Pressure Balance vs. Thermostatic Shower Valve: What Is the Difference?

The Shower Experience

When planning your dream bathroom remodeling project, there is more to do than just choosing a style, a color scheme, what finishes you’ll use, and what features your bathroom will have.

If you are remodeling an outdated bathroom, it’s going to take more than an extravagant shower head, new grout, marble tiles, glass doors, etc. to really enhance your shower experience.

If the plumbing behind the scenes isn’t up to par, you will be fairly disappointed once your new bathroom is completed. One of the most important aspects of creating a luxury shower is what kind of shower valve system is installed.

What Does A Shower Valve Do?

Your shower valve is a very important piece to your overall showering system. The shower valve is used to control the flow of water coming from the shower head. Even if your shower seems fine, there could be major performance issues that you know nothing about.

Replacing Your Shower Valve

If you decide to replace your shower valves, you’ll need to decide what kind of shower valve you’ll use.

Below we’ll go over the difference between a Thermostatic shower valve and a Pressure Balance shower valve. We’ll also go over why some shower valves seem to be the same but are much more expensive depending on where you purchase it.

Pressure Balance vs. Thermostatic Shower Valve Tallahassee FL

Water Temperature Issues

A big clue that you may need a new shower valve is when you find yourself enjoying a nice, relaxing shower and it gets ruined by someone flushing a toilet or starting a load of laundry.

These kinds of issues aren’t always just annoying but they can be dangerous too. The water can go from a perfect temperature to scolding hot or very cold in seconds, causing you to either get burned and/or slip and fall.

Prevention

The most effective way to prevent against this situation is to install a pressure-balance shower valve or a thermostatic shower valve. What’s the difference between the two?

A thermostatic valve can control what the water temperature actually is, while a pressure-balance shower valve can only control the ratio of how much hot water there is to cold water. Which shower valve works best?

Which Valve Is Better?

As usual, it depends on the homeowner’s preference and your budget. We, however, recommend installing a thermostatic shower valve. Read more about the two types of shower valves below.

Pressure Balance vs. Thermostatic Shower Valve Tallahassee FL

How it Works: Pressure Balance Shower Valves

The pressure balance shower valve has just one handle that controls both the volume and the temperature. It also has a dial that marks the stopping-point for the handle (which controls the hot to cold ratio).

When a Toilet is Flushed, What Actually Happens to The Water in Your Shower?

There is either a sliding disc on a piston or a spool that reacts to changes within the valve, that then balances the water pressure ratio. When a toilet gets flushed or a load of laundry is started, some of your cold shower water is being taken to the toilet or washer, which Inside the shower valve, it should sense that there is now less cold water means that the shower water is going to get hotter.

The pressure balance shower valve will sense this change and immediately make up for it by reducing the hot water to balance the hot and cold ratio once again.

A downside to installing a pressure-balance shower valve is that it doesn’t necessarily pay attention to the temperature, so if you set the valve to the hottest temperature that you can, and then turn the handle all the way to “hot”, the water that will come out of the shower will be as hot as the water heater can get (which could be even higher than what you set on the thermostat).

Pros & Cons of Using a Pressure Balance Shower Valve

Some reasons some prefer a pressure-balance shower valve is that they can have a lower initial cost, it does provide scald protection, and it provides moderate comfort. Some downsides to this valve are that it has no temperature memory and no additional scald protection.Pressure Balance vs. Thermostatic Shower Valve Tallahassee FL

How it Works: Thermostatic Shower Valves

Thermostatic shower valves are what you want to use because you’ll no longer have to worry about the temperature of your water ever again.

This shower valve works by constantly making slight adjustments based on any changes in the water pressure that occur, to ensure that you receive a full and even shower temperature the whole time.  Also, thermostatic shower valves are best when you are considering multiple body spray options. When you turn the tap on, the settings will instantly deliver your desired temperature.

Thermostatic shower valves have two handles. One of the handles controls the volume of water that is dispensed and the other handle controls the temperature of the water. This is because thermostatic valves react to the temperature, not the pressure of the water.

Advantages of Thermostatic Shower Valves

With this valve, you can change the flow volume without affecting the temperature, which is a great feature! This feature helps make water conservation easy; just turn down the water flow while shampooing or shaving! This is all thanks to a wax piece that is inside the shower valve which reacts to heat changes causing the valve to balance the cold and hot water ratio continuously.

If either of the hot or cold water should stop, the valve would automatically stop the flow from the other side of the valve. The biggest reason to have a thermostatic valve is to have absolute control over your shower temperature; all the while, your water heater can be set to 140° F to protect against bacterial contamination, the water coming out of your shower head can always be 100° F (set your maximum output temperature on the valve).

Some advantages to installing this system are that you get a consistent temperature, Increased energy efficiency, higher flow rates, and possibly a cheaper water bill.

Can You Just Skip the Valve & Adjust Your Water Heater Temperature?

Some people try to not purchase a temperature-controlling shower valve and instead try to adjust the temperature on their water heater directly. The problem with this is that your water heater must stay at 140° F or bacterial contaminations can occur which can cause you to become sick.

Pressure Balance vs. Thermostatic Shower Valve Tallahassee FL

Shower Valve Costs: Hardware Store vs. Contractor’s Rep

At McManus Kitchen and Bath, we are often asked why the exact same shower valve is less than half the price of one offered at our company through our trusted reps. This is simple.

There are two valves, they are the same brand, color, etc. but one is much cheaper. What happens is that the company that makes the shower valve made a very valve but made a cheaper version to sell at the hardware store where you got it.

Usually, the price is an indication of this and the quality is usually missing from the finish. You might find that one may be ceramic vs. brass or plastic! These differences are not always advertised.

Always Get Quality Parts

The benefit to working with our team is that we can call up a rep any time to verify product quality. We also have an eye for these sorts of things.

If you’d like to know more, the McManus Kitchen and Bath team are always happy to take your questions here.