Getting clean is an important part of our daily routines but it can be difficult to find the time or space for a bath. Showering is now the most popular way to stay clean, with about two-thirds of Americans taking a shower daily (1).
If you are buying a new shower, you will have plenty of options, including pressure balance and thermostatic valves. With so many different showers to choose from, you might need some more information about how each type works.
To help you make the right choice, this article will explain pressure balance vs thermostatic shower valves. This includes how each type regulates water flow and temperature, their ease of use, and their durability.
- Pressure balance valves control water temperature by regulating the hot and cold water ratio, while thermostatic valves directly adjust the water temperature.
- Thermostatic valves maintain a consistent temperature and offer greater control, but are more expensive and complex to repair.
- Pressure balance valves are more basic, easier to operate, and less expensive, but can fluctuate in temperature when other water sources are used in the home.
- Thermostatic valves are worth the investment for increased comfort, safety, and energy efficiency, especially in homes with vulnerable individuals.
What Does a Shower Valve Do?
A shower valve has two main functions: controlling the temperature of the water that comes from your showerhead and regulating how quickly it flows out.
Depending on the type of valve, it does this by either mixing hot and cold water to reach a specific temperature or by heating cold water as it flows through the unit.
How Does a Shower Valve Work?
There are two main types of shower valves: pressure balance valves and thermostatic valves.
Pressure Balance Shower Valves
A pressure balance shower valve usually has one handle that controls both the temperature and flow rate of the water. The pressure is balanced by either a sliding disc on a piston or a spool that controls the water ratio.
With this type of valve, there might be temperature fluctuations when someone flushes a toilet or runs a tap elsewhere in your home. Pressure balance valves are better at controlling water pressure than regulating temperature.
They also generally deliver moderate heat but might struggle to give you a steaming hot shower.
- Lower initial cost
- Scald protection
- Comfortable temperatures
- Takes time to achieve the specified temperature
- No temperature memory
- No additional scald prevention
- No bacterial protection
Thermostatic Shower Valves
Thermostatic valves have two handles. One controls the pressure of the water and the other regulates the temperature. These valves react to the water temperature and not the flow. Inside the valve, a wax element expands and retracts in response to how hot or cold the water is. This helps it maintain a constant temperature even if there are fluctuations in the water supply.
A thermostatic valve should deliver the right water temperature every time and give you the ability to set and forget. However, they are more expensive and, when they malfunction, they can be more complicated to repair.
- Consistent temperature
- Sets precise temperatures
- Higher flow rates
- Bacterial protection
- More expensive
- Complicated to repair
Pressure Balance Vs. Thermostatic Shower Valves
The main difference between the two types of shower valves is that pressure balance valves control the ratio of hot and cold water to regulate the temperature, whereas thermostatic valves control the temperature of the water itself.
There are some other significant differences between the two types of valves. Thermostatic valves provide greater control over the temperature while ensuring a steady flow of water. You can set a thermostatic valve and be confident that it will deliver the same temperature the next time you step into the shower.
A pressure balance valve lacks these luxuries. You are also at the mercy of other people in your home, as flushing a toilet or washing their hands could mean you receive a sudden blast of hot or cold water.
Pressure balance valves are more basic so they are heavily affected by fluctuations elsewhere in your home’s plumbing system.
Pressure balance valves are easier to operate than their thermostatic counterparts because they only have one handle. This makes them a good option if there are any vulnerable users in your home and you want to protect them from extreme temperatures.
To give you a clearer picture of the differences between the two shower valve types, we put together this handy chart:
|Features||Pressure Balance Valve||Thermostatic Valve|
|Water flow control||X||✓|
|Ease of use||Easy||Medium|
|Service life||10+ years||5 years|