Practical notes on how to save water on...

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Water Widgets Review

Free water saving widgets for your bathroom - are they actually useful?

Eaga Shower Smart

The Shower Smart is a type of collar that you fit to your shower hose to restrict the flow of water. It comes in a kit with a plastic bag, which you use to test your shower before you fit the collar. You fill the bag for 5 seconds via the shower head. After this, you need to look at how much water you have collected -if its above the high tide marker on the bag then you should install the Shower Smart. I tested both the shower over the bath and the power shower in the shower cubicle at my house. To my surprise, both of these passed the test, with water in the bag lower that the marker line. The power shower is an aerated type where air is entrained in the shower head to create additional pressure, to feel like a power shower without loads more water being used. The Eaga Shower Smart is only useful to a small number of households as you have to a high flow shower and it can't be an electric shower, and it HAS to be fitted between the tap block and the shower hose. Presumably shower smart can cause faults in electric showers by increasing the resistance in the shower hose. Eaga claim that the Shower Smart will reduce the shower flow rate to 7.7 litres/min.

Littlefoot Water Widget

 A rival free product is the Littlefoot Water Widget. Now, I couldn't get this to work properly water, it just sprayed out of the side hole but I think this is because my shower is not sufficiently high pressure to try this out. This is another collar type device that restricts water flow but it is fitted just behind the shower head. This can be fitted to a wall mounted shower or a shower with a hose, although not all wall mounted showers will be adaptable. The Water Widget is also NOT suitable for electric showers and not suitable for low flow showers (they say low flow means anything less than... (yep, you guessed it), 7.7 litre/minute)

 I would encourage you to test your shower to see what the flow rate is currently. I suspect more people have a shower that feels a bit pathetic than the impressive power shower type. Electric showers are the box on the wall type. These only have a cold water connection, as the water is heated in the box and forced through the shower head. This box is usually without an internal pump so the showering experience can be a bit dissappointing as it relies on the pressure in the cold water line. This is often the case if you have a cold water tank in the loft, as its the difference in height between the shower head and the tank that really matters, the higher the tank the better. Showers with a mixer tap will be supplied hot and cold water which is accurately mixed by a thermostatic mixer tap to the correct temperature. This type of shower is taking water directly from the hot water system that supplies all the taps. It is this type of shower that the Water Widget is targeting, and will more likely have a higher flow rate than the electric type.

  Rate Your Shower

 You don't need a silly plastic bag to test your shower, just catch the water in a bucket and time 5 seconds. Pour the water into a measuring jug and note down the millilitres. Repeat this a few times to see if the answers are the same. [click on the diagram to zoom in]

 (millilitres x 12) / 1000 = litres/min

 7-10 litres/min = OK,

 10-14 l/min = too high,

 14-30 l/min = power shower zone, way too high!

 By fitting the Eaga Shower Smart or Littlefoot Water Widget you will be simply restricting the flow of water, which will mean you use less water per minute but this may mean you have a dissappointing shower experience. Personally, I LOVE a good power shower! If you want to save water without compromising the experience try some of these free products first and if you're not satisfied try out a aerated shower head like Ecocamel  .  If you are fitting a new bathroom anyway... chose a product like the Hansgrohe Raindance Ecosmart. Hansgrohe claim this reduces the flowrate from 14 l/min to 9 l/min (at 3 bar pressure) without compromising the power shower experience. Look out for the new Ecosmart ratings in the UK, now on showers and taps to help you compare water saving products.

 Another couple of free things I got given at the supermarket are the "hippo" and a Littlefoot Flush Bag, these both sit in the WC cistern to reduce the flush volume. These shouldn't be fitted if you have a new 6/4 litre toilet as it will probably not give an effective flush, see my previous post on this . The Hippo is the better product for older 13 litre cisterns as this displaces 2.5-3.5 litres per flush, whereas the Littlefoot only displaces 1.2 litres. You don't really need these products to do this, you can just use some old comestics bottles filled with water to do the same job. Try it!

All in all these products reduce fresh water consumption but do nothing to embrace the water use hierarchy, (see the water hierachy diagram) .  They are only scratching the surface of the problem, for example: toilets do not need drinking standard water to flush, this is madness!

for more info on these products, see these links:

Hansgrohe Raindance Ecosmart

Ecocamel aerated shower heads


the "hippo"

NB: If you have a disappointing shower with a pathetic drip-drip experience, then my advice is to try descaling the shower head. Do this by taking the shower head to bits (unscrew from the hose, and unscrew anything else if it comes apart)  and sitting it in a bucket of Coca-cola overnight. If this descaling didn't work, you need to investigate your water pressure, 3 bar is good and anything less than 1 bar is bad news. 0.3 bar is the minimum recommended for a lot of shower heads/outlets, and this is roughly equivalent of 3 metres of vertical drop between your water tank and the shower head, i.e. electric showers on the ground floor with the cold water tank in the loft are always better than electric showers on the first floor.  If you can't achieve this, then the only option is to fit a pump.