If you’re new to DIY bathroom plumbing but you’re in the process of remodeling or replacing an old system, it’s essential to understand the basics. This includes a good working knowledge of shower valves, their function, and the difference between the various types. Here is a quick guide to shower valves before you embark on your project. According to Home Depot, a shower valve is a special fitting in your plumbing that has two main functions. It is used to control the temperature of the water that comes out of your shower, and it also controls the flow of water. We can all agree that these are both important functions because it’s unpleasant to have fluctuations in the temperature and the flow of the water. It’s nice to have a constant temperature with the right amount of pressure to rinse off the soap and shampoo. A faulty valve can cause low water pressure that makes bathing frustrating, and when temps fluctuate in the water it can either be too hot or too cold.
Different types of shower valves
There are five types of shower valves on the market today. Each does the same thing but in a different way. There are pros and cons associated with each type and it’s helpful to know the differences to decide which is the best plumbing solution for your home. Here, we examine the different types and get to know how each works.
- Mixing valves – A Mixing valve is an older traditional design that is most commonly found in houses with older plumbing. Mixing valves draw water to the shower head directly from the cold and hot taps. This kind of shower valve is old-fashioned and it doesn’t regulate the flow and temperature of the water. If someone flushes a toilet or uses another water source in the house, you are likely to experience a drop in water pressure and you may either get a blast of extremely hot or cold water. When the other water sources are not in use, the pressure and temperature will go back to their original setting. If you use this type (they’re hard to find now), you should set your water heater thermostat to about 120 degrees Fahrenheit to avoid scalding.
- Pressure Balancing Valves – This type of valve may also be referred to as an anti-scald or a mechanical valve. It’s the most common kind currently sold. This type of shower valve is made to constantly re-balance the pressure of the water and to prevent excessively hot water from coming out of the shower head. It solves the problem of the old mixing valve that can leave you cold or boiling. There is an internal mechanism in the valve that moves when there are water pressure fluctuations to balance out the supplies of hot and cold water to maintain a maximum temperature fluctuation between 2 to 3 degrees difference. This is the type of valve that is used with single handle controls that require movement to the right or left to adjust the water temperature. This type of valve requires home plumbing that is strong and durable enough to accommodate a pressure-balancing valve.
- Thermostatic Shower Valves – Thermostatic shower valves are among the more expensive types, but they are good for maintaining consistent water temperature and water pressure, which are both important benefits. They’re made with a thermo sensitive element that automatically adjusts hot or cold water flows under any changes detected in temperature. Some of these valves come with a dial that lets you present the temperature of the water. Most thermostatic shower valves are equipped with a volume control adjustment that also lets you set the volume of water coming from each water source.
- Diverter Shower Valves – A diverter shower valve is designed to divert the flow of water from a bathtub to the shower head when your home is equipped with a combination tub and shower. There are three different subtypes of diverter valves made. The first is the tee diverter that is made up of a pull arm on a water tap, e.g.. bathtub faucet. It is controlled by using an arm that is pulled when the water hits the ideal temperature to direct the flow of water from the faucet to the shower head. This is a single valve diverter.
- The two-valve diverter provides two controls for diverting water from the tub faucet to the shower head. It is made with a rotating control for hot and cold water. There is also a three-valve type that lets the user make individual adjustments to hot and cold water. It also features a central knob to divert the water from the tub faucet to the shower.
- Transfer Shower Valves – According to Hunker, A transfer shower valve is a type that lets water flow to several outlets. This is the type that is used if you use a handheld shower had. It allows you to use multiple features of a bath/shower system at a time. for example, if you use a detachable shower head, then turn it off to resume normal showering. Most transfer shower valves are designed with anti-scald features for temperature control, but it’s important to make sure as there can be differences from one manufacturer to another.
Can you mix the brands?
There are a few dozen reputable brand names in shower valve components. Each brand has its unique design, and it’s generally a good idea to stick with the same brand to achieve the perfect fit and compatibility for your shower/bath system, according to the Plumbing Forum (https://www.plbg.com/forum/read.php?1,271093%7D). A few recommended brands include Price-Pfister, Moen, and Delta. There are subtle differences in the design of the valves that could make them malfunction if you attempt to mix the brands. It’s best to choose a brand/manufacturer and then stick with that for all of the shower/valve components. If you substitute with a universal type, make sure that it is designed to be compatible with the system that you have installed.