Saturday, May 31, 2008

International Water Heaters and Electric Showers?

In mid-April, we took a brief break from Humphrey House to take a well-earned vacation to Ireland with our friend Jerry and visit some of his family. Of course we took lots of photos of the many interesting sites. There were even some neat things related to construction such as building with local materials (amazing number of slate roofs and stone facades), and a proliferation of renewable energy (lots of solar water heaters, geothermal heat pumps, and large-scale renewables such as wave power and wind turbines result from favorable sustainability incentives).

John's home in county CorkWe got hands-on with some interesting construction when we stayed with Jerry's and his cousin John's home outside of Cork. Besides being an excellent cook, and great guide as we traveled through Ireland, John lives in a fairly recent home (constructed within the last 10 years). At John's house, I of course was interested in the building techniques (such as no basement since Ireland is actually considered in the tropics and has palm trees) while Jen was fascinated by the gardens and chickens.

While the 3-bathroom home has a small oil-heated tank water heater, the upstairs shower actually had a unique feature - an electronically controlled shower valve that incorporates an on-demand water heater (similar to tankless water heater technology, only smaller). We came across this shower control in a couple locations during our travels.

At first, it was a bit confusing as Jen and I were both unsure how to turn it on. Once we figured it out though, we felt dumb because it was pretty obvious. These electric showers are really unique because they are connected to the cold water supply lines, and you just dial in the temperature you want and turn another dial "on" to activate it. This makes them more energy efficient, use less water, and surprisingly, there weren't any performance issues. John told me the two big manufacturers of these are Triton are Mira (owned by Kohler).

It was interesting to see how Europe (Ireland in this case) is more advanced and hold concepts like sustainability as integrated into their core. In many ways, the Irish haven't had a choice - they've had to be self-sustaining and conserving of their resources since they live on a rocky island with limited resources. So besides having a great vacation, we got a bit of education in how other parts of the world approach green building.


Jenni said...

Thank you for sharing. What an interesting device. And we are suppose to be an advanced nation..... Right???

Jennifer said...

My husband railed against the ones he had to use in Scotland a few years ago... it's the reason he doesn't want to consider a tankless one for our house! I bet it's brand to brand...

Anonymous said...

Not sure about your hubby's experience, but I'm kind of picky about showers (water pressure and heat are important to me!!! don't want to have to run around to get wet), and the ones in ireland were just ducky. :) Although two places we stayed had the oddest version of a shower curtain I had ever experienced.... - Jennifer

(apparently only jennifers can reply to this post. hello ladies!)

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