What type of shower valve do i have?
Shower valves play an important role in your daily shower. The shower head may be where the water comes out, but the shower valve controls the water pressure and temperature, determining our comfort and convenience in the shower. When building or renovating a shower room, you need to choose a shower valve that is suitable for your own bathroom. There are many types of shower valves on the market, so how to choose the shower valve you want from the many types of shower valves? Below we’ll look at the types of shower valves, their functions, their uses, precautions, how to care for them and how to avoid common pitfalls.
What is A Shower Valve?
A shower valve is a device installed on a shower fixture to control water flow and temperature. It is part of the shower system and is responsible for adjusting the mixing ratio of hot and cold water to meet the user's needs for comfortable water temperature. Shower valves usually consist of a handle, a valve core and other internal components, and their design and functionality depend on the model and type.
Basically, a shower valve has two main functions:
- Water Flow Control: Through the operation of the shower valve, the user can adjust the intensity of the water flow from a gentle shower to a powerful jet to meet personal preferences and needs.
- Temperature Regulation: One of the key functions of a shower valve is to control water temperature. This can be achieved by mixing hot and cold water to ensure users enjoy a comfortable, consistent water temperature while showering.
If you're not familiar with shower valves, you can think of it as the heart of your shower system, controlling the flow and temperature of your shower head, tub nozzle, shower body spray, and more. Getting the right shower valve will not only ensure you have the shower of your dreams, but that you won't create a plumbing nightmare if there should ever be any repair needs with the product in the future.
What Types of Shower Valves are There?
Shower valve types include not only the common pressure balancing shower valves, thermostatic shower valves and diverter shower valves on the market. Also includes Shower mixing valve, Shower transfer valve, Volume control valves, etc.
1. Pressure balancing valve
Pressure balancing valves are designed to maintain consistent water pressure and temperature even when someone is using the faucet or toilet elsewhere in the house. They do this by mixing hot and cold water in the valve core, preventing sudden changes in water temperature. Pressure balancing valves, also known as shower pressure valves, anti-scald valves or mechanical valves, are the most common and effective shower valves. It is one of the best temperature control valves for showers given the precision of its temperature control.
Pressure balanced valves work through a series of diaphragms or pistons that move to balance the pressure of water from hot and cold water sources. They usually have a knob that changes the water temperature when turned to the left or right.
Example: Ever flush a toilet when someone was in the shower, only to get yelled at because you burned them with hot water as a result?
That's because you're not using a pressure balanced shower valve! Keeping pressure equalized in your home has become the plumbing norm these days - making it one of the most important types of shower valves.
What you are experiencing is cold water being pumped from the shower to the toilet, the cold water level drops while the hot water level remains the same, resulting in scalding hot water in the shower. A pressure-balanced shower valve senses pressure changes in the hot and cold lines and partially closes one side to continue providing consistent water temperature.
These shower valves can require more frequent maintenance.
As the internal cartridge balancing the pressure usually has a spool in it that can get locked up over time due to scale and heavy mineral deposits. This will inevitably result in your valve being unable to produce consistent water temperatures , until you get a pressure balanced shower valve replacement cartridge. But that's a small price to pay for safety. Most manufacturers offer a limited lifetime warranty on their valve cores and other parts. Therefore, when you need parts or troubleshooting, please contact the merchant or after-sales help in time.
A common pressure balance valve shower problem is the inability to control the amount of water.
So when you turn on the shower, it starts at the coldest temperature at full water pressure. Some valves offer temperature memory and volume control, but you need to know exactly what to look for. When choosing a shower valve type, you also need to know how many shower heads your project will use. Pressure balancing valves are suitable for use with up to one or two shower heads as they come with a standard size ½ inch water inlet. As for larger showers with more shower heads and body sprays, you’ll need a different valve type because this ain’t gonna cut it.
2. Thermostatic shower valve
A thermostatic shower valve works similarly to a pressure balancing valve to maintain a constant water temperature even when other appliances in the house are running tap water.
So how does a thermostatic shower valve work?
Unlike a pressure balancing valve that uses a spool to control pressure changes, a thermostatic shower valve uses a thermostat to regulate the temperature. Thermostatic shower valves provide more precise control of water temperature. Once you determine the temperature you want your shower to be, you never have to deviate from it. This is because a thermostatic shower valve has a temperature knob and a separate water volume control. Likewise, with most pressure balancing valves, you lose the temperature "memory" once you turn off the water.
Because of this design, thermostatic valves are one of the best types of shower valves for larger showers with multiple shower heads and/or body sprays. This is due to the fact that they typically have at least ¾ inch water inlets, allowing more water to flow through the valve to the multiple devices being used.
3. Shower diverter valve
The first two types of shower valves are the "main" shower valves that control flow and temperature. A diverter shower valve, on the other hand, is an optional valve that splits the flow of water between multiple shower heads. Therefore, if you only plan to use one shower head, you can skip using a shower valve with a diverter. Diverter valves are in addition to the main rough-in shower valve. I can't tell you how many times I've seen clients buy diverter valves thinking that they were the main shower valve, only to be sadly disappointed when passing it along to their plumber...leading to project setbacks.
You'll find these diverters mounted just above the main shower valve and come with their own individual controls. For a pressure balancing valve, you only need one of the diverter valves (since you can only use a maximum of two shower heads). For thermostatic shower valves, you can use multiple diverters to control all shower heads and body sprays. Typically, with thermostatic valves, a diverter is required for each shower head or spray.
When purchasing a diverter valve, look out for 2-way diverter shower valves and 3-way diverter shower valves. A two-way valve means you can divert water between two shower heads, while a three-way valve can deliver water to these separate shower heads or to both shower heads at the same time. I always go three way! For thermostatic shower valves, one diverter is usually required for each shower head or spray.
The main types of shower diverters are as follows:
- Tee diverter: Uses a pull arm to allow water to flow in a faucet. Once it reaches the right temperature, the pull arm blocks the faucet or faucet, thereby diverting the water from the shower.
- Two-valve diverter: Use one rotary control to control hot and cold water and use a second control to divert water between the tub and shower.
- Three-valve diverter: Uses three knobs, two for cold and hot water and a third to divert water between the tub and shower.
4. Shower mixing valve
Shower mixing valves or manual valves are the oldest type of shower valve and are most commonly found in older homes. This type of valve mixes cold and hot water from the tap and sends it to the shower head. If the cold water pressure drops, the mixing valve is at risk of being scalded because this type of valve cannot regulate sudden pressure surges.
5. Shower switch valve
Switching valves regulate the flow of water to multiple outlets simultaneously, such as bathtub showerheads, handheld showerheads, etc. With the help of a changeover valve, you can use several water outlets at the same time, such as fixed and handheld shower heads or shower heads with taps.
6. Volume control
Volume control valves allow you to control the flow of hot and cold water. This may be useful if you want to save water or if the water pressure is low and you need to increase the flow. Volume control valves are often used in conjunction with flow diverters.
Bostingner shower valves include two common shower valves on the market: thermostatic shower valves and pressure balancing shower valves. Different finishes and different functions meet the installation needs of most people.
Shower Valve Considerations:
When exploring and installing shower valves, understanding connection types, concealed versus exposed designs, and other factors is crucial:
Shower Valve Type: Connection Type
When exploring shower valve types and installing them, it's important to understand that there are different connection types.
Copper connection (CC) means that the plumber will have to directly solder the copper pipe into the valve.
Iron Pipe Straight (IPS), also known as 1/2" NPT, connections are threaded connections on the valve, where the plumber would attach an adapter to the valve before soldering the copper pipe into the adapter.
PEX is a plastic pipe that is superior to copper pipe due to its flexibility, resistance to scale, corrosion resistance, and ease of installation (no welding required).
More and more new construction is switching from copper pipe to PEX. Although copper pipes have been used in the United States since the 1980s, it does take some time for new home construction to catch up with all the older homes that use copper pipes.
These are just some of the connection types, which is why it's so important to talk to a plumber before going crazy shopping for a shower valve.
Concealed VS Exposed Shower Valves
Most valve designs are concealed, meaning they are hidden within the shower walls. This is perfect for small showers or shower-only bathrooms and if you want to minimize bathroom clutter for a clean minimalist or modern look.
Exposed shower valves are newer but increasingly popular because they can be installed without opening the wall and are installed on shower walls or tiles. This makes it easier to replace or repair valves and valve plugs. Exposed valves work best in the shower with a little wiggle room to avoid banging your elbows on installed components.
Do You Still Need a Shower Valve?
The shower valve is one of the necessary components for installing a shower system. But there are two situations where a shower valve is not needed.
1. The plumber plans to keep the same valve in the wall.
In this case, if the valve is not a pressure balanced shower valve, make sure that the plumbers changes it out to bring the shower up to code. If it's up to code and you decide to keep it, determine the brand and valve name so you can find the right shower trim.
2. The plumber intends to supply the valve.
Some plumbers have a preferred valve and install one without even consulting you. (Of course, the best plumbers will let you know, but let's not assume anything.) If this is the case, and you're happy with it, confirm the brand and valve name so you can get compatible trim.
1. Count the number of shower faucet handles
Typically, the type of shower faucet and handle will indicate the type of shower valve behind it.
- Zero handles may mean a shower panel faucet with buttons to control water flow and temperature.
- Single-handle shower faucets control flow and temperature with one handle and are the most common and easy-to-use option.
- Double-handle faucets control hot and cold water through each handle.
- Three-handle faucets control hot and cold water, and diverter handles divert water between shower heads, other shower accessories, or the tub.
2. Number of valve ports
Are you installing a walk-in shower or a tub/shower combo? This is important to know because there are 3-way and 4-way shower valves. The three-way valve has one for hot water, one for cold water, and one for the shower head. The four-way valve will also have a port that leads to the tub spout.
Remember, the plumber can always cap the fourth port on the valve if you only need three ports, but he can't create the fourth port if you only provide a three-way valve. Therefore, before purchasing a type of shower valve, understand your needs.
3. Determine the connection method of the shower faucet
A mounted showerhead, or fixed showerhead, is a shower pipe connected directly to the wall. This is a fixed shower head faucet and you may not be able to adjust the water flow angle.
A handheld showerhead, or handset showerhead, has a hose that extends from the showerhead to the shower pipe behind the faucet handle. They provide greater flexibility in moving the shower head.
4. Check/Service stops
Service stops on a shower valve are optional but certainly come in hand, especially if you are in an apartment or condo.
They allow you to shut off the water to the valve so you can make repairs without shutting off the main water source. If you live in a building with multiple other residents, this may mean you have to turn off the water to the building or floor before you can repair the valve, which can take some time to get approval from the building administrator. Even if you only live in a single-family home, these check valves allow you to operate the valve without stopping the water running to your washing machine. I think they're worth it for the little extra cost of the upgrade. They can mean the difference in having your valve repaired in a matter of hours or days.
Avoid These Shower Valve and Trim Kit Pitfalls!
1. Not all trims include valves
Just like there are different types of shower valves, there are also different types of shower trim kits. So don't think that just because you buy a valve, you'll get the trim, or vice versa.
2. Not all trims include accessories
Other accessories needed for a shower makeover are as follows:
- shower head
- Shower arms & flanges
- Bath spout (if you have a bath/shower)
Of course, you might want to add things like slide bar or body spray, which aren't usually included in these sets. It's often more economical to purchase all components as a set and can help you avoid product compatibility issues. The downside is that there are fewer options when you're looking for a "complete" package.
3. Valve trim compatibility
Simply put, any old shower trim piece will not work with any type of shower valve. Trims are the decorative escutcheon plates and handles you see and touch that control the valves within the wall. Just like cars, you won't use Mercedes-Benz parts on a Toyota, and the same applies to shower valves and trim pieces.
It goes even further. Brands like Moen and Kohler even have different types of shower valves that require specific types of trim. So you can't simply assume, "Oh, I have a Moen valve, any Moen trim kit will work." You must determine the brand name and valve type before choosing a trim kit.
Maintain Your Shower Valve
1. How to make your valves durable
Shower valves made by trustworthy manufacturers will last a long time. To keep them looking their best, shower regularly. Showers that are used frequently are not as susceptible to deterioration as those that are used infrequently.
If you are remodeling or replacing your water heater, installing a water conditioner can also extend the life of your shower valve by softening the water that flows through it, thereby reducing the build-up of limescale and hard water.
2. When to replace shower core
Mixing valves and pressure balancing valves have internal valve plugs that can wear out over time. In PB valves, the valve core inside the valve core can also start to stick due to hard water buildup and scale.
One sign of replacing the PB cartridge is when the water you are using is mostly hot or cold water, which indicates that the mixing mechanism is not working properly. Another sign of a failed cartridge is that the water stops flowing.
The thermostatic valve core may also need to be replaced after a period of time.
Due to their design, TS valves are prone to accumulation of dirt or debris in the check valves that control water flow from hot and cold faucets. If the water temperature or water volume is not equal or balanced, check and clean the check valve according to the manufacturer's instructions. If this doesn't work, replace the cartridge.
Are Shower Valves Universal?
Shower valves are not universal and you cannot mix manufacturers when it comes to trim and rough-in valves. In addition, a manufacturer may offer different valve sizes and types that may not be universal. and interchangeability. Luckily, shower sets are always sold as complete sets.
Choosing your shower valve wisely can ensure a satisfying shower experience, increase safety, and facilitate future maintenance. By understanding the types, functions, and precautions of shower valves, users can make a suitable choice based on their specific preferences and bathroom requirements. Regular maintenance can further extend the life of these important components, resulting in a reliable and enjoyable showering experience.
FAQ About Shower Valve
Q: What is the difference between a pressure balance shower valve and a thermostatic valve?
A: While both shower valves maintain water temperature, the pressure-balanced shower valve regulates water pressure to prevent scalding, while the thermostatic shower valve uses a thermostat to precisely adjust the temperature, maintaining the set water level without readjusting.
Q: What is the purpose of a shower diverter valve?
A: Diverter shower valves direct the flow of water between multiple shower heads. It is optional and works with the main shower valve to accommodate showers with a variety of components.
Q: Can I mix and match shower valves and trim kits from different brands?
A: No, shower valves and trim kits are not universal. It is critical to match the brand and valve type to ensure compatibility between the trim kit and rough-in valve. Mixing different brands may cause incompatibility issues.
Q:What are the different connection types for shower valves?
A: Common connection types include CC (copper connection), IPS (iron straight pipe) and PEX (flexible plastic pipe). Each type has its installation method, and the choice depends on plumbing requirements and preferences.
Q: What is the difference between concealed and exposed shower valves?
A: Concealed shower valves are hidden within the shower wall for a clean, modern look, while exposed valves are installed on the shower wall or tiles, eliminating the need to open the wall and making them easier to replace or repair.
Q: If I am remodeling my bathroom, do I still need a shower valve?
A: Yes, installing a shower system requires a shower valve unless the existing valve is compliant and meets safety standards. If your plumber provides a preferred valve, you must ensure it is compatible with the selected trim.
Q: How do I maintain my shower valve for optimal performance?
A: Regular showers can help prevent water quality from deteriorating, and installing a water conditioner can reduce scale and hard water buildup, extending the life of your valves. For long-term durability, it may be necessary to periodically inspect worn valve plugs and replace the thermostatic valve core.