What Are The Different Types of Shower Valves?

Shower valves are the unsung heroes of the bathroom, silently dictating the flow and temperature of water, ensuring your shower experience is just right. But what exactly are the different types of shower valves, and how do they impact your daily rituals? 

Shower valves control water flow and temperature in your shower. Types include manual, thermostatic, pressure-balancing, diverter, transfer, and digital valves, each offering different functionalities for temperature stability, flow control, and user convenience in multi-output shower systems.

This article by a shower remodeling service company delves deep into the world of shower valves, offering insights and expert advice to help you make informed decisions for your bathroom.

The Different Types of Shower Valves

Manual Shower Valves

Manual shower valves are among the most common and straightforward types of shower controls found in bathrooms. They operate simply, allowing the user to adjust the flow and temperature of the water through a single handle or knob. 

Here's a closer look at manual shower valves, including how they work and their advantages.

How Manual Shower Valves Work

The basic principle behind a manual shower valve is the mixing of hot and cold water within a single valve body to achieve the desired temperature. The valve is connected to both the hot and cold water supplies. 

When you turn the handle or knob, you're essentially opening or closing the access to these water supplies, which mixes to a proportion that determines the output temperature and flow rate.

There are typically two main types of manual valves:

  • Single-Control Mixer: This type has one handle or knob that controls both the flow and the temperature of the water. Turning the handle to one side mixes more hot water, and turning it to the opposite side mixes more cold water. The flow rate is usually controlled by how far you turn the handle.

  • Dual-Control Mixer: This variant features two separate controls, one for the water flow and the other for temperature. This setup offers more precise control over the water temperature and flow rate but requires a bit more coordination to adjust both settings to your preference.

What Are The Different Types of Shower Valves1

Thermostatic Shower Valves

Thermostatic shower valves have revolutionized the way we experience showers, offering enhanced safety, comfort, and convenience. These valves are designed to maintain a constant water temperature throughout the duration of your shower, even when there are fluctuations in water pressure or temperature in your home's water supply. 

This feature not only improves the showering experience but also significantly reduces the risk of scalding, making them an ideal choice for families with young children or elderly members.

How Thermostatic Shower Valves Work

Thermostatic shower valves are equipped with a temperature-sensitive element (often a wax thermostatic element) that expands or contracts in response to changes in the incoming water temperature. 

This element automatically adjusts the mix of hot and cold water to maintain the pre-set temperature chosen by the user. Even if the pressure or temperature of the incoming water changes, the valve compensates for these changes to keep the shower temperature consistent.

Key Features

  • Temperature Stability: The primary advantage of a thermostatic valve is its ability to maintain a constant water temperature, providing a safer and more comfortable showering experience.

  • Pre-set Temperatures: Many models allow users to set a preferred shower temperature, which the valve will then maintain throughout the shower.

  • Anti-Scald Feature: Most thermostatic valves have a built-in anti-scald feature that prevents the water from getting too hot (usually set to a maximum of around 38°C or 100°F), which is particularly important for protecting children and the elderly.

  • Dual Controls: Typically, thermostatic shower valves have two controls: one for setting the temperature and another for adjusting the water flow rate. This setup offers precise control over your showering experience.

What Are The Different Types of Shower Valves2

Pressure-Balancing Shower Valves

Pressure-balancing shower valves are a crucial innovation in bathroom plumbing technology, designed to address the common issue of sudden temperature changes in showers. 

These changes often occur when another water appliance in the house is used simultaneously, such as flushing a toilet or running the dishwasher, which can lead to a sudden drop in water pressure on either the hot or cold side. 

Pressure-balancing valves prevent these abrupt and uncomfortable temperature shifts, ensuring a more stable and enjoyable shower experience.

How Pressure-Balancing Shower Valves Work

The core mechanism of a pressure-balancing shower valve is a balancing spool or diaphragm that moves in response to changes in the pressure of the hot and cold water lines.

When the pressure in one line drops (for example, if someone elsewhere in the house uses hot water), the spool shifts to reduce the flow from the higher-pressure side, maintaining a constant temperature in the shower. 

This operation happens automatically and instantly, minimizing the risk of scalding or a cold shock.

Key Features

  • Single Control: Most pressure-balancing valves use a single control or handle to adjust both the water temperature and flow rate. Turning the handle changes the mix of hot and cold water to achieve the desired temperature.

  • Temperature Consistency: By balancing the pressure between the hot and cold water feeds, these valves ensure a consistent shower temperature, providing a comfortable and safe showering experience.

  • Simple Design: Pressure-balancing valves have a straightforward design that makes them relatively easy to install and maintain.

What Are The Different Types of Shower Valves3

Diverter and Transfer Shower Valves

Diverter and transfer shower valves play a crucial role in multi-functional bathroom setups, allowing users to direct or distribute water flow between different shower outputs, such as a fixed showerhead, a handheld showerhead, or a bathtub spout. 

These valves are essential for enhancing the versatility and convenience of a bathroom, enabling a single water source to cater to various fixtures.

Diverter Valves

Diverter valves are designed to redirect water from one outlet to another. They are commonly used in shower/tub combinations, where water can be directed either to the tub spout or the showerhead. 

Diverter valves can also be found in more complex shower systems that include multiple showerheads.

There are several types of diverter valves:

  • Tub Spout Diverters: The most common type, located on the tub spout itself, where pulling up a knob or lever diverts water to the showerhead.

  • Single-Valve Diverters: Found in shower systems where a single lever or knob controls both the water temperature and the diversion of water between the showerhead, handheld shower, or body jets.

  • Two- or Three-Valve Diverters: These are used in shower setups that do not include a tub spout, allowing for the selection between different shower outputs through separate controls.

Transfer Valves

Transfer valves offer more flexibility than diverter valves, as they can control multiple water outlets simultaneously rather than just switching between them. 

This capability makes transfer valves ideal for custom showers with multiple features, such as overhead, handheld, and body spray showerheads.

Transfer valves typically have one or more handles or levers that allow the user to control the flow of water to various outlets, either individually or in combination. This means you can have water flowing from both the handheld and overhead showerheads at the same time, for example.

What Are The Different Types of Shower Valves4

Digital Shower Valves

Digital shower valves represent the cutting edge in shower technology, offering unprecedented control and customization of the showering experience. 

These advanced systems utilize digital controls to precisely manage water temperature, flow rate, and even shower duration, providing a level of convenience and luxury that traditional mechanical valves cannot match.

How Digital Shower Valves Work

Digital shower valves are connected to a digital thermostat, which monitors and adjusts the water temperature with precision. Users set their preferred temperature and flow rate via a digital interface, which can be a wall-mounted control panel or a remote control. 

Some systems even offer smartphone connectivity, allowing for control through a mobile app. The digital valve then mixes hot and cold water to achieve and maintain the set temperature, regardless of fluctuations in water supply pressure or temperature.

Key Features

  • Precise Temperature Control: Digital showers offer exact temperature settings, which can be easily adjusted to suit personal preferences.

  • Customizable Settings: Many models allow users to save their preferred shower settings, making it easy to replicate the perfect shower every time.

  • Remote Operation: Some digital showers can be started remotely, warming up the water to the desired temperature before you even enter the bathroom.

  • Multiple Outlets: Digital valves can control multiple water outlets, such as overhead showers, body jets, and handheld showers, often allowing users to use them simultaneously or switch between them effortlessly.

  • Water Conservation: With features like timed showers and flow control, digital showers can help reduce water usage.

What Are The Different Types of Shower Valves5

FAQs on The Different Types of Shower Valves

What is the difference between a manual and a thermostatic shower valve?

A manual shower valve requires manual adjustment to set the water temperature, while a thermostatic valve automatically maintains your desired temperature, even if the water pressure fluctuates.

Can I replace my shower valve myself?

Yes, you can replace a shower valve yourself if you have some DIY plumbing experience and the right tools. However, for thermostatic or digital valves, professional installation is recommended due to the complexity and the need for electrical connections.

How do I know which type of shower valve I need?

The choice depends on your preferences for temperature control, safety features (such as anti-scald), and budget. Thermostatic valves offer more precise temperature control, while manual valves are more straightforward and cost-effective.

Are digital shower valves worth the investment?

Digital shower valves offer precise temperature control, customizable settings, and convenience, making them a worthwhile investment for those prioritizing comfort and luxury in their shower experience.

Understanding The Various Shower Valve Types

Choosing the right shower valve can significantly enhance your shower experience, offering comfort, convenience, and control. 

By understanding the different types of shower valves and considering your specific needs and preferences, you can select a valve that not only meets your requirements but also adds value to your bathroom.

Video of Shower Valve Types:

PDF version:

You may also be interested in these topics about shower plumbing fixtures...

Do you live in Ahwatukee, Chandler, Gilbert, Mesa, Tempe,  Sun Lakes, Laveen, or South Phoenix?

Ready to talk about your remodeling needs?

Take the next step...

About the author

Hi my name is Jeremy Maher. My wife, 2 kids and I went through Contractor Nightmares for 3 years straight.

Ben, Mark, and I teamed up to start Phoenix Home Remodeling to help homeowners remodel without the common contractor nightmares.

Learn more about Jeremy's expertise and topics he likes to write about on his author page.