Low-flow showerheads and higher temperatures in hot waterlines increase the risk of scalding in showers. Pressure balance valves and thermostatic valves make showering and bathing safer, more enjoyable experiences, but there are notable differences in the way they guard against scalding. New properties may already have a valve fitted, but older properties often do not.
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Pressure Balance Valves
Pressure balance valves detect water pressure at the inlet and maintain the balance by responding to any changes. As well as compensating for changes in water pressure, you can set the valve to an ideal temperature mix and the valve adjusts the water pressure to keep to the desired limit. Because the pressure balance valve doesn't detect water temperature, sudden drops or spikes can go undetected and get passed on through the showerhead or faucet.
Thermostatic valves respond to water temperature at the inlet and control the water temperature at the outlet. You can set the maximum temperature you require, and the valve will ensure you always get the right mix of hot and cold water. Thermostatic valves are more effective as a safeguard against scalding than pressure balance valves, but they do not control or respond to changes in water pressure.
Controlling Temperatures at Point of Use
Both types of valve control the temperature and pressure at the point of use (i.e. as it reaches the shower head or faucet). This means that people can use different faucets or flush toilets at the same time without affecting the water temperature for other users.
A pressure balancing valve helps if your plumbing is prone to changes in water pressure. They cost from around £130, as of January 2011. Thermostatic valves provide the best protection against scalding and are particularly useful in households with small children or elderly or disabled people as these groups are generally more susceptible to scalding. Prices start at approximately £55, as of January 2011.
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