This guide will help you to decide which kind of shower to choose, and ensure you can find a shower that works well with your home's water system.
Types of shower
Electric showers work like a kettle, as it only needs a cold water supply that's warmed by heating elements inside the unit. Generally, the higher the kilowatt rating, the more powerful the shower - although you might find the power reduces in winter when the incoming mains water is colder, and takes longer to heat up. An electric shower is always ready to use 24 hours a day.
Manual mixer showers
Manual mixer showers require hot and cold water which is mixed together to provide a hot shower. This type of shower generally produces a higher flow rate compared to electric showers, is cost effective and easy to use - you simply adjust the temperature to your comfort. It can be affected if someone else has turned on a tap elsewhere in the house; the drop in hot pressure can mean that the shower suddenly becomes very cold, so you may need to turn the temperature up and down to compensate.
Thermostatic mixer showers
A thermostatic mixer is much the same as a manual mixer, requiring hot and cold water which is mixed together. The difference, however, is that once you have set the temperature to your preferred comfort you simply turn the shower on each time and it will maintain that temperature. The thermostat keeps it within two degrees C of your preference, even if someone else is using water in your home. You can install it over your bath or in a separate shower cubicle, and if you have a gravity-fed system you can make it more powerful by adding a booster pump.
A digital shower works in much the same way as a mixer shower, except it has precise digital controls which regulate the water temperature and flow rate. At the touch of a button, your digital shower combines hot water from your boiler or immersion heater with just the right amount of cold water to give you the perfect shower. It also benefits from extra features such as multiple programmable functions.
Power showers work like a thermostatic mixer, but with one important difference: it comes with a built-in electric pump to boost the flow rate. That makes it an inspired choice if you have low water pressure in your home - although like any pump, it only works with a gravity-fed plumbing system. Although power showers look a lot like electric showers, they are not to be confused as they do not heat water. Power showers generally produce higher flow rates than electric showers and many mixer showers.
Adding a booster pump
If you add a booster pump to your thermostatic mixer shower, you can more than double its flow rate. And so you don't see it, you can hide the pump under your bath or tuck it away in your airing cupboard or loft (although you might still hear it working).
Remember though, that you can't connect a pump to a combi boiler or a cold water supply that comes straight out of the mains. And to get the most out of your pump, you might also need a bigger hot water cylinder.
Want to save water?
Then get an aerating shower head. It not only means you use up to 75% less water, but it'll save you energy, too. It works by injecting tiny air bubbles into the water droplets. These bubbles gently explode as they hit you, leaving you refreshed.
Types of water system
Here are the three main types of home water system in the UK, and it's important to know which you have before buying your new shower:
Low-pressure water system
The most common water system in the UK, a low-pressure water system is usually a cold water tank in the loft and a hot water cylinder in an airing cupboard. It's sometimes called a gravity-fed water system.
If you have a gravity-fed system (with a hot water cylinder and cold water storage cistern in the loft) you have the most options. You could go for a mixer shower with or without a pump, a power shower or an electric shower.
High-pressure water system
In a high-pressure water system, a combination boiler heats cold water directly from the cold mains supply as soon as you turn on a hot tap. The boiler is normally wall mounted in this system.
If you've got a combination boiler or your cold water comes directly off the mains, you'll only be able to install a mixer shower or electric shower.