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Why Your Shower Feels Wimpy; and What You Can Do About It

Your shower feels wimpy for two reasons, the spray pattern is to spread out for the flow rate or the available pressure at the shower head is too low, or both. Shower head flow rates are measured at a test pressure of 80 psi, yet this is generally the maximum pressure allowed into the building by code. It also turns out that the data we use to estimate the pressure loss in premise plumbing systems is based on a paper published in 1941 which contains research conducted in 1892 which studied steel pipe with threaded and flanged fittings. Modern domestic water systems use copper with soldered or press fittings, CPVC with solvent welded fittings, or PEX with insert fittings. These pipe materials and the associated fittings have very different characteristics from steel pipe. Yet the tables widely used by plumbing industry practitioners have not been updated to account for these differences. The efforts to right-size piping based on real flow rates and probabilities of simultaneous use are being hindered by the lack of up-to-date values.

This presentation will present results of research the author has conducted on the pressure drop through modern pipe materials and fittings and through anti-scald shower valves that are now required by most plumbing codes in the United States. We will also compare the performance of pressure-independent and fixed-orifice flow regulators, both types of which are common in faucets and showers, but which perform very differently under the range of pressure conditions found in our buildings.

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Courtesy of IAPMO Group – see member profile

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