I always thought the shower of the future would be something akin to the one Katniss Everdeen has in her room in the "Hunger Games" training center. You know, the one that has dozens of settings, glows with cool lights and does things like automatically untangle your hair? Well, it turns out the Shower of the Future is here, and it has a lot less to do with gizmos and lights and a lot more to do with something a little more important -- saving water.
The shower, now available for preorder, was created by Sweden-based Orbital Systems, which developed it through what it describes as "an academic collaboration project with NASA." The idea is that on Earth, just as in space, we should be conserving valuable resources. The shower does this by constantly cleaning and recycling the water you use, thereby saving what the inventors claim can be up to 90 percent of water and 80 percent of energy in standard showers.
When you start up the shower -- which comes either as a standalone cabinet or a floor-integrated version -- the closed system fills with 5 liters (about 1.3 gallons) of water. That water then flows out of the showerhead, over your body and down into a special drain filled with two filter capsules: a micro capsule and a nano capsule.
The micro capsule eliminates larger particles from the water stream like skin flakes, sand and hair particles, while the nano capsule eliminates smaller contaminates such as germs, metals and emulsified oils and makes the water cleaner than what comes out of most home taps, according to Orbital Systems. Once filtered, the water is pumped back up to the showerhead. So you basically get a closed loop of water that will let you shower for as long as you want (providing that's not until all the water evaporates).
The micro capsules have a lifespan of between 10,000 and 30,000 liters (2,642 and 7,925 gallons) and cost $25 (about £16, AU$32) or €20 each. The nano capsules last for between 50,000 to 100,000 liters (or between 13,208 and 26,417 gallons) and cost $100 (about £66, AU$130) or €80. Still, even with the cost of the capsules, Orbital Systems says this shower will save you oodles of cash every year because you won't be pouring money down the drain. They even have a "Measure My Savings" plugin on their homepage that takes into account the capsule cost.
You'll know when it's time to change the capsules because an LED light in the floor will glow (so I guess there's at least one cool futuristic light involved), or because the attendant smartphone app will let you know. The app also keeps track of your water savings and lets you brag about it -- um, I mean share it -- with your friends.
The shower has a built-in electric heater that allows for precise temperature control and even more energy savings, although connecting it to your hot-water line will help it work even more efficiently. It also offers a more generous water flow than standard showers -- 5 gallons per minute versus the mandated 2.5 gallon-per-minute EPA-mandated max in the United States.
The floor-integrated shower sells for $4,000 (about £2624, AU$5185) or €3,200, and the cabin model sells for $5,000 (about £3280, AU$6481) or €4,000. Shipping is extra and depends on where you live, but with such a large item, you can expect to be a serious part of the overall cost. The shower comes with an installation manual and Orbital Systems says the whole thing can be put in by a regular plumber and electrician.
And now for the really important question and answer taken from Orbital Systems FAQs: "What happens if I urinate in the Shower of the Future?"
"We promise you that you are NOT going to experience a golden shower. The shower is equipped with sensors that recognize the quality of the incoming water and can therefore determine if it should be flushed out of the system. For instance, if someone urinates or empties an entire shampoo bottle in the shower, the sensors will recognize the unusually high amount of contaminated water and replace just that amount, with the same quantity of new water."
Phew. That's a relief.