Smart Shower Systems

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Smart home tech continues to push into new territory, and the humble shower is not immune. Smart shower systems are indeed a thing, although still relatively new. As such, there aren’t a lot of options on the market yet, and those that do exist vary significantly in capabilities. Indeed, only a few have true smart home integration.

Smart home devices tend to offer convenience and perhaps peace of mind in terms of being able to monitor and control things from afar. You could argue smart showers offer these benefits too, but these devices probably push more into that ‘just because’ luxury territory than some other categories.

So why a smart shower?

There are some genuine benefits to these upgrades, both from a safety and efficiency perspective, although it’s fair to say these can be largely achieved by simpler solutions. The smart options deliver these benefits with added finesse, convenience, and in a more complete package.

Save water

Most of these devices will show you your shower duration at a minimum, and the more capable will allow you to set maximum time limits to enforce reduced water use. How much you save will depend on how strict you want to be on yourself and your family members, but it can certainly make it easier to be more water conscious when the shower can turn itself off.

Keep in mind that when saving heated water, you’re also saving energy that would otherwise be used to heat the extra. So there can be a more palpable cost saving with small regular reductions in hot water use.

Precise temperature control

While you can prevent scalding with a simple thermostatic valve, the more advanced smart shower systems will allow you to preset a specific temperature via either the control panel or your smartphone. You can even have different presets for different members of the household, and have the shower preheat the water before you go to get in.

Remote operation

By being able to start the shower from your phone or by voice command, you can be sure it’s ready for you when you get there. This one is a bit of a time saver if you’re really on the go. More advanced systems will also shut off the water and notify you it’s ready so you’re not wasting heated water while you head to the shower.

Things to Consider

Types of smart shower

We’ll take a look at the various options available today, but I’m going to break these down into a couple of groups. There are the lower end smart devices that can provide some conveniences like showing the water temperature at the shower head, the shower duration, offering some more convenient control options and perhaps providing some in-shower lighting.

Then there are the full blown smart shower systems that manage the water temperature to your desired temperature and can shut the water on and off automatically, notify you when your shower is ready, and integrate with smart home systems like Alexa for voice control.

Installation cost

This is a big one if you’re going for a full smart shower system. These systems will require electrical power to the shower, which most of us won’t have, and will probably require some changes to the shower finish and plumbing as well. These are intended for professional installation and probably would only be considered by those renovating the bathroom or building a new one. That’s not to say you can’t retrofit, but it could be an expensive proposition.

The lower tier devices tend to be much simpler, and actually use hydroelectric power generated by the water flow itself. These are usually a drop in replacement for your existing shower fixtures. They won’t offer the same utility of the full systems, but they can still offer a nice upgrade from a standard shower head at a fraction of the cost.

Temperature range

The temperature control models will have an upper and lower limit you can set, these should be fine for most people, but it does pay to check you’ll be able to set your preferred temperature before chunking down the big bucks.

How many outlets do you need?

If you just have a plain ole’ shower head, then any of these models will do, but if you have multiple outlets such as for a hand shower, body spray jets, a rain shower and a massage head, you’ll need to make sure the system supports enough outlets to cover everything.

Basic Smart Shower Heads

DreamSpa 5 Setting Head

✔ Easy Install
✔ No power supply required
✔ 5 spray settings
✔ 3 LED colors (shows temp)

✘ No temperature protection
✘ No smart integration

This 5 setting shower head from Dream Spa offers a simple entry level option into ‘smarter’ showers. The main feature here is the hydro powered LED lighting built right into the head itself. The lighting changes automatically based on the temperature range of the water flowing through it:

BLUE - Cool under 95F (35C)
GREEN - Warm 95-108F (35-42C),
RED - Hot 109-122F (43-50C)
FLASHING RED - Warning Hot over 122F (50C)

Apart from that it has a click selector on the outside edge of the spray head that allows for a few different options which they list as “Power Rain, Pulsating Massage, Hydro-Mist, Economy Rain & Water-Saving Pause”.

You can attach it to any standard overhead shower arm, so it’s an easy DIY upgrade. Dream Spa claims it’ll say you energy because you won’t need bathroom lighting, but I doubt you’ll be using only the LED lights to shower with.


WaterHawk

✔ Easy Install
✔ No power supply required
✔ Digital display
✔ Color ring for temp

✘ No temperature protection
✘ No smart integration

The WaterHawk from startup LTE Water Products is a standard rain shower head with some smarts built into the center portion. Powered by the water flowing through the head the outer LED ring light changes color based on temperature, similar to the DreamSpa, blue to green to red as the water warms up. Additionally you’ll get the actual temperature displayed on the central LCD.

The central display alternates between temperature (only in fahrenheit) and the water usage in gallons per minute. The premise of the product is to help you save water by making your usage visible, and by ensuring you don’t run the shower longer than necessary to warm it up. I guess if you tend to move away from the shower while you wait this could help as you’ll be able to see if it’s warm from some distance away.

Of course, saving hot water also means saving energy on heating it, so anything you can cut down is a double benefit.


ELLO&ALLO Tower System

✔ No power supply required
✔ 5 outlet functions
✔ Hand shower
✔ Digital display
✔ LED Lighting

✘ No temperature protection
✘ No smart integration

The ELLO&ALLO Shower Tower system come in a variety of models with different features. This one is at the higher end, and includes everything you could want in a shower outlet system. You not only get selectable rainfall and waterfall functions up top, but a hand shower (with selectable spray options itself), chest spray, adjustable massage body jets, and a tub spout at the bottom.

Two of the control knobs are function selectors, so you can choose two options to run at the same time (one from the top three, and one from the bottom three). The third control is your temperature adjustment.

LED lights are built in throughout, both in the top rainfall head, and around the control knobs, and you get a digital display showing water temperature and shower time. All of this is again powered by hydro electric energy generated by the water flowing through the unit.

Installation is a little more involved than the simpler models above, but still a DIY option. The whole unit simply hangs from a mounting bracket you can install on the wall, and the hot and cold water line screw into the back of the unit. You’ll need to have those centrally placed so they are hidden behind housing. You can see how this works in the video below.


Blue Ocean 52” Panel

✔ No power supply required
✔ 4 outlet functions
✔ Hand shower
✔ Digital display

✘ No temperature protection
✘ No smart integration

The Blue Ocean 52” shower panel offers a similar product to the ELLA&ALLO, but with more focus on modern styling than features.

Notably this one can only select one function at a time, “To ensure correct water pressure” according the the manufacturer. There are multiple modes on the hand shower, and the digital display will show the water temperature, but not shower time. There’s also no LED lighting on offer here.


Full Smart Shower Systems

Here’s where things get interesting. These full smart shower system offer much greater capability and integration than the DIY options above, but the downside is that the options are more limited, and the cost is obviously going to be higher, both to purchase and to install.

U by Moen

✔ Supports Alexa, HomeKit, and Google Assistant
✔ 2 and 4 outlet options
✔ Automatic temperature control
✔ 12 Presets
✔ Battery backup option

✘ US/Canada Only

Moen is a fairly major supplier of plumbing hardware and fixtures, and has been moving more into the smart home in recent years. U by Moen is the big leap into full integrated smart water control systems (they have a kitchen version as well).

The system consists of an in-wall control panel, a powered valve unit that needs to be installed on your piping, and an optional battery backup unit that connects to it. Normally, the system will revert to an off state in the event of a power failure, the battery allows the shower to continue to run until you turn it off, or the timer (a control feature) runs out.

The valve unit comes in a 2 or 4 outlet version, so you can select the one that’s right for you setup. This basically takes the hot and cold inlet lines, mixes them and controls which outlets are turned on. You connect the outlets to your normal fixtures, whatever they may be. That all means some extra plumbing work and the space to install the valve module, as well as running power to it, so you can see the installation gets a bit more involved.

You can control the system via the panel, the Moen app on your smart phone, or your supported voice assistant. This includes turning the shower on and off, setting the temperature and timers as required. You can also do all that in up to 12 presets, two of which are available on the panel.

You’ll get some actual water saving features here; You can start the shower from where ever and it will notify you when it gets to the desired temperature, shutting off the water until you get there. You can also preset the desired shower duration and have it automatically turn off at that time. Possibly a great water saver with teenagers in the house.


ThermaSol

✔ Supports Alexa
✔ 3 outlet valve controller
✔ Steam shower option
✔ Automatic temperature control
✔ 2 user presets
✔ Stereo sound
✔ Waterproof

✘ US/Canada Only

Therma Sol goes all out for a truly luxury shower experience. There’s quite a few options here, so hit the button above to check out their configurator, but essentially you’ll have a full color touch screen display that not only provides control over the shower settings, but gives you access to a wide variety of music and video sources you can play right there in the shower.

You can combine this with a steam generator for your own sauna experience, along with their light and sound shower heads which provide a multi-colored light show and beef up the audio capabilities with a subwoofer and voice feedback interface. These come in a pretty wide range of color options to suit your decor, or you can go with a more standard shower head.

You can get these and other accessories in various packages, or design your own. Obviously we’re talking premium stuff here, so if you really love your showers and you’re building a new bathroom, you might be tempted to splurge on one of these.

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The system supports Alexa, and you can use voice commands to turn the shower or, set the temperature, control the steam options and set the lighting (known as ‘chromatherapy’). Unfortunately no other voice assistants are supported at the moment.


Kohler DTV+

✔ Supports Alexa, Google Assistant
✔ 2 to 6 outlet valves
✔ Automatic temperature control
✔ 6 user presets
✔ Optional sound control
✔ Waterproof

✘ US/Canada Only

Plumbing brand Kohler has come to the party with the Kohler DTV+, the latest iteration of their smart shower system. Similar to the ThermaSol in that this is a modular system with various component options to suit your preferences.

You get digital control of water temperature, shower time, lighting and music, so long as you have the right components. You’ll need a separate amplifier module and wet area wall speakers for the sound output, as unlike the ThermalSol unit the control panel doesn’t have any. You can add a steam module here as well, and two separate valve controllers, with 2 or 3 outlets each. This means you could have two different sets of outlets set to different temperatures.

They offer integration with Alexa and Google Assistant for voice control as with the other full systems, but you’ll need a separate bridge module for that functionality as well. Given the variety of components in play the DTV+ is really only a professional install option.

The Wrap Up

There are certainly some convenience benefits to be had from upgrading your plain old shower to something with a little smarts….or a lot, depending on your budget. From easier temperature setting, to better management of shower times, to full home spa implementations, there are now options to suit every taste.

I find the claimed efficiency savings in most of these cases to be a bit of a stretch, but it does depend on how disciplined you are to begin with, and there are certainly features even at the low end that could be of some help. I particularly like the prestart and notification functionality on the U by Moen system, that seems to be unique in this space. They also happen to be the only brand supporting Apple’s HomeKit in the shower at the moment.

Even without going for an expensive retrofit like that, I’d consider a replacement shower head a great aid for helping kids get the right temperature set, and you can add a little fun with the LED lighting for not much cost. Of course, if you just want to get some tunes in the shower, then a waterproof shower speaker might be enough.