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Father, hacker, partner, feminist, atheist, socialist, SJW. Ex-Russian, Canadian, Québécois par adoption; universal basic income NDP-er (and I vote!); electric-car driving pansy; lapsed artist and photographer.

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Sunday, March 23, 2008

Showers need a "pause" button

Water conservation seems to be on everyone's mind lately. It seems to me that a fairly simple way to encourage people to use less water during shower would be to offer a convenient way to "pause" it. See, I'm all for turning the water off while soaping up, but it's a pain to get it going again at just the right temperature and pressure that I like -- and I think that the majority of people are the same way. When I'm soapy or have shampoo in my hair, I don't really want to fiddle with the taps to get the right temperature again, and I think that's the reason why most people just don't bother.

If there was a convenient switch that would let me shut off the flow of water but keep it at the right temperature and pressure the instant I turn it back on, I'd use it every time.

(This is not the same as shutting the water off automatically after 20 seconds. I've had an opportunity to use those a couple of times in Europe, and they are just annoying, as they shut off when you least want them to, like when you have soap in your eyes).

Seriously, something like a big knob on the wall. Pull it and the shower pauses. Slam on it, and it's back on again. I think people would actually use that.

10 comments:

Jeremy said...

That sounds patentable ;-)

Of course, had you had this idea like 2 months ago, I could have even used it for my product design class and built a prototype for you. Hrmph. :-)

cpirate said...

A lot of the showers I was using in Britain last summer were effectively like that. They were the type with a small hot water heater on the wall in the shower, with the temperature controls separate from the flow controls. So if you were so inclined (and I was from time to time), you could press the Stop button while soaping up, then press the appropriate Go button again and have it resume pretty much where it left off.

Those things apparently aren't incredibly well liked, mostly due to the relatively low water pressure they provide. That said, they seemed to be fairly ubiquitous, probably related to being easy to retrofit into older houses.

Mr. Icon said...

Something like that, except a lot more prominent. I seriously mean a big knob on the wall, around waist-height. Pulling it pauses the flow. Pushing it releases it (this is so you don't accidentally cut it off).

Mike said...

Go to the hardware store. You can buy an on-off switch that can be installed in line with the shower head. Cheap and low-tech.
Also there are some shower control variants where the temperature and flow rate can be controlled independently, but installing that is more complicated than just putting a small switch behind the shower head.

Mr. Icon said...

mike: right, but I was musing in terms of "a standard feature." Moreover, when I have shampoo in my hair, I don't really want to futz with a small switch on the shower head (many people are too short to reach it easily). I want it prominent and convenient, to ensure the widest adoption -- at least if we want people to actually use it. :)

Chris said...

There are a valves available that attach to the showerhead and have a pull chain (pull-off, pull-on). My cousin did the drafting for one of these, and noted that they're almost all designed to leak slowly when "off" -- otherwise, the water in the vertical pipe from the taps to the showerhead tends to stratify (hot at top, cold at bottom) and when you turn the water back on you get a hot-cold blast before normal temperatures resume -- and the hot blast can scald under the right (wrong?) conditions. Any switch would have to be engineered to deal with that problem regardless of the user interface design.

Anonymous said...

There are thermostat fixtures available with two turning knobs: a temperature knob, and a water flow knob.

The thermostat and the temperature knob make sure that real water output temperature is always the desired water temperature you dialed in - as long as that desired temperature is between the temperatures of the cold and hot water input to the fixture.
(If there is a really long distance between the hot water boiler and the shower and you have the water turned off really long, the hot water tubes may cool down below your desired temperature. In normal operations, that should not matter, though.)

Regulating the water flow is completely independent from the temperature control. Getting back to the desired strength of water flow with the water flow knob is trivial (compared to the temperature control, which this fixture takes care of).

These things are not cheap, though. So far, I have only encountered them in some people's homes and in upscale hotels.

Anonymous said...

my low flow showerhead has a little bar that you can flip to turn off the water at the head. and it's got great water pressure even for a low flow head (and my clawfoot tub has a smaller-than-normal water supply to the showerhead anyway). it was like $12 at home depot.

Anonymous said...

I have a shower valve which you turn to set temperature (more right=hotter, more left=colder), and then pull to turn on, push to turn off. I usually leave it around eleven o'clock for just the right temperature. These are probably already be available in stores, as my apartment came with it and is over a decade old.

Unknown said...

Now that these shower heads actually exist, did you get one?