Watersaving: Shower Mixer Alternative

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Introduction: Watersaving: Shower Mixer Alternative

Cape Town is in the middle of a massive drought, so everyone needs to save water. Having a mixer in your shower enables you to turn the water on and off in short bursts, minimising the water usage. However, if you don't have a mixer, it is quite expensive to install one, and having to constantly open and close two taps and regulate the temperature is just not feasible.

Installing a small ball-valve inbetween the showerhead and the water pipe allows users to open the taps to the desired temperature, but cut off water supply with the flick of a switch. So you wet your body, turn the water off, soap, turn water on to rinse (apparently the technique is called a "Navy Shower/Military Shower").

It takes about 5min to install, and costs under R70, and by monitoring my water use, it is evident that it saves a LOT of water!

Step 1: What You Need

  1. A shower
  2. An in-line ball-valve with a male and female side (15mm diameter) (Here's one I found online, but any plumbing/building supplies store should be able to help you)
  3. Thread seal tape
  4. Optional: Water saving showerhead or InLine Flow Controller

Step 2: Thread Seal Tape Clockwise Around the Male End of the Ball Valve

The thread seal tape helps to avoid water leaking through. It helps to put the thread on in a clockwise manner, because that is the direction that you will fasten it onto the showerhead.

Step 3: Fasten the Ball Valve to the Showerhead

Step 4: Wind Thread Tape Around the Pipe in the Shower in a Clockwise Manner

Step 5: Attach the Showerhead With Ball Valve to the Shower Arm

Step 6: Showering

When showering, first open both taps until the water reaches a comfortable temperature. Then use the newly installed valve tap to cut off the water to the showerhead when not needed (e.g. when soaping).

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user

We have a be nice policy.
Please be positive and constructive.

5 Tips

When watch M.A.S.H. on TV years ago I would see these kind of devices in the army showers and wonder where I could get one to save water. (Their's on mash leaked though) Anyway I made one years ago but it has a draw-back-- When you switch your perfect warm water mix back on--the temp. has changed! I think it might be because the hot water rises faster than the cold and you can get surprised by the hot water if you don't wait briefly for the temp to even out!

Do NOT turn the water off 100% when soaping and scrubbing. If you do you can get scalded when you turn the water back on. Hot water will rise into the feed pipe to the shower head (heat rises and cold drops) so when you turn it back on you will get a blast of JUST HOT WATER. if you let it just dribble a little the hot and cold stays mixed and no problem while still saving lots of water.

PLEASE BE AWARE This will only save water if the cold and hot water supplies are at a common pressure.
If the cold water supply is at a higher pressure it may force water into the geyser and result in water flowing out of the pressure release valve on the geyser.

A solution is a non return valve in the hot water supply between the geyser and mixer.

Rather than running that water down the drain while you wait for it to warm up, catch it in a bucket or basin; use it to flush the toilet by pouring it in the toilet bowl.

Possible issues: The water in the hot line cools during the time the shower is off. So if the water was hot enough to start, it will only be warm for your next pulse. This system would work best with a heater just before the shower head, not one at the other end of the house.

As another idea for people doing extreme water conservation: Look at micro sprinkler heads. There are mist heads that do 4 gal per hour, and tiny spray heads that do 10 to 20 gal/hour.

Questions

Hi, what would you suggest for a hand held showerhead?

22 Comments

Don't mean to downplay your ible (very clear instructions and nice photos), but after seeing this I looked on amazon and there are a lot of these that sell for about $10. Bought one and installed it and it works great.

user

But if you forget to turn off the mixer when you are done with the shower and only turn off the ball-valve, you will get a "leak" between the hot and cold water in the mixer and that is not good :(

/// Marcus

Simple and effective, well done. I would be interested to see a solution like this that could be used by people with limited hand strength, like those with severe arthritis. Adding a bigger knob might work, maybe a 3d printed one? That would be cool to see.

1 reply

The author is using a quarter turn ball valve. The valve can be operated by a screwdriver, a thumb-turn or short lever as used and for you, a long lever version would be the best option. The long lever can be 100-mm long and colour-coded.
There is a problem with quarter turn valves that relates to construction, water quality and usage.
Cheap valves use cheap materials like poor seals and stuff like plated brass balls. For long term use, get a decent branded valve with a stainless steel ball. Cheap valves corrode in aggressive water and leak. They also tend to seize up, hence the usage bit.
Another bit of advice, valves come in normal bore or full bore. If it's a low pressure system, get a full bore valve.
There are other more expensive options like solenoid valves that can be electronically timed and would need no user intervention.

A plumbing tip. If you turn your spool of PTFE tap over and wind the tape clockwise round the thread, it will keep taut while you're doing it. I'm guessing that the yellow spool is the thicker gas grade tape which I find is the best for most threads. Another thing you can do, is run the edge of a file across the threads to create a bit of roughness to stop the tape unwinding - doesn't affect the seal and many commercial threads (Danfoss for example) come already serrated.
On droughts generaaly, one of the problems is using potable water for tasks that don't need highly purified water, like flushing the lavvy - rain water (collect as much as you can) or "grey" water is all that's needed and if you're not squeamish, you really don't need to flush it every time.
The only potable water I use now is for drinking and food preparation - everything else is either reused or from water butts.

2 replies

re "flushing the lavvy":
"if it's yellow, let it mellow, if it's brown, flush it down"

Very true. Washing 250-ml of urine with 5-10 litres of potable water makes no sense whatsoever. For the less squeamish, a couple of day's worth of poo doesn't matter either. A far better solution is to use the urine on the compost heap and adopt dry composting lavvies. The key to all this is make use of all the natural sources like rainwater, restrict tap or potable water to what the name suggests and be creative. I even collect the condensate water from the gas condensing boiler and whole body washing daily is a thing of the past.

This does not work with our "on demand" water heater. As soon as flow stops, it goes into a "shut down cycle". When you turn the flow back on, the "hot" water is cold for about 30 seconds until the "start cyce" gets thje temp back up. The temp goes from the hot water remaining in the supply pipe, to "street cold" (which in Maine is about 40 degrees!) back up to scalding in about 60 seconds. If you want to try this on an on demand heater, you may want to check its output behavior when you cut the flow from it.

Why wouldn't you just shut the tap, how is this better?

3 replies

You could also just go buy an RV shower head they have a shut off valve on the hand-held part. It just screws onto where the previous head was. Take it with you when you move if you are in a rental. (keep the one you took off)

RV (and home) hand held shower heads are designed to NOT shut off 100%. That is to alleviate the above mentioned problem of getting scalded. I worked in the home improvement industry for years (as well as being an RV owner) and you would not believe how many people were dissatisfied or wanted to return their new shower attachments because they leaked. LOL.

Many people have separate hot and cold valves. This way you can adjust the water temperature to what you want and then shut off just the shower head.

Alternatively, you could install a single lever handle valve, but as the post says that would be much more expensive. And you couldn't install one in a rental situation, where you could do this fix.

great idea! even if your not about saving water it takes all the fiddling out of setting the temperature, and in my case my taps leak a bit.... a ball valve wont :)

Have one on my shower at camp, works great.
I'm surprised no one has mentioned the old hippie standard:
"Save water, shower with a friend".

I had a commercial version of this shut off years ago. It had a pinhole through the ball in the valve at right angle to open. This allowed a trickle of water through when shut off. Thus kept the water temp set. While some have expressed concerns about hit water cooking, what actually tends to happen is the hot water rises from the mix point above the taps, and when you turn it on, there's a potential for scalds (depends on temp of your hot water).

I don't think most, if not all, showers already have mixers installed. That's not the problem. The problem is that when you turn off the flow, you have to readjust the settings when you turn the water on again. So, what is really needed is something that turns the water off and on without changing the temperature settings. I assume that's what this device does, but its primary function is to MAINTAIN the temperature settings through an OFF and ON cycle.

Do people not normally turn the water off while soaping? Is that just something weird I've always done?

Mixers are NOT expensive, but the ones I have installed tend to get frozen. In other words, before I take a shower, it is always necessary to free them with blows from a hammer or something that can be used as a hammer. Maybe others work differently. Mine has a pin that gets stuck and has to be hammered loose.

This little shower shut-off is a time-tested way to save water that RVers in the USA use when "boondocking" (i.e. camping without water or services).

Turn on the water to get wet, shut-off, soap up, turn water on to rinse. Its different, but you get just as clean.

Catch the "warming-up" water from shower or sink in a pitcher and use it to flush the toilet. You can also catch the water you use to wash veggies or drain from pasta to flush with; just a matter of changing your habits.

This is what I like about us South Africans..... when the need is there we make a plan!

Good on you and good luck