How to choose the best shower
Digital shower buying guide
By Jess O'Leary
Article 4 of 4
Wireless control unit? Pumped or un-pumped? Read our expert advice on how to choose a digital shower.
Digital showers are the latest innovation in shower design and technology, offering features such as precise temperature control and wireless control units that can be installed elsewhere in your bathroom.
But this tech comes at a price: digital showers are the most expensive type you can buy.
If your budget can’t stretch to a digital shower, we’ve tested the latest electric models from brands such as Aqualisa, Mira and Triton. See which we recommend – Best Buy electric showers.
What is a digital shower?
A digital shower is a shower which has a digital thermostat on board. This enables you to set a precise water temperature, helping you achieve your perfect shower.
Hot and cold water flows into the shower’s processing unit and is mixed together to the desired temperature. Because the water temperature is controlled by a thermostat you won’t get any nasty temperature spikes when someone turns the cold tap on in the kitchen.
Digital showers work in a similar way to mixer showers but the temperatures are more accurate. They also offer a range of features, such as touchscreens, LCD displays and wireless connectivity.
Who are digital showers suitable for?
Unlike some shower types (power showers, for example), digital showers are compatible with all types of heated water system. So providing you have a boiler or immersion heater in your home, you can have a digital shower.
Digital showers work with all kinds of water systems so you can have one in your bathroom.
How much do digital showers cost?
Digital showers are the most expensive type on the market; and buying one will set you back anything from around £200 for a basic model to more than £1,000 for a pumped shower from a premium brand.
The price you pay will be affected by the brand and features you choose – expect to pay more if you want a pumped, thermostatic model.
Most of the big shower brands offer a range of digital showers. Inexpensive brands such as Bristan and Triton have models starting at around £200-£300, while Aqualisa models cost roughly £300 to £650. Mira offers a wide choice starting at around £400 and spanning up to £900. A model from premium brand Grohe will cost in the region of £700 to upwards of £1,000.
Electric showers cost a lot less than digital ones and can be installed in any bathroom. We’ve tested the latest models to see which deliver plenty of hot water and don’t become scaldingly hot if someone turns on a tap elsewhere in your home. See which models we recommend as Best Buy electric showers.
What features do digital showers have?
Most models allow you to pre-programme your preferred temperature, so you get your ideal shower at the touch of a button and without having to constantly adjust a temperature control dial. Other mod-cons include touchscreen displays or colour-coded lighting systems that let you know when the water has reached the desired temperature.
If you buy a digital shower with wireless or Bluetooth connectivity 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 for you. Some models can even be controlled via your mobile phone.
I want a powerful shower - can I buy a digital shower with a pump?
Pumps boost the water flow, delivering more water than non-pumped showers, which makes the shower feel more powerful. Whether you can buy a pumped digital shower or not will depend on the type of water system you have. Here are the main types of system you’re likely to find.
Gravity fed water system
If you have a cold water tank in your loft that feeds a hot water cylinder (usually in an airing cupboard) you have a gravity fed system. Pumps can be installed with this type of water system.
If you have a mains-fed hot water cylinder that mixes with cold mains water before being delivered to your shower, you have a pressurised system. With this set-up you won’t have a cold water tank in your loft.
The water in this type of system is pressurised already, and so you can’t install a pump.
If you have a combination (combi) boiler you can’t install a pump.
Can I install a digital shower without removing tiles in my bathroom?
This depends on the shower you already have and the type of digital shower you want to buy. With some models, the processor box can be hidden out of sight rather than being installed in the shower enclosure, with the water and power flowing to the shower head and control unit via the riser rail. This means you won't have to channel pipes into the wall or drill through tiles. Other models will need new pipes and power cabling installed.
If you decide to buy a digital shower, it’s worth checking the size of the control unit that will protrude from the wall – despite being described as ‘compact’ or ‘slimline’, we found the depth of units to be between 8cm and 12cm.