not to run your shower before you get in – keep your shower set at your preferred temperature so you don’t have to spend time adjusting before use.
  • Use a less powerful setting to reduce water use, or select the eco shower setting if you have one.
  • Over time, the water that escapes from a dripping shower adds up – get it fixed to avoid needless water waste.

So does this peek into Britons’ cleaning habits compel you to spend less time in the shower?

Comments
Profile photo of NFH
Member

This expression “power shower” is quite misleading. The reality is one needs to install a pump in British homes to bring a shower up to the normal water pressure of most industrialised countries. A so-called “power shower” is just a normal pressure shower. A non-pumped British shower is inadequate and is laughed at by foreign tourists. It is extraordinary that after many British householders have finally rectified the problem of low water pressure, we are now being told we should reduce the pressure again.

Profile photo of rarrar
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I dont know how we managed before showers with 1/2 baths ( shared) a week and a washdown with a flannel in between.
Think of the water and energy we saved plus the saving on moisturiser creams, shampoos and shower gels !

Profile photo of wavechange
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My 36 year old 6kW electric shower produces a gentle spray of warm water. It does not use much electricity or water compared with modern power showers. I use the shower every day, so I don’t feel the need to be pressure washed.

Profile photo of Patrick Steen
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Good to hear, but doesn’t sound too enjoyable. I have to say I dislike dribbling showers, especially in the winter.

The question is, how long do you spend?

Profile photo of wavechange
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I suppose it depends on what you are used to. I have a wall-mounted fan heater in the bathroom, which makes the small room nice and warm very quickly and helps to avoid condensation. I have always hated cold bathrooms and it is little compensation to have a hot shower.

Profile photo of wavechange
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Having timed myself several times, I spend no more than 5 minutes in the shower.

Profile photo of Patrick Steen
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Pretty good Wavechange, quicker than me.

Profile photo of Hannah Jolliffe
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I have to hold my (left) hand up here – I’m a ‘shower person’, and I probably do spend up to 8 minutes showering some days, especially when washing hair. It’s particularly hard in cold weather to drag yourself back out of the shower, so I often stay in for ‘just a bit longer’! I try to be as frugal and green as possible, but this has to be my biggest weakness. I’d be intrigued to time myself for a few days to discover how long I’m taking!

Profile photo of wavechange
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It is overall use of power and resources that matters so it does not matter that we have personal extravagances.

You are spending a long time in the shower and I am overheating my bathroom, but – overall – we are more frugal than most people.

Member
John Symons says:
24 November 2011

I wet my hair, shampoo, wash off, apply conditioner, shower and wash off conditioner. If that happens to take 8 minutes, that is NOT too long. The question is not time but water flow. We have two shower heads and I at least only use one at a time, the overhead one for hair washing and the side mounted one with the flexible pipe for showering.

Profile photo of Patrick Steen
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Well, I timed my shower this morning. I didn’t rush, I just showered as quickly/slowly as I normally would.

I took seven minutes. That’s saved me £30 and 6,000 litres of water a year from the numbers quoted in my Conversation… not too shabby.

Profile photo of Nikki Whiteman
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This piece of advice made me shiver: “think about turning the flow off until you’re ready to rinse.”

Argh! It’s winter! It’s cold! I normally leap straight into the shower to warm up of a morning (I’m exceptionally stingy with my heating and never have it on in the morning). If I had to turn the water off to lather up I’d be twenty times as grumpy on my way in to work.

Having said that, I can see the benefits of saving water – I’ll time myself tomorrow and see.

Profile photo of wavechange
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I can recommend a bathroom fan heater. I installed mine before I had double glazing because of condensation on the north-facing window. No shivering needed and it’s only used for about 10 minutes a day.

The importance of saving water depends a lot on where you live and the time of year. We have gone overboard with saving water in washing machines, which often don’t rinse adequately, but other household use does not get much attention.

Profile photo of terfar
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My power shower has a pause button. So after wetting, I pause it to shampoo my hair, rinse off and then pause it again whilst soaping the remainder, then rinse off again. I’ve not actually measured the water or time I actually run the shower, but judging from the water in the bath before I pull the plug, I’d say that it is a fraction of the water needed to take even a shallow bath.

I wish I could say that my Daughter was as economical when she comes home: I can’t wait until she has to pay for her own energy!

We heat all our hot water on Economy 7, so it really is economical even with a power shower. We have considered solar panels but have been put off by the general disruption it causes.

Profile photo of John Ward
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This question is all about nozzles, Patrick. I recently replaced the shower head with a new one which lets out less water in a finer spray. It doesn’t give the same Trafalgar Square Fountain effect but is nevertheless perfectly satisfactory and probably more economical even if the pump might be working harder to push the water through the smaller nozzles.
Since this is the website where we can all come clean about our personal habits without fear of unwelcome repercussions I shall describe my ablution routine in boring detail. First I run a basin of hot water to get the hot water into the pipes that feed the shower so that as soon I get in it runs at the right temperature. I run the shower for about one minute to ensure my whole body is soaked then turn off the shower while I lather-up. Rinsing-off takes about another minute under the shower then I do my hair in the same way with a short shower burst to wet the hair, a pause while I work in the shampoo [the merest drop is sufficient if done every day], and then a rinse under the shower. Once out of the shower I find the water in the basin is the right temperature to wash my face in preparation for shaving but I do then run a couple of pints of really hot water for the daily scrape. Given all our other extravagances, I think I can feel smugly satisfied on this one!

Profile photo of terfar
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I’ve thought about changing the head for one of the ‘eco’ shower heads, but the shower manufacturer warns against using non-approved heads (without saying why). It is tempting to get one to attach when my daughter is coming home!

Profile photo of Patrick Steen
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Indeed, I refer to water saving shower heads in the piece. But, blown away by your dedication…

Profile photo of tpoots
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I do love a good shower and I shower at least once a day, sometimes twice (especially as I commute on packed tubes and trains!) and it does make me shudder to hear the amount of water I’m wasting.

The problem here though is that I’m a creature of habit, I’ve had a strong power shower for a long time now so using anything less leaves me feeling ‘dirty’ (silly, I know!).

Profile photo of Pete Moorey
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I got given a ‘4 minute shower time’ by my water company (Thames Water) the other day. It’s basically an egg timer that you can stick up on the wall. Used it for the first time this morning.

A handy reminder, which I’ll probably use – unless my 2 year old trashes it in the meantime …

Profile photo of Jessica Moreton
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It seems a bit like swings and roundabouts to me. Some enjoy steamy hot water but have a cold bathroom, others have a quicker, cooler shower in an electrically heated room. It’s difficult to tell which is best.

I have to admit I am one of those strange people who turn the shower off part way through to lather up the shampoo. I’m pretty sure I’ve always done this and now it’s become habit. I’m no bathroom angel though. Despite being economical with the water I reckon that washing my hair and having a shower probably takes me about 15 mins. Probably a good thing I don’t have the water on the whole way through!

It is hard to use this technique with a power shower though – they seem to either go boiling hot or freezing cold if you turn it off and on again. I guess I’m lucky to have an old fashioned shower!

Profile photo of wavechange
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Spot on, Jessica.

I don’t like being frozen or scalded by showers when I stay in hotels or visit friends. What I hate most is these stupid continental-style lever mixer taps, since it is so easy to knock them and be scalded. I’m surprised that they are not banned because children and elderly users could be injured even if the rest of us are able to switch off fast.

Electric showers are much more predictable.

Profile photo of terfar
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The solution to the hot/cold conundrum is to get a digital-pump mixer shower. This is what we have and they are fantastic. Once they have reached your selected operating temperature (this may take just two or three seconds depending on how far the unit is from your hot water supply), they remain constant even after pressing the pause button and leaving it off for a few minutes whilst you shampoo or lather down. Once you press the go button again, it is a mere second or two until they stabilize to your pre-set temperature again and during that period they don’t scald or freeze you.

You can even set them to turn themselves off after a predetermine time.

Profile photo of Ben Stevens
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Jess, I don’t think it’s strange to turn the water off midway through a shower. I think it’s sensible. I turn it on when I get in, off while I lather, and on again to rinse before getting out to dry myself.
We don’t think it’s strange to turn off the tap while we brush our teeth.

Profile photo of Patrick Steen
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You turn off the shower when you get in Ben? Why did you get in in the first place? Why don’t you sit over the sink and rush tap water onto your hair to lather up? =)

Profile photo of Ben Stevens
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I’ll say it again, Patrick: I turn it on when I get in, off while I lather, and on again to rinse before getting out to dry myself.

Member
brat673 says:
24 November 2011

We had a power shower in our previous home but when we moved we had to change the water cylinder(an old copper one without insulation). We replaced it with a stainless steel one with a presure equalising and slightly reduced mains pressure. Result adequate shower pressure. Cold water and hot at same pressure so no cold shocks. No header tank in the roof ! No ball valve to stick in the loft ! No electric pump needed ! No copper cylinder to rot ! Did fit a water saving shower head. Confess not to have measured for savings. AS an aside should all hot and cold taps be single lever thermostatic set the temperature first. WATCH MANY PEOPLE TURN BOTH HOT AND COLD ON AND WASTE WATER!!

Profile photo of John Ward
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When visiting London I have always been fascinated that the Underground trains are only in the stations for about twenty seconds in the rush hour during which time hundreds get off and hundreds get on. Therefore I have been wondering what people are doing with the shower running for an average time of eight minutes, meaning some people are taking twelve minutes or more, presumably. I think eight minutes of constant running would take all the hot water out of our tank for about thirty minutes

Profile photo of Patrick Steen
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So, I tried to have the quickest shower I could have this morning. It was… *drum roll* … five and a half minutes long.

Not too bad – that would cut my eight-minute showers’ £230 and 50,000 litres a year, down to £158 and 34,000 litres. Now, what to spend the money on?

Profile photo of dave d
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I’ve never read so much rot in my life! Really I haven’t.

There must be thousands if not millions of different combinations of shower head, shower heater (electric) or pump (power shower), mixers, thermostatic valves and all the rest of the fixtures and fittings of a shower installation.

How on earth anyone or any organisation can come up with the water consumption and apparent fuel costs quoted in the intro, and expect them to be believed as accurate for all (or even most) shower users is utterly beyond me. It’s an absolute joke. And that’s before you even take into the equation those of us with power showers fed form the cylinder and solar panels heating the water for free for about half the year.

Of course we should all avoid being profligate with actual water – no disagreement from me there at all – but that’s where it ends. To try to scare monger over fuel use and cost in this way is nothing short of deception. (Patrick’s observation – which is skilfully worded – shows this instantly.)

And there is another issue – which Wavechange vaguely hinted at: Hygiene. Thanks to homes with hot and cold (or even just cold) running water the awful disease that were rife until the early 1900’s are all but unheard of now. But if we keep frightening people into not washing properly and encouraging folk to use less and less then our bodies, like our laundry, thanks to utterly useless new machines which save water, guzzle power (contrary to what we are told) and don’t do the job, will slowly get grubbier and less hygienic. Ultimately, if allowed to go to extremes, we will end up with diseases rearing their ugly heads again and trips on the tube will be infinitely less pleasant than they are even now.

Let’s get a grip: most showers (and baths) use much less water than Unilever’s survey suggests and there is no point in worrying about the fuel and money figures quoted as they are pure guesswork and will be inaccurate for the vast majority of households.

Wash properly; don’t deliberately run off gallons for the sake of it, and forget the rest.

Profile photo of John Ward
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Well said, Dave D. Utter tosh – story doesn’t wash.

Profile photo of Patrick Steen
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Of course, the numbers used are an average (you can find them here: http://www.which.co.uk/energy/creating-an-energy-saving-home/guides/how-to-use-less-water/why-save-water/ ) and as with any average there will be many showers (with different nozzles) that use a lot less water/power and some that use a lot more.

They are only there as a guide, but do show how much one minute can make over a year. So whatever type of shower you use, chopping the amount of time you take in half, would cut the amount of water and money in half too. The question is, is it worth making that effort and at what cost?

Some commenters here go to great lengths, so it would be good to hear how much water/energy they think they’re saving.

On another note, we picked your comment as one of the best for our round-up this week John Ward, along with Terfar: https://conversation.which.co.uk/energy-home/this-week-in-comments-cycling-showers-wonky-veg/ Thanks.

Profile photo of dave d
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The problem with Averages, Patrick, is that they can be very misleading, exceptionally misleading or just plain misleading depending on how they have been arrived at.

If the average quoted is the arithmetic mean (which it probably is) then approximately 49.5% of the households surveyed use less than that quoted and approximately 49.5% use more. And then we have to hope (it certainly isn’t safe to assume) that the sample used in the survey is truly representative of the whole population – which is fairly unlikely unless they were exceptionally scientifically chosen.

If the average is the Mode, then it’s much more clear as that would indicate that the majority (even if only 50.000001%) of those surveyed use the amount of water / energy indicated, but it could mean that every other household surveyed used anything up to 100% LESS – all unlikely I know, but that is what it would mean.

And if the average that has been used is the median then it really does mean that the figures are slap bang in the middle of the range of values, but it tells us absolutely nothing about how many people use exactly the figures quoted and how few (or many) use more (or less). It could technically mean that every single person surveyed uses exactly the figures quoted.

Joe Blogs and friends is brainy enough to know that all of the above possible scenarios are very unlikely to be exactly the case, which leaves us back where I posted yesterday: unable to draw any meaningful conclusion whatsoever from this data. I therefore stick to my view that we require common sense to prevail such that everyone is hygienically washed and we actively and energetically seek to reduce wanton profligacy.

And if you want my view, the best way to start that reduction is the regulate the sale of the obscenely wasteful luxury shower systems with multiple body jets, pumps to deliver up to twice mains water pressure and so on, which I don’t doubt most readers will have seen in showrooms and advertised.

If all showers were designed just to get us washed, and not to try to make unwitting fools believe that they live in a royal palace or Buxton spa, the average consumption of water and fuel, by any measure, would drop dramatically without anyone making any ‘extra’ efforts at all.

There is a similarity in the original question with the situation regarding buying A+++ rated domestic appliances whilst commercial enterprises continue to use wasteful technology on an industrial scale, or with forcing homes to use CFL’s whilst unoccupied shops and offices leave much less efficient lights, in massive numbers, burning for up to 12 hours when the building is unoccupied: specifically we are asking the majority who are already careful to go without the basics rather than reigning in the minority who are simply out of control. It’s rather like trying to put out a bonfire with a cup of water and teaspoon whilst leaving the arsonists with a free-flowing petrol pump and a box of matches next to your house: We’ll never win.

Profile photo of wavechange
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I’m all for scientific accuracy and details of how testing is carried out, but I see the purpose of this discussion is simply to raise awareness of the consumption of fuel and water when taking a shower. Whichever kind of shower you use, the consumption will be approximately proportional to the operating time.

It is the total use of energy and resources that matters and if we can find ways of helping to decrease this, it’s a step in the right direction.

I have still to answer Patrick’s question about how long I spend under my old 6kW shower because I’m making sufficient measurements to provide a meaningful average.

Profile photo of Janice Shipp
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I’ve never timed myself so maybe I will – or then again, maybe I won’t! So much time seems to be spent rushing through one acticity after another with one eye on the clock. I don’t want my relaxing evening shower turning into just another clock watching excercise. I reckon I’m pretty quick – certainly faster in the shower than the rest of my family. And since when was saving water such an imperative in Britain? I know it’s been a bit dry this year, but normally we can rely on plenty of rain, and I’m never sure why we should be so careful with the wet stuff. I’m sure someone would like to explain …………..

Member

Nice to see at least one other oldie remembering the bad old days when you had one bath a week and probably shared it too.
However it is pertinent to note that lots of folk don’t actually think whether or not they really need to shower once, twice or even more per day. The real answer is that you usually don’t! A wash in the basin does the trick and saves time and money. Perhaps a return to freezing bath rooms and rationed water wouldn’t be very be good, but how about a little nod to the past?

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John says:
2 December 2011

Whether the “average” figures quoted are accurate or not is irrelevant. The point is that we should avoid waste, especially profligate waste, that modern capitalism and affluence have led us to. Waste benefits nobody, quite the reverse of course, it just becomes a habit.
I turn on the shower, turn off and lather up, then turn on to rinse off; rarely more than one shower per day (and that’s probably six more per week than most people need in our climate!).
For many years we used a gravity fed shower that was perfectly adequate. Three years ago we refurbished the bathroom, including a fashionable, large spray head. This turned out to be surprisingly restrictive, delivering only a dribble, and I had to fit a pressure pump (the lowest power I could find). The result is a water delivery much on par with our old gravity fed shower, so I don’t feel guilty about fitting a power-shower!

Profile photo of lessismore
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Horses for courses. A cubicle works well in parents’ ancient and cold bathroom. Much less time taken for the shower than the bath but not sure about the water use – as it depends on the person.

This also depends on whether you are a long-haired or short-haired or no-haired individual. A dribble and splash of water won’t wash shampoo out. If it is too fiddly to get the right temperature then obviously you are not going to turn it off and on while you lather up.

The pause button does seems to be something to look for – and the thermostatic cut off so you can’t burn yourself.

Teenagers like showers – which is a big plus.

Why do we feel we need to wash so often nowadays? What was wrong with the twice daily wash and weekly bath? You don’t get that jn hospital. You can’t even wash your hands when you are a patient. Yet in the outside world we seem to be showering/bathing every day and washing our clothes after each time we wear them – and using far too many chemicals in the process.

Profile photo of maryxyx
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First I must admit to washing my hair in the shower. That may well use more water than the jug method.

Until recently my practice was to turn the shower on and wet my hair, turn it off and shampoo, turn it on and get wet, turn it off and wash, turn it on and rinse. Recently however I had a new bathroom installed and I can no longer do this. The new shower detects that it has been used within the last 15 minutes, declares a water feed blockage and shuts down until everything has cooled down and it is power cycled at the consumer unit. I pointed this out to the plumber and he said that is by design for a ‘modern’ shower. So is this water saving idea hopelessly old fashioned?

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John Whitehead says:
14 June 2012

I use the same hair washing method as did Mary Davey (wet hair, turn off shower and lather up, turn on shower tp rinse). I’m awfully glad that my shower (that I installed myself three years ago) does not incorporate such inconvenient and wasteful logic (that shuts down the shower for 15 minutes if you turn it off during use). This looks like another piece of daft technology that is being foisted on the unsuspecting consumer, some of it in the name of environmental care but often counter-productive. And, I know it is utterly disconnected to showers, but what about electrically operated parking brakes in cars? Is there anybody who actually likes these and finds them preferable to a lever actuated, mechanically operated brake, that is reliable?

Profile photo of maryxyx
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Presumably the parking brake uses a little less muscle power to operate, so is suitable for very lazy people. I would expect it to be less reliable too, which is not a good idea for brakes.

It is a good idea for a shower to shut down if it overheats. The design fault is not distinguishing between energy economy and overheating.

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Paul says:
16 August 2014

I stay in the shower 20-30 minutes. If I am in a hurry I take a 15 minute shower. I am not worried about saving water. I am sure there is enough water to last a long time.

Profile photo of wavechange
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Water is not like fossil fuels since it is a renewable resource. It is more of a precious commodity in some areas than others. If there is plenty of water available then long showers are just a waste of energy, but still more economical than filling a bath.

Member

Why the assumption that everyone is on a power shower? This is not going to make me sound green but a power shower is a luxury I can only dream of. We have a bog standard shower head at home. If I set the hot water stream too low the hot water cuts out for some reason, leaving you to shower in cold water which not everyone likes, and certainly not what you want in the middle of winter. So I have to turn both taps up to get a temperature that will last consistently for the duration of the shower. If heating-to-dribbler-shower systems were more efficient, I could shower perfectly well on a slower stream.

And pardon me, but I don’t see how everything can get done efficiently in 5 minutes, especially if you include the washing of long-ish hair. I notice that no one bothers to point this out in these types of discussions.

Member

…not to mention waiting a full minute for a dribbler shower to heat up (I am NOT climbing into a cold shower in January, ever).

Profile photo of wavechange
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Ana – If you select a shower head designed for low flow and keep it descaled you might solve your problem, otherwise it may need to be serviced.

Profile photo of malcolm r
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Shower as long as you like – life is too short. Personally mine lasts around 5 minutes if anyone is interested, but then i have short hair. if you are dedicated to saving energy then don’t make unecessary journeys or go on foreign holidays. Otherwise, enjoy life – it does eventually cease. 🙂

Profile photo of Beryl
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New build houses appear to have aerated taps which claim to reduce water consumption but according to http://www.telegraph.co.uk Property – Renovating and DIY – Jeff Howell 3 sept 2012, you are more likely to save on heating the water than its actual consumption. I have an aerater fitted to my kitchen tap which seems to increase the flow and the main reason I fitted it but I can’t say how efficient it is at saving water or whether it’s possible to fit an aerated shower head to my power shower.

Member
Steve says:
15 October 2016

Speaking to my daughter until i am blue in the face she still spend best part of half an hour in our electric shower, are there timers that can be fitted to stop water flow after about 10 mins or cut electric off after same