The Complete Guide to Buying a Shower Pump
There are few things in life as important as having a good quality bathroom installed in your home. It’s, no doubt, the first place you will see in the morning after brushing the sleep out of your eyes, and a positive day will always start with a long, refreshing shower.
That’s why choosing the right shower pump is vital. Nothing will start your day on the wrong foot more than a shower that just doesn’t have enough power behind it and let’s face it – a trickle of water just doesn’t feel as if it’s getting the job done.
So how do you know what type of shower pump to purchase? Well, while the technical details may be a tad confusing, it really is quite simple. To help you make the right choice, we’ll cover the whole spectrum of shower pumps including: what exactly is a shower pump for, what is the difference between a negative head shower pump and a positive head shower pump, and we will even name drop some of favourite shower pump brands.
What is a Shower Pump for?
Ok, let’s start with the basics. What exactly is a shower pump for? Well, after forking out thousands of pounds on a new bathroom, nothing screams failure more than a dribbling stream coming from your shower head instead of the rejuvenating fountain you were hoping for.
Simply put, a shower pump increases the thrust in your shower system, pumping more water through your pipes and increasing the pressure you experience at the shower head.
If that explanation still doesn’t cut it, watch the video below that shows you the difference between a shower head with no pump, 1.5 bars worth of pressure and 3.0 bars of pressure.
Do I Need a Shower Pump?
Monday mornings need to start with an invigorating and rejuvenating shower, but with most homes across the UK slowly moving from a bathing habit to a shower habit over the last 20 years, it's only recently that we’re realising that our homes have simply not been built to provide the powerful showers we demand each morning.
Here’s a pro tip to help you decide if you need a shower pump or not:
- Calculate your flow rate by measuring the volume of water you get from a tap in one minute. Depending on the shower model, you will require a flow rate over 600-800ml per minute or 1 litre in 1 minute and 40 seconds.
The Different Types of Shower Pumps
For most amateur bathroom fitters, this is where stuff starts to get a little too complicated. Do I need a positive or negative head? Would I be better off with a single or twin impeller pump? And why does gravity matter so much when it comes to a shower? The first step to knowing what type of shower pump you need, is that you need to know the difference between the various types of pumps available. Here we give a brief description on each pump type below:
Positive Head Shower Pump
The best way to remember the key differences between a positive and negative shower pump is to think push or pull. A positive shower pump pushes the feed of water into your shower. It does this by relying on gravity to feed the water from your water tank into the pump and then kick-starting the impellers which then pump the water to the shower. This means that your water tank needs to be at least 3 feet and 3 inches (990mm) above the shower head. This simply allows enough room for the water to pick up speed and kick the pump into action.
Negative or Universal Head Shower Pump
A Universal Shower pump pressurises everything in the pipe from the pump to the mixer valve ensuring the pump starts each time. This type of pump is the best choice for when your shower head is at the same level or higher than the cold water storage tank. These pumps are often used in loft conversions, some residential flats and home renovations. You may need this pump installed if your flow rate is less than 600ml per minute.
This short video by Salamander Pumps shows the animated differences between a positive and negative shower pump installation.
Single Impeller Shower Pump
A little on the old school side, a single impeller shower pump can only pump one type of water. Most installations of a single impeller pump opt to pump hot water, but it’s not uncommon to use a single impeller to pump cold water either. These types of pumps will usually come at the recommendation of a plumber and will often be used when you’re only having pressure issues with one type of water supply.
Twin Impeller Shower Pump
These are the more common types of pumps found in homes today. You may be surprised to learn that yes, in fact, they can pump both hot and cold at an equal flow. They work by taking both hot and cold water at similar pressures and then boosting the pressure equally between the two types.
Centrifugal Pump or Regenerative Pump
For most homeowners the difference between a centrifugal or regenerative pump will be insignificant. Their differences are purely technical, but there are some differences you should be aware of.
Mechanically speaking, a centrifugal pump takes in water from the centre of the impeller. The water in then catapulted out by the impeller at a greater pressure than when it first entered the pump. Adversely, a regenerative pump takes in water from the side and is pushed around by the impeller before exiting the pump.
The key differences between these two pump types are noise and price. Depending on where you plan to install the pump will be quite a factor when purchasing a centrifugal or regenerative pump. A regenerative pump for example will be a fair bit cheaper than a centrifugal pump. The downside of a regenerative pump is that they are quite noisy. Depending on your budget and whether or not you mind waking the wife every morning (think carefully) will factor into your pump choice.
Which Shower Pump Type Should You Go For?
Use the below as a checklist, and then read the brief descriptions for further information. Shower pumps can be complicated tools and each home will create an exception to the rule. Always check the advice of a qualified plumber before installing a shower pump.
Step 1 - Check your boiler type
Step 2 - Shower Type
Step 3 - Positive, Negative or Universal
Step 4 - Pipesize
Step 5 - Power
Step 6 - Location
Step 1 - Check Your Boiler Type
The first thing you need to check is what kind of boiler you have in your home. Your choice of shower pump will depend on whether you have a conventional system or a combi-boiler system. If you have a combi-boiler you will not be able to fit a shower pump. Combi-boilers are sealed and a shower pump would cause a change in pressure that could potentially cause the boiler to implode. If you are suffering pressure problems with a combi-boiler you may need to replace your combi-boiler system or contact your boiler provider.
Step 2 - Shower Type
The second thing you will need to check is the type of shower you have installed. In the UK there are three main types of shower. The manual mixer shower, the thermostatic mixer shower and the electric shower.
Manual Mixer Shower
The manual mixer shower does exactly what it says on the tin. You manually adjust the levels of hot and cold water to your required pressure and temperature. In most cases you will need a twin impeller system to boost pressure of both hot and cold water supply.
Thermostatic Mixer Shower
Similar to a manual mixer shower, a thermostatic mixer shower is fed by both a hot and cold water supply. The thermostatic valve monitors the water and keeps the water at your desired temperature. In most cases you will need a twin impeller system to boost pressure of both hot and cold water supply.
Electric showers are a tad different to mixer showers as they only take water from the cold supply. With a heating unit built within the electric shower they can heat the cold water to your desired temperature. As they are completely disconnected from the hot water supply you will likely need a single impeller pump. The common model chosen by plumbers it the universal showermate - model 46534.
If purchasing a shower pump for an electric or power shower we advise that you contact your shower provider or manufacturer for further information. Each shower is built to a different specification and may need a universal pump even if they follow each of rules in this article.
Step 3 - Positive, Negative or Universal
Next you need to decide whether you require a positive or negative head shower pump. Using the above descriptions you need to find out the vertical distance between your water tank and your shower head. If the distance between the base of your water tank (cistern tank) and your shower head is 990mm or more, you need a positive head pump. However, if your shower head is situated at or above the level of your cistern tank, then a negative head shower pump is what you need.
Step 4 - Pipesize
You also need to take into account the size of the pipes that you plan to attach to your pump. Standard pipesize in the UK is 22mm, but it’s possible for older houses to have a 15mm pipesize. Double check your pipesize as only a small selection of pumps cater for 15mm pipes. A 15mm pipe should not be connected to a pump designed for 22mm pipes.
If you are reading this article in the Republic of Ireland, things can get a little more complicated as your standard pipesize is 21mm, but you can also have the 15mm and 22mm options installed in your home.
Step 5 - Power
Just bear in mind that if you have more than one shower in your home in need of a boost, then you’ll want to select a more powerful model. The general rule is that a 2 bar pump is suitable for a one or two person household and a 3 or 4 bar pump is suitable for a family.
Step 6 - Location
Consider the location of your shower pump carefully. Airing cupboard are a good choice as they are out of the way, but consider the echo noise that can be generated in these cupboards. Lofts are also suitable locations, but the noise from creaky floorboards can also become a nuisance.
Choosing from the Various Pump Brands
That covers the basics, and now comes the next part: choosing from the various brands. The amount of choice can seem a little daunting, but in our opinion there are three shower pump models that stand out from the competition for their combination of high performance and low noise levels.
Stuart Turner is a major name in shower pumps industry. They are largest brand in the shower pumping market and make pumps that cover the cheap and cheerful right through to what we call “brass class”. Known for quality design made with quality parts, the company has a fantastic reputation and their Monsoon range is one of the UK’s best sellers. Made from high-quality brass, there are various models to choose from, including single-head or twin-head options, and they are all low-voltage and therefore cost-effective.
Salamander are a technological giant of the pumping world. Investing heavily into a variety of pump tech, Salamander were recently awarded the title of the quietest pump on the market by Salford University. Their product ranges cover both the more expensive and value options on the pumping marketing and are all made to highest standards of quality.
The Salamander CT Force range offers high quality regenerative pumps, value for money, brass construction, low maintenance, reliability, efficiency and quietness. They are also easy to install and will last you for a good number of years.
As the largest heating pump company in the UK, it was only a matter of time till Grundfos branched out into the shower pump market. So far they have seen huge success as they transfer innovative pump technology from other sectors into the shower sector.
Specifically, Grundfos pumps offer carefully designed, well-constructed and thoroughly reliable pumps which are easy to install and fitted with high-density long-life carbon-graphite seals, integral controls and anti-vibration feet.
Why do Shower Pumps Differ So Much in Price?
Getting a decent shower in the morning shouldn’t cost too much. That said, in the pump world at least, you always get what you pay for. The general rule is the more expensive you go, the more power you get. The more power you buy, the stronger the water flow you can expect from your shower head.
You also need to consider the materials that the pump you are purchasing is made from. The more expensive you go, the more quality you get. Cheaper pumps are made from plastic and the parts will generally suffer from wear and tear more. More expensive pumps will use brass materials. Brass will last longer and will also make less sound.
You will also, with Anchor Pumps, receive a 5 year warranty for a brass pump, while you will only receive a 1 or 2 year warranty for a plastic pump.
As the cost of pumps varies depending on make and model, it can be a tricky process deciding which one to fit into your system. Can you get the same quality and flow from a £110 pump as a £350 pump? To help you decide, we’ve listed our three favourite pumps for each pricing category.
Postive Head Shower Pumps Under £150
Salamander CT75 Xtra 2.0 Bar (15mm)
When considering which shower pump to buy, along with the price there are two main factors which people tend to look for — ease of installation and versatility. The Salamander CT75 meets both of these criteria. Not only is it relatively straightforward to install, but it is suitable for use in a number of different shower types, including conventional models, multi-function showers and those with Victorian can-style shower heads.
Search Prices on the Salamander CT75 Xtra 2.0 Bar here
Stuart Turner ShowerMate Eco S2.0 Twin (15mm)
Looking for the best quality shower pump on the market but at a bargain price? Then look no further than the Stuart Turner ShowerMate Eco range. Suitable for use in open-vented hot and cold water systems, the twin pump boosts the supply of both hot and cold water in equal measure. The Eco pump works equally well in both single-function and multi-function showers, in addition to bath or basin mixer taps. The ShowerMate Eco pumps from Stuart Turner also comes with a two-year warranty making it the perfect budget choice.
Search Prices on the Stuart Turner ShowerMate Eco S2.0 here
Negative Head Shower Pumps Under £150
Grundfos Niagara STC-1.5 CN
Do you go for quality, or do go for price? Well, with the Grundfos Niagra range, you can easily have both. A robust unit that is built to endure the hard years ahead, the Niagra range is fitted with the finest long life seals, along with high quality braided connection hoses. As a universal pump this tech will automatically sync to both positive and negative head solutions.
Search Prices on the Grundfos Niagara STC-1.5 CN here
Salamander CT Force 20SU 2.0
If you’re looking for ease of installation at a bargain price, then look no further than Salamander's finest, budget negative head shower pump. Built using Salamander’s unique technology (NVR), the CT Force has won several awards for its superb sound cancelling abilities. Another great pump with a great price to match.
Search Prices on Salamander CT Force 20SU 2.0 here
Positive Head Shower Pumps Under £300
Grundfos Amazon SSP-3.0B (22mm)
Designed to the highest standard of performance and durability, the Grundfos Amazon SSP-3.0B is the premium option in the low cost category. These pumps are low noise, low vibration due to anti-vibration feet and the long life silicon carbide seals which are fitted as standard absorb any movement. This pump comes with a mega 5 year warranty making it both a safe and budget shower pump choice.
Search Prices on Grundfos Amazon SSP-3.0B here
Salamander CT Force 20PT 2.0 Bar
This is one of the more expensive Salamander pumps on the market, and with the latest in patented noise vibration reduction technology – it definitely counts as money well spent. Pumping out a huge 2 bars of pressure, the twin pump boasts quality design, maximum power and reduced noise at a super low price. A must consider “middle of the road” option.
Search Prices on Salamander CT Force 20PT 2.0 Bar here
Negative Head Shower Pumps Under £300
Stuart Turner Monsoon S2.0 Bar
Designed for installation into vented systems to pump both hot and cold water supplies, the Stuart Turner Monsoon range is one of the most popular shower pump solutions on the market. Designed to the highest standard of both performance and durability, the Stuart Turner Monsoon pumps are brass bodied pumps with anti-vibration feet. They also feature an automatic pressure and float switch making it a tech packed piece of kit for your bathroom.
Search Prices on Stuart Turner Monsoon S2.0 Bar here
Grundfos STR2-2.0 CN Twin Impeller
New to the market, the STR2 range by Grundfos is one of the ultimate universal (negative head capabilities) pumps on the market. This regenerative style pump has been specifically designed to minimise turbulence within the pump head, giving performance with low noise.This smooth and reliable negative head shower pump is one of the best on the market and it comes at an affordable price.
Search Prices on Grundfos STR2 - 2.0 CN Twin Impeller here
Positive Head Shower Pumps £300 or above
Stuart Turner Monsoon S4.5 Bar
Moving on up the pricing categories we’re featuring another of Stuart Turner’s Monsoon pumps. Packed with all the latest pumping technology you can be assured of getting the rejuvenating and invigorating morning shower you dream of with this technology. Pumping out 4.5 bar worth of pressure, again this pump is brass bodied and fitted with anti-vibration feet. The premium option for the person who wants maximum pumping output in their home.
Search Prices on the Stuart Turner Monsoon S4.5 Bar here
Salamander CT Force 30TU 3.0
Salamander are far from renowned for expensive pumps, in fact usually you will find that Salamander are the cheapest option on the market. Surprisingly though, we’ve found the Salamander CT Force 30TU 3.0 to be one of the best available pumps on the market. The 3 bar worth of pressure tends to feel way more powerful and with the unique NVR technology you are again purchasing the latest tech with ultimate power.
Search Prices on Salamander CT Force 30TU 3.0 here
Negative Head Shower Pumps £300 or above
Salamander ESP75CPV 2.0 Bar
Designed for the family of four in serious need of a boost, this negative head pump is one of most powerful on the market. Built on a centrifugal system, the Salamander ESP76CPV pushes out 2 bars of pressure and can work on both positive and negative head solutions.
Search Prices on Salamander ESP75CPV 2.0 Bar here
Stuart Turner TechFlo QT U3.3
Nicknamed the ‘whisper quiet’, you know what to expect with this piece of tech - pure silence. Built using Stuart Turner’s latest TechFlo technology, this centrifugal pump is being slowly phased out by the current Monsoon range, but is still one of the best pumps on the market.
Search Prices on Stuart Turner TechFlo QT U3.3 here
The Quietest Shower Pumps on the Market
While it can be fantastic waking up to a pleasant and invigorating shower powered by a quality shower pump, it can create a whole new world of issues with noise, especially if the wife is still catching a few hours on a Sunday lie in.
If you are worried about purchasing a noisy shower pump, we’ve listed the three quietest pumps on the market and also listed some further noise reduction tips below.
Stuart Turner Monsoon
Featuring a brass body, designed to minimise voltage and fitted with anti-vibration feet, the Stuart turner Monsoon range is the premium market pump option for those looking for a remarkably quiet pump. A great option that will allow the family to sleep while you shower.
Salamander RP range
Salamander as a brand has a great reputation for producing quiet pumps. They’ve achieved this reputation by investing heavily into the now patented noise vibration reduction technology (NVR). This technology involves using innovative new materials to build their pumps and also fitting all their pumps with noise reducing feet. The RP range is the premium Salamander product available on the market as it matches pure power with less noise.
Grundfos pumps are known and trusted across the world for their performance and reliability. Often the go-to choice for contractors and plumbers, the Amazon range by Grundfos uses both low noise motors and anti-vibration feet to deliver minimal noise output. You can’t go wrong with the Grundfos Amazon range as they make a quiet pump both powerful and affordable.
Tips to reduce Noise Vibrations from Your Shower Pump
Check Surrounding Pipes
While each shower pump will be tested to ensure noise reduction, it’s always a good idea to do your own pipe inspection to ensure all surrounding pipes are well supported and completely secure. Loose pipes tend to exacerbate vibrations and can make the noise experienced when working your shower pump to become unbearable.
Buy a Noise-Reducing Pad
It’s a simple and obvious tip but one that is often overlooked by plumbers and contractors. Particularly useful if your pump will be resting on wooden flooring, a noise-reducing pad can be used to soak up all the vibrations created by a shower pump. A cheap and effective investment.
Upgrade Your Pump
Most shower pumps will come with a long term guarantee, especially if you’re purchasing a Stuart Turner, Grundfos or Salamander shower pump. It’s worth checking what your warranty covers, if the noise is gradually getting worse or is starting to make a high pitched whine, your warranty provider may replace your pump for free.
Change Pump Location
The popular place to install a shower pump is within an airing cupboard. This can be a great place both well out of sight and out of harm’s way. The problem with an airing cupboard is that they tend to be acoustic and can amplify the smallest of noises from vibrations. Consider having your shower pump relocated to an inaudible location.
Final Tips before Buying a Shower Pump
- If you’re bypassing a plumber it's worth checking the nature of your domestic water system. You should know that under British regulations you cannot connect a shower pump to the main water supply. A shower pump must be connected to a system that is gravity fed. This is where the water is fed to the pump via a header tank or cistern. These are often located in the attic of a house.
If are faced with this issue you can opt to install a break tank that would put a pressureless tank between your mains supply and the shower pump. Alternatively the flomate range by Stuart Turner can bypass this problem as the system combines both a pump and breaktank in one piece of technology.
- You cannot connect a shower pump to a combi boiler. A combi boiler is fed directly from the mains water supply and not a water tank. Combi-boilers are already working at their maximum output, so if you’re still having issues then you may need to buy a new combi boiler or contact your boiler provider.
- There’s a general rule in pump buying that a 2 bar pump is suitable for a one or two person household and a 3 or 4 bar pump is suitable for a family. Make sure you check the power and performance of the pump you’re purchasing is suitable for your situation and circumstances. Nothing is worse than hopping in the shower last and finding only a dribble of power remains.
- It’s super important to check the capacity of your home’s water system. If you have a small hot water tank, then you definitely want to avoid a high performance shower pump. A 3 bar or 4 bar pump will feel fantastic but your shower will literally last 2 minutes.
- Check the size of the pipework in your home’s water system. The pump comes with piping connections of 15mm and 22mm diameter. The larger diameter can deliver twice the volume of water than the smaller diameter. But the pump’s connection must fit with the rest of the house’s plumbing Never connect a 22mm pump to plumbing with a diameter of 15mm.
- As mentioned earlier in this article, pump location can make a huge difference when it comes to pump satisfaction. Choose a quiet and level location for the pump, as even the most expensive pumps will vibrate and make a noise when operating. Consider purchasing a polystyrene pad or a specially designing noise reduction mat to dampen out any noise.
Disclaimer: Anchor Pumps acknowledges that the information included in this blog is based on their interpretation of the data presented. Shower pumps can be complicated tools and each home will create an exception to the rule. Always check the advice of a qualified plumber before installing a shower pump.