Best electric and power shower brands How to choose the best shower

Aqualisa HiQu digital shower

The rainfall effect of the Aqualisa HiQu digital shower provides the designer look

Which type of shower should I buy?

There are several important factors to consider when choosing between an electric, power, mixer or digital shower. First, you’ll need to take practicalities into account, including your boiler type and the water pressure in your house (ask a plumber if you’re not sure) and whether several people use the water supply at the same time.

To buy the best shower for you, you'll also need to consider how powerful you want the shower’s water flow to feel and how important design is to you. 

Whichever kind of shower you choose, to get the best price it’s always worth checking local plumbing supply stores and DIY websites, which may have lower prices than the big chains.

We’ve outlined the four main types of showers below - scroll down to browse all the information or click on these links to go straight to the section you’re interested in.

Electric showers explained

Electric showers heat the water as you go, meaning they only need a cold water supply to work and are ready to go without you having to heat water first. This can be good for your energy bills, as no unnecessary water heating goes on, and it’s a real bonus if your boiler breaks down.

Gainsborough electric shower

Electric showers should be installed by a professional

On the downside, electric showers do tend to have a weaker flow than mixer and power showers, although some come with an integral pump to help to combat this problem. You also need to watch out for limescale build-up - a common problem with electric showers.

The power of electric showers is generally between 8.5kW and 10.8kW - the higher the value, the more powerful the shower. It’s best to get your electric shower installed by an expert as the high-power electrical element needs to be connected to a separate fused electrical supply circuit. To find out more, read our guide on how to install an electric shower.

With regular electric showers, the water may get very hot if the cold water supply is being used elsewhere in your house. Thermostatic electric showers can control the water temperature to within about 1-2°C of the temperature you need, so they’re a better bet if other people or appliances often use water when you're having a shower.

  • Pros of electric showers: only needs a cold water supply, you don’t pay to heat water that doesn’t get used, cheaper to buy than other types, still works if your boiler breaks down
  • Cons of electric showers: generally a weaker flow than other types of shower, limescale build-up can be a problem, professional installation can be pricey
  • Cost of electric showers: anywhere from £50 for a basic 8.5kW model to around £400 for a sleek, 10.5kW version

Find out the best electric shower brands according to our Which? member survey.

 

Triton power shower

Power showers are ideal if you have low water pressure

Power showers explained

Power showers work in the same way as mixer showers in that they combine water from the cold and hot supplies. The difference is that power showers have a built-in pump. This strengthens the flow - great if your home has low water pressure - and also offers you greater control over the temperature and pressure than a normal mixer shower.

Power showers are designed to work with gravity-fed or low-pressure water systems, instantly boosting the flow and resulting in a more invigorating shower.

While installing a power shower is less fiddly than buying a separate pump to boost a standard mixer shower, they do use a lot more water than electric showers, so bear this in mind if you have a water meter.

  • Pros of power showers: easier than buying a separate pump for a mixer shower, good flow even when you have low water pressure
  • Cons of power showers: use more water than other types of shower, can be expensive
  • Cost of power showers: you won’t find many power showers punder £200, and the sky’s the limit if you’ve got the cash - we’ve spotted digital Aqualisa models for more than £2,000

Discover the best power shower brands according to our Which? member survey.

Mixer showers explained

Mixer showers combine the hot and cold water supplies, meaning you need a combi boiler or immersion heater to provide ready-heated water. They generally produce a stronger flow than electric showers. You can also get bath and shower mixers, where the temperature and flow are controlled by adjusting the bath taps.

Mixer shower

A bath and shower mixer combines hot and cold water from the bath taps

While some mixer showers will work with any system, others are designed either for a high-pressure water system or a low-pressure system - make sure you check when you’re buying. If your home does have low water pressure, you could also consider buying a separate pump to increase the flow.

Thermostatic mixer showers do a better job of regulating the water temperature than standard mixer showers. With a thermostatic mixer shower, if someone or something starts using cold water elsewhere in the house, the water will cut out rather than scalding you - a very useful safety feature.

  • Pros of mixer showers: high flow rate, thermostatic mixer showers stop you being scalded
  • Cons of mixer showers: need to be careful you buy the right sort for your water system, only work with combi boilers or immersion heaters
  • Cost of mixer showers: basic mixers which draw water from your bath taps start at around £50, while chic models with rainshower-style heads can go for around £1,400

Digital showers explained

You can buy digital showers, the latest innovation in shower design and technology, in pumped or unpumped and electric or mixer models.

The water in a digital shower comes from a small processor box, which mixes hot and cold water to the desired temperature thermostatically (meaning no nasty temperature spikes when someone switches the cold tap on in the kitchen).

Digital shower

Some digital showers have an LCD display on the control panel

The processor box can be hidden out of sight rather than being stored in the shower enclosure itself, with the water flowing to the shower head via the riser rail, the wall or the ceiling. This also means you don’t have to drill through existing tiles.

If you buy a digital shower with wireless or Bluetooth technology, you can install the control unit up to 10 metres away, which means you can switch it on and get the water hot before stepping in, or place it at a height that’s convenient to you. Digital shower control units also allow you to pre-program the water temperature - so you don't have to fiddle around with the temperature control while you're in the shower.

Other mod-cons offered by digital showers include touchscreens, LCD displays or colour-coded lighting systems that let you know when the water’s reached the desired temperature, eco settings and separate remote controls.

If you decide to buy a digital shower, it’s worth checking the size of the control unit - ignore manufacturers’ claims that it’s compact or slimline. The average size of the units we’ve tested is approximately 22x33x9cm, and the depth varies between about 8cm and 12cm.

  • Pros of digital showers: available in various forms (eg mixer or electric), sleek design, flexible control panel setup meaning you might not need to disturb your wall tiles, several extra features available, greater control over temperature
  • Cons of digital showers: a pricier option than other types of shower
  • Cost of digital showers: anywhere from around £250 to more than £2,000

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