As every housebuilder knows, when it comes to social housing, one of the key considerations is always going to be cost efficiency. One of the areas where efficiencies can most easily be increased is water usage. The amount of hot water used in a property is clearly reflected in energy bills, in fact, around 17 per cent of a gas heated household’s heating bill can be attributed to showers, baths and water from the hot tap.
By reducing the level of hot water used, savings can be passed onto the tenants, and if a water saving shower is installed, this can also help social housing providers comply with Part G of the Building Regulations.
At present, English social housing guidance has no requirement for a shower, which means many homes are built with a bath rather than a shower. Whilst there has been some debate as to whether showers are actually more water efficient than baths, research by Waterwise, the leading authority for water efficiency in the UK and Europe, has settled the discussion.
Whilst it is correct that a high-end power shower can technically use more water than a bath, this applies to only a small number of showers, and is contingent on the shower lasting over eight minutes. Furthermore, this comparison relies on the corresponding bath to be filled to the minimum level, which is not how most people tend to use their bath tubs. The reality is that an eight-minute wash in a standard shower uses 62 litres of hot water as opposed to an average bath’s 80 litres. And, a four-minute scrub in a water-efficient shower can use even less, potentially as little as 32 litres. This doesn’t have to impact on the user experience, many manufacturers offer efficient showers which can offer a strong flow of water, without the associated costs of a power-shower.
In Wales, social housing bathrooms must include a shower over the bath, and whilst this may not be the case in England, there’s a strong argument for looking beyond formal regulations to the many benefits of showers.
A good starting point is the electric shower. Rather than being fed from a hot water storage tank or boiler, an electric shower instantaneously heats up the cold mains water as it passes through the shower unit. This means they only heat the amount of water that is actually needed, so there is no wasted energy. This energy efficiency makes the electric shower ideal for green focussed social housing, and in conjunction with tenants watching their water bills, can ensure that only the most necessary amount of water is used.
Another good recommendation is a shower or tap with an optional flow regulator, which works by limiting the flow inside the connection.
Typically, most standard showers distribute a shower flow rate of 13.5 litres per minute, while flow regulated showers can offer a rate of 10 litres per minute respectively. Similarly, a standard basin tap running at mains pressure can easily deliver in excess of twelve litres per minute. In comparison, flow regulated basin taps can limit flow rate to as little as two litres per minute. And although these options can translate to significant water savings over the year, the difference in the product performance is barely noticeable.
Although there may be no specific regulations for English social housing to include showers, there are many reasons why adding them to homes is a positive move. By choosing the right model of shower, this needn’t be expensive, and can offer utility savings to tenants, and green credentials to social housing managers.
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