Q. I've read about negative health effects of chlorine in hot shower water. I saw some water-saving showerheads with built-in chlorine-removing filters. Are they effective and can they really save water?
A. You should probably consult your doctor about the hazards of breathing chlorine released from hot shower water and having it absorbed by your skin. The temperature of the water and the tremendous surface area of many fine water droplets does increase one's exposure to chemicals present.
In addition to possible carcinogenic health hazards of free chlorine and its combined forms, hot chlorinated shower water may cause dry skin and hair, itchy skin, eye irritation, etc. The level of residual chlorine in your water supply depends on many factors and can vary from home to home.
I tested several shower filters (chlorine-removal ones) in my own home to determine the accuracy of manufacturers' claims. I'm an engineer, not a doctor, so I cannot comment on their health claims. I did definitely notice skin and hair feel better when using a filter.
Although removing chlorine is the primary purpose of most showerhead filters, they also remove fine particles, heavy metals and control some bacteria, fungus and algae. Some filters also include activated carbon to reduce odors and other hazardous organic chemicals in shower water.
Many shower filters use a special KDF filter material to remove most (up to 99 percent) of the chlorine. This material uses granules made of pure copper and zinc to create an oxidation/reduction (redox) chemical reaction in the water.
KDF filter material is generally more effective for hot shower water than some lower-cost carbon-only filters. A filter element life of 1,500 showers is possible. Replacement KDF filter elements cost start at about $18.
Instead of counting the number of showers, the manufacturer usually rates the life of the filter element in years. You should be able to feel, by your skin and hair, when it is time to replace the element. Some high-priced filters have an LED light to indicate when it should be replaced.
Installing a low-flow showerhead, with a built-in filter or on a separate filter, is a great money-saver. High-quality showerheads provide a forceful, satisfying shower while using only half as much water as your old one. Since this is heated water, you also save the energy to heat it.
A massaging showerhead with a built-in filter is a good choice because of the stimulating shower and its small size. For people who prefer baths, select a bath ball, containing a KDF filter, that hangs under the bath water spout.
Q. We get plenty of hot water to the shower in the master bathroom. The shower in the second bathroom gets cold after about 15 seconds. This even happens during the first shower. What could cause this?
A. Getting hot water to the second shower for a few seconds indicates the pipes are probably OK. The water heater is working fine too since you get plenty of hot water to the master bathroom.
You probably have a pressure-balancing or scald-control shower valve that is malfunctioning and shutting off the hot water supply when there is no high-temperature or water pressure change. Have your plumber check it.
XWrite for Update Bulletin No. 692 which gives a buyer's guide of 10 efficient showerhead chlorine removal/filters and bath balls listing filter type, replaceable filter life, dimensions, weight, features, and prices. Please send $3 and a business-size SASE to James Dulley, The Vindicator, 6906 Royalgreen Drive, Cincinnati, Ohio 45244. For an instant download, visit James Dulley online at www.dulley.com.