Chances are if you’re reading this, you may be a seasoned master plumber and/or pipefitter. However, if you think you’re set in your ways and don’t want to explore new opportunities, think again. I can say this because I recently attended a national trade conference relating to the future of our industry.

Concerning me was that the average age of our nation’s plumbing workforce is getting much older. But, it was exciting for me to also hear that electronic water-saving technology is being built into more and more new plumbing fixtures. If this trend continues, high-tech plumbing fixtures will soon be the industry standard. We need to pay attention to this growing trend.

The good news is that high-tech electronic products along with efficient water-saving technology always draws in a younger crowd. Attracting young plumbers, both women and men, is exactly what our industry needs.

Right now, smart toilets and touchless faucets are getting attention, but don’t overlook the growth in market demand for digital showers.

Digital shower systems, already well established in larger custom shower applications, are now really taking off in mainstream two/three outlet showers and bath/shower applications. Here’s some advantages you can expect when working with and installing the new electronic shower mixing valves.

For me, what really stands out when I work with a digital shower is just how versatile the installation can be. These systems are one of the few new plumbing products that can benefit the contractor, the user and the environment.


For contractors

Digital showers are now available in a range of configurations, sizes and price points to choose from. In many cases (especially remodeling), selecting a digital shower will reduce installation costs over a traditional mixing valve installs.

Also, options like a second interface control can easily be added outside of the shower stall. For custom shower stalls, you can layout options from a “basic” two zone shower to an “extreme” six zone (more zones if desired) shower set up — including music, steam and lighting. Bathing options can also be tied into the control system as well.

For remodeling and/or small jobs, digital valves and valve bodies are available with 1/2-inch copper tube inlet connections. They are perfect for connecting to existing water lines on the second floor of a home. For new installations or applications where more water volume may be needed, larger valves are available with 3/4-inch NPT inlet pipe connections with up to six separate outlets.

Valve bodies can be located inside the wet wall of the shower stall or close by the stall in a more accessible area. Electronic component connections are all plug-and-play, and the main A/C power cord simply plugs into an approved GFCI outlet.


For the user

Because manual plumbing diverters and volume controls are eliminated, the end product is a clean-looking, easy-to-use shower stall layout. Digital systems are operated by an interface control and all it takes is a gentle push of a button. Because of this easy control feature, it can be a good choice for universal design and special needs bathroom installs.

As well as having an interface control inside the shower, users can benefit by having a second remote interface outside the shower stall. This gives the user full control of the system from a comfortable location before stepping into the shower stall.

Another user advantage is the accurate, precise and consistent temperature control with built-in anti-scald protection. Plus, custom high-limit temperature settings can also be programmed into the valve for added protection. The control display screen is big, bold and bright with easy-to-read information. Even without my glasses I can clearly see the numbers.

Finally, the shower water flow can be paused at any time without disturbing the plumbing system. Anti-crossover protection is another feature included with a digital shower system.


For the environment

Digital showers typically have built-in and add-on water-saving technologies and features. “Eco” system control options can be added to provide even more water-saving technology to meet newer water code requirements such as CALgreen.

With Eco versions, the shower valve runs only one water outlet at a time. However, even though only one outlet is running at any given time, you can still enjoy spa-like features. Shower zones can be programmed to change from zone to zone to deliver an invigorating shower experience.

Another water-saving and energy-saving feature is the “warm up” setting. You can set your desired temperature and start the shower flow to purge out the cold water. No need to hold your hand under the shower head, just go about your business. The digital shower will automatically pause the shower when it reaches the set temperature. When you are ready, just step into the shower stall, un-pause the valve and instantly enjoy a nice hot shower.

The duration time of a shower can also be set. This is a very helpful water-saving setting if you want to cut down shower water use or have users that often lose track of their shower time and stay in too long. Just set the desired time you want the shower to run and the controller does the rest. Shut down signals are activated before the water actually turns off to avoid any rinsing issues.

In my opinion, it makes sense to include as many water-saving options as possible with all shower installations no matter what area of the country you work in. Why not install high-efficiency water fixtures on every job, especially when they can include extra options and features! Plus, you never know when your local water use codes may change. This old plumber has learned new tricks with modern technology and I plan to stay ahead, or at least keep up with the new electronic changes in our industry.

Bottom line: With digital shower technology, it is possible to install a water-saving, custom shower stall and still offer clients multi-zone options with all the bells and whistles. RJ 2.0