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Originally published Thursday, July 12, 2012 at 4:31 PM

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'Smart' shower valve may help save water, prevent scalding

Ed the Plumber: A primer on digital shower mixing valves

Scripps Howard News Service

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Q: My parents are getting on in years, but are still very independent. So, we're remodeling their bathroom with a low-threshold walk-in shower stall. The contractor told us that we should consider an electronic digital shower type of valve instead of a standard manual plumbing mixing valve. We're not sure about that. Can you please give us more information on digital shower valves?

— Nancy, Nevada

A: Digital shower mixing valves are becoming very popular now that new technology has made them easier to install and operate. Basically, if you can work a TV remote control, you can now work a digital shower "interface" control.

For those not familiar with this type of valve, it's a thermostatic shower mixing valve that is controlled by pushing buttons, instead of manually turning a mixing-valve handle. Since it is electronic, the main valve body is installed behind the shower wall according to local codes, and the only component in the shower area is a small, safe, easy-to-use digital control.

This control features a bright LCD display screen, on and off buttons, and even diverter controls so you can add a personal hand shower. There's even a pause button to save water, and the water temperature can be preset, making it a safe option for children and/or older adults. Plus, the push-button features can make operating the valve easier than manual compression kind of mixing valves.

Bottom line: A digital mixing valve can be a great choice for "aging in place" bathrooms.

Master plumber Ed Del Grande is the author of "Ed Del Grande's House Call," the host of TV and Internet shows, and a LEED green associate. Visit eddelgrande.com or write eadelg@cs.com. Always consult local contractors and codes.

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