A dangerous English B & B ?

As I was planning a recent trip to England, my travel agent booked me in a B&B whose name I won't use here; I'll disclose it in a private message, if you like. The water flow and temperature were regulated by an electric device that was mounted on the shower wall -- that's right, in the shower stall itself ! The proprietor insisted that the place had passed "rigorous" inspections, and that this system was used all over the UK. Inspections or no, it would only take one bad wire or one small leak . . . as for widespread use, this was the first and only time I'd ever seen such a thing.

Posted by Susan
Marin County/San Francisco
4031 posts

Yep, I've seen and used them many times in the UK. Never thought anything of it.

Posted by Larry
Elkins Park, PA
1158 posts

Any chance you have a picture of this? We just spent two weeks London and bath, and in two of our three lodgings (B and Bs) there was s such a shower control. Seemed perfectly normal (tricky to find the sweet spot then no problems) and I am certain it was properly grounded through the wall and with proper GFCI in line. I am also certain that this was in all the bathrooms in both places.

Posted by Nancy
Bloomington, IL, USA
8729 posts

Yes, that is common in the UK and Ireland. I wish I could have one here! You never run out of hot water. The things you learn when you travel.....

Posted by Ken
Spring, Texas
605 posts

I've seen them. They also have a ground fault circuit breaker to keep the happy shower person from becoming a "chip." There should have been a label on it but it's possible that it wore/washed off.

Posted by Paul
Tuscaloosa, AL
891 posts

What you saw was an on-demand water heater. They sell those here now. They work well and should not be a source of concern. This is not something to worry over.

Posted by Edgar
Medford, OR, USA
2068 posts

Yes, it sounds like an on-demand hot water system. I remember that one B&B in Scotland had an on-demand system that required switching the system on with a switch outside of the bathroom in addition to controls in the bath. My wife didn't understand the Scottish accented English and had an cold shower. We also experienced on-demand systems in Germany. If the stereotype about Germans is close to true, on-demand electrical water heaters can be used with conference, at least in Germany. The incentive is energy efficiency. On-demand systems provide hot water at the nozzle without having to heat a 50 gal tank of water and the delivery pipe.

Posted by Susan
Marin County/San Francisco
4031 posts

Yes, they're becoming popular here in the area where I live, but they're not installed in the shower like they are in the UK.

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
9472 posts

Bill , I am thinking they have had this type of system for quite a few years in UK,, and haven't had issues with its safety.

Posted by Bob
Bristol, UK
362 posts

The electric shower that you used meets all the requirements of the British safety standards, which can be found at http://www.iee-wiring-regulations.co.uk/.. These are different from the regulations used by other countries, but no less rigorous. For example, they do not allow power sockets or ordinary light switches in bathrooms. Light switches are either outside the room, or a cord-operated ceiling-mounted switch is used. The electric shower units use cold water at mains pressure, and require a separate, heavy-duty power supply. The hot water supply in many older buildings is often at low pressure, which is OK for a bath or basin but means poor flow at the shower head unless a pump is installed. You are more likely to find such an arrangement in a small old hotel or a B & B. Modern purpose-built hotels, at whatever price, will have other systems of water heating and distribution at an acceptable pressure.

Posted by Karen
Fort Wayne, IN, USA
1852 posts

I thought perhaps the dangerous B&B was serving rancid bacon or eggs that had gone off.

Posted by Larry
Elkins Park, PA
1158 posts

Actually, wouldn't that be any place there serving the coronary-causing "English Breakfast"?

Posted by Lo
1678 posts

My first experience with this kind of on-demand hot water system was in, yikes!, 1977. Yes, they have been around for a very long time, and it was in more than one country even way back then. Some were coin or token operated. Both were far superior to having to get up at 0:dark:30 to bathe so that there would be hot water available in the hotel, B&B, hostel or even my apartment when I lived in Nuremberg.

Posted by Lee
1017 posts

The London hostel where I stayed in 1971 had this system. As I recall 5p got you 5 minutes of hot water. People shared the shower to save money.

Posted by Bill from Florida
30 posts

Lo and Denton, I remember a coin-op in the early Seventies. But, since I've resumed traveling the last five years or so, I haven't encountered one in any of three countries (UK --England & Scotland -- France, Czech Republic. Then again, I've visited mainly large cities. Maybe some of the smaller areas still have them.

Posted by Linda
Bromley, Kent,, UK
1774 posts

The other benefit is that if someone else draws cold water from the system the automatic safety cut-out ensures, unlike some mixer showers, that you do not get scalded! We have used two such units for over 30 years, one in a shower cubicle and the other over the bath.