By November 2, 2017 Read More →

Limescale in the limelight

Unsightly limescale can seriously contribute to the degradation of electric showers, especially in hard water areas. Lisa Ward, Product Group Manager at Bristan, explains the technology available to tackle the issue and how wholesalers can advise installers on the best recommendations for end users to keep these showers in top condition for longer.

Electric showers have enjoyed a renaissance in recent years. Once, they were a hard sell for wholesalers, as homeowners held an – admittedly fair – belief that electric models lacked the design attributes and functionality of their mixer counterparts.

However, with increasingly advanced electric showers entering the market, this perception is changing. In fact, according to recent research conducted by, an electric shower is one of the top bathroom features for adding value to a home, with 70 per cent of those surveyed citing the units as the best bathroom investment. [i]

But, despite the beautifully designed and highly functional electrics which are now becoming increasingly common, there is still one major consideration which keeps consumers second-guessing their electric shower purchase – limescale.

Whilst some homeowners may worry that limescale is a sign of lax hygiene, or perhaps an inferior product design, it is in fact just the natural residue produced when hard water – water with a high mineral content – is heated and evaporates.

Mineral content

Unfortunately, this is not an unusual problem. Globally, around 70 per cent of all water contains a high enough mineral content to be classed as hard water[ii], and in the UK, about 60 per cent of us live in an area with a hard water supply[iii]. In fact, British Water, the trade association for the UK water industry, has calculated hard water used by an average family of four accumulates 70kg of limescale a year[iv], which is not a small figure by anybody’s standards.

Comprising calcium and magnesium, limescale forms a tough crust which is extremely difficult to remove. Whilst it can be scrubbed off, the granular nature of the residue means that the act of scrubbing can end up leaving lasting scratches or scuffing – defeating the object of choosing an attractive electric shower in the first place.

And, whilst the unattractive appearance and arduous removal of limescale can be frustrating, this pales in significance to the havoc these deposits can wreak on pipework and appliances that frequently use hot water.

The primary consequence of leaving limescale unchecked on such appliances is the eventual inability to effectively heat water. This is because the crust left by the mineral deposits can thickly coat the heating elements of appliances such as kettles, boilers, washing machines and dishwashers over time – clogging up pipes and boiler heat exchanges.

This leads to decreased water pressure, flow rates and an increased energy demand; in turn leading to higher energy bills and maintenance costs along with a much less satisfactory product performance. Insight by British Water supports this, stating that even a 1.6mm coating of limescale on a heating element can make it up to 12 per cent less effective[v].

Kitchen kettle

A good example can be found by looking at the most obvious place to spot limescale; the kitchen kettle. Due to the frequent use of hot water, most kettles will acquire an internal build-up of limescale deposits over time which not only look very off-putting but eventually make it difficult for heat to be transferred to the water, slowing the process down and making the kettle less efficient.

Although perhaps lesser known, the exact same principle applies to the electric shower. An electric shower uses a heating element to instantaneously heat up cold mains water as it flows through the unit, which means that in hard water areas there is a high risk of limescale build-up inside the shower and the shower head – leading to all the problems mentioned above.

For wholesalers, providing advice to installers is part of the job, and in this context, offering recommendations which they can pass on to their customers is a way of adding value to their service. With this in mind, it’s worth knowing exactly how to deal with limescale on a basic surface level, in order to give installers the right advice to pass on to their clients.

In terms of tackling the external symptoms of limescale, homeowners may be able to remove unsightly layers from the outer surfaces of their shower head with shop-bought limescale remover, lemon juice or malt vinegar (which dissolve the mineral deposits) – but limescale can be stubborn (soaking will be required), and they must be careful not to use abrasive cleaning cloths which can damage the exterior finish.

From a more product based perspective, rather than advisory, wholesalers can recommend electric shower units which feature rub-clean handsets to make this task easier (rub-clean nozzles are flexible, so when they are rubbed the limescale breaks up) – providing an additional selling point for their installer customers.

Removing limescale from the inside of an electric shower is a different matter however – and so some products have been innovatively designed to offer protection against limescale build-up.

Phased shutdown technology, for example, draws cold water into the heater can at the end of the shower to cool the heater elements down and prevent limescale adhesion. Available on our Joy, Joy Care, Glee and Bliss electric showers, the phased shutdown feature helps to reduce limescale build-up, significantly prolonging the life of units installed in hard water areas.

What’s more, a filter, situated on the outside of the unit, filters out limescale particles from the water as it travels from the unit to the shower hose. The filter can be easily removed and rinsed; in a similar vein to a dishwater filter which can be quickly cleaned and put back again. Plus, some showers, such as our new and improved electric shower range, even include a ‘performance indicator’ that reminds consumers when to clean out the filter and showerhead.

With the electric shower having evolved dramatically over recent years to become more stylish and aspirational than ever before, coupled with the benefits of optimised energy efficiency, water savings and ease of use, its popularity knows no bounds. Added to this is an incredible ease of fit and flexibility for the time-stretched installer. Therefore, for wholesalers, stocking and recommending units which avoid the main publicly held drawback of these units can be a major boon to installer customers.

With consumers switching on to the benefits of electric showers, wholesalers are likely to see a rise in demand for these products. As such, being able to provide guidance to installers on the best ways to tackle limescale is a useful advantage, especially when coupled with product recommendations which feature in-built anti-limescale technology.