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Plumbing outlook for 2024

Smart tech and advancements produce innovative bathroom features


Bathroom plumbing innovations aim to meet — or exceed — consumer demands in the coming year.

From updating tile or switching to panel shower surrounds, smart tech and on-demand hot water systems to separate toilet or water closets, the bathroom continues to be a popular home remodeling and renovation target.

The water closet

Water closets are in demand. Real Simple — — reports 71% of recent survey respondents were keen to have or add a separate water closet to their home’s bathroom.

The water closet is a discrete way to separate tasks and bathroom spaces. Cast in a private area and away from the rest of the bathroom’s features — like linen and towel and personal care storage, sinks, showers and tubs — the bathroom is poised to become a spa retreat or restorative sanctuary.

Shower spray types

In the shower, handheld spray systems are popular among Dennis Gehman’s clients. Gehman is the owner of Gehman Design Remodeling in Harleysville.

“Handhelds in the shower are about 90% of the bathrooms we do, if for no other reason, to make cleaning the shower and tub walls a whole lot easier,” he explained.

Cradle setups can hang on the shower wall to accommodate handheld shower pieces, he said.

Body sprays in showers are another requested feature, though Gehman said they are not as popular as other shower head features.

“Most people want the main shower head and the handheld,” he said.

Rain shower heads offer additional options. They are mounted from the ceiling and offer a lighter, gentle flow and spray of water.

Dials on handhelds or mounted shower heads offer control of the amount of shower pressure and shower flow.

Rain shower heads are placed in the middle of a shower setup. Gehman said it may be difficult or nearly impossible to step far enough away from rain shower heads if you don’t want water while soaping or applying shampoo for hair washing.

Adding more than one shower head feature is possible with “diverter” plumbing valves.

“We always put in a diverter valve so if it’s in position 1, it’s the main; 2 is the handheld, 3 is out of the rain shower. You can even have 4, 5 and 6 positions to have combinations,” he said.

When multiple shower heads are in use at the same time shower pressure and water flow will reduce across all fixtures, Gehman said.

Hot water: On demand

The best way around running out of hot water in a household is to purchase and install an on demand or tankless hot water system.

Most homes have standard 50-gallon water heater storage tank systems. That means water is heated and sits in the tank until it is tapped by users. Electric and gas water tank heaters are the most common options. Gas recharge typically will recover quicker than electric to reheat water after use.

To ensure there is always plenty of hot water available — for everyone using it at any time — consider an on demand system.

Tankless or on demand water systems make hot water when you need it, and for as long as you want it, according to “This Old House.”

Gas-fueled tankless systems can last up to 20 years; while electric units have about a seven- to 10-year lifespan, the website said.

Both energy efficient water storage tanks and tankless systems are available with Wi-Fi and smart features, which can be controlled from a smartphone.

These features allow you to adjust water temperatures from the phone and receive trouble messages as soon as the system self identifies a problem. You can turn down the water temperature when you’re traveling or on vacation and save energy — and money, too.

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