Flow Loop introduces a new closed loop shower that will bring back one of life’s little pleasures: a long hot wet shower.
Showers use a lot of water and it takes a lot of energy to heat that water, so the trend has been toward low flow shower heads; in much of the world they are the law. Long hot showers are, for many people, a guilty memory.
That’s why two years ago, when writing about entries in the INDEX: Design to Improve Life competition in Denmark, I was so excited about the Shower of the Future from Orbital Systems. It took the waste water from the shower, filtered it and recirculated it. But it was expensive at US$3,599.
So it must have been fate that exactly two years later on the train to Copenhagen airport, I see a guy carrying a Strida bike like mine, always a reason to strike up a conversation. He turns out to be Simon Kolff, CEO, founder and product designer for Flow Loop, a new improved recirculating shower designed in Denmark.
According to Flow Loop,
A standard shower head uses about 9-10L of warm water per minute, which means that during average 8 minute shower, you let about 80L [17.6 Gal] of that water go to waste down the drain. Because our system creates circulating loop and adds only 1L of warm water per minute during the same showering time, you use as little as 8 litres of water. This can make an enormous difference for both the environment and your utility bills!
It also saves a lot of the energy used for heating water, which often accounts for 25 percent of a home's heating cost. But the temperature drop from shower head to shower drain is only about 5°F; it doesn't take much energy to boost it back up. So one is recirculating heat as well as water.
But as every TreeHugger reader knows, saving money or the environment has never been an effective sales pitch for most of the population, or we would all be vegan bicyclists. What the Flow Loop also does is significantly improve the quality of the shower; while American water regulations limit shower head water flow to 2.5 gallons per minute and some states, 2 gallons per minute, the pump in the recirculating Flow Loop gives you 4 gallons a minute, which is a childhood memory. People will pay for that.
The water is cleaned by micro-filters, an ultrasonic de-scaler, and ultra-violet light; Flow Loop claims that it is “cleaner and safer than most tap water.” The device also has a back-washing cleaning cycle that engages after each use.
A big problem with many of these concepts is the cost of installation; if it goes behind the shower wall then all kinds of trades are needed. The Flow Loop is a free standing unit that sits in front of the shower wall, so you don’t have to bash through the tile. As for picking up the recirculating water, they have a very clever system in their drain cover:
[It was] developed by Flow Loop to allow easy retro-fit installation in existing shower spaces. When the user activates the drain cover, it creates a temporary (5mm) low level water reservoir for circulating directly from the existing shower floor.
So somehow, if I have got this right, the cover blocks the existing drain, letting the water back up to about a quarter of an inch deep, letting the Flow Loop slurp up the water from the shower room floor. I don’t know if that would work in every circumstance (in my shower, the drain is about 2 feet from the wall and the slope to drain is very slight) but it sounds like a really clever way to avoid cracking up the shower room floor.
Simon Kolff didn’t tell me what the Flow Loop will cost, but said it was going to be a lot cheaper than the previous one we have shown.
I used to love a strong shower, and originally plumbed my home with 3/4” pipes straight to the shower head so that it would blow me across the room with its pressure. When I renovated recently I put in the usual half inch pipes and a modern shower head and have missed the old shower every day. The Flow Loop is the best kind of green product; it not only saves energy and water, but improves the experience. That’s a serious win-win-win.
More info at Flow Loop.