July 2020

Which is Greener - a Bath or a Shower?

Do you prefer a bath or a shower - or perhaps sometimes a bath, other times a shower?  Many people have a very fixed preference for one or the other. A recent YouGov poll found that 49% Brits have a shower every day and 6% have more than one shower a day.

But which is environmentally more responsible? There are two issues to consider. First there is the consumption of water - and remember that we are using drinking quality water to wash in (and also to flush the toilet). Purifying water to this standard requires an input of energy.  Both baths and showers use hot water, so we also need to consider relative energy usage.         

The answer turns out to be not straight-forward.  Baths have long been seen as more wasteful in terms of both water usage and energy consumption, but recent research shows that modern power showers can use much larger quantities of hot water than baths, so lose out on both water consumption and energy usage.

Here is a test we did at our house - you can do the same using an ordinary 8 litre plastic bucket and a stopwatch.  Our bath, filled to a reasonably moderate level, uses around 50 litres - a deep bath uses 80-100 litres. 

Our fairly new showerhead gives a good pressure from a combi boiler, but it is not a power shower. It used 16 litres in 1 minutes.  So, a 5 minute shower would use 80 litres and a 10 minute shower would use 160 litres.  Our 14 year old grandson must be in there for at least 10-15 minutes when he visits us......

The amount of energy you use when taking a bath does not depend on how long you stay in the bath - unless you top it up with hot water, of course.  However, the longer you stay in the shower, the more energy you use - twice as much for a 10 min shower compared to a 5 min shower.

The best advice we can give ourselves is to:

  •       keep showers short
  •       don't fill the bath too deep - and don't stay in so long that you need to top it up with hot water
  •       don't have the water in either too hot
  •       consider whether it is always necessary to have a bath or a shower - would a wash in the sink sometimes suffice?

In dry spells, the water in a bath can be used for more than one member of the family, if necessary, and it can be used to water the garden afterwards. This is not possible with shower water.

And finally, if you are considering installing a new shower or showerhead make sure you ask about water consumption per minute, particularly if you are thinking of buying a power shower.  Consider investing in an aerated showerhead which feeds air into the jets and reduces the flow to 4-9 litres per minute - around a third to a half that of a normal showerhead - without you feeling a loss of power.

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