Install a Water-Saving Shower Shut Off Valve [Step By Step]

18 Aug
Jason Fitzpatrick via Lifehacker shared by 4 people

A small addition to your shower head can save you time, money, and water: a simple shut off valve can toggle the water flow off and on without undoing your carefully-calibrated mix of hot and cold on the faucet itself. When you want to save water (and money on your water bill), you can quick switch off the water while you soap up or leave conditioner in using a shower head shut off valve. Last summer we covered how the Navy Shower prevents waste water and decreases your water bill. A shut off valve can have the same effect, and it's dead simple to install. Here's how I did it in my shower.

First, here are the tools you need:

2008-08-17_191604.jpgOne shower shut off valve, one roll of Teflon pipe tape, and one pair of vice grip pliers. The total cost of this project was $5, the cost of the valve itself. A small roll of Teflon tape is about a $1 if you don't have any on hand. On the right, a better photo of what the valve itself looks like.

You may or may not need the vice grip pliers. I have needed them in the past when removing stubborn plumbing fixtures, though this time the fixture wasn't as stubborn as I anticipated. If you do use them, make sure to wrap a wash cloth or something similar around the fitting if you want to protect the finish of the fixture from the teeth of the pliers. Here is the fixture I modified:

All it took to remove the fixture was a firm grip, thanks in part to the Teflon tape I had wrapped the pipe thread in when I originally installed it. Here is where the vice grips come in handy if years of mineral accumulation and rust have locked up the connection.

Teflon tape isn't the sturdiest stuff in the world and removing the shower head shredded the tape that was on the pipe. I peeled it off with my finger nails pretty easily, but if your threading is gunkier a stiff wire brush might be in order. While you've got the shower head off, it's a perfect time to descale the fixture if you've got hard water.

We've trumpeted the uses of vinegar in the bathroom before showing you how to get the mildew smell out of towels with it, but in this case we're going to steal a trick from the kitchen: descaling a coffee machine with vinegar. Find a container large enough to hold the shower head (or just use the sink) and throw the fixture in. Pour vinegar in until the shower head is fully submerged and leave it while you work.

Once you have cleaned up the threading, wrap a few layers of Teflon tape on the threads. Don't overdo it; More than a few thin layers of the Teflon and the tape tends to just bunch up and tear itself free when you put the fixture on. It's important to wrap the Teflon tape firmly around the threading following the direction of the threading. This way when you screw the fixture back on to the threading, turning the fixture will help tighten the tape down into the threading instead of making a mess of it.

Once you've got the main pipe wrapped in Teflon tape you can screw the valve into place. It shouldn't be necessary to do more than tighten the fixture by hand. Extra force with tools will just make it more difficult to get off in the future. Wrap the male threading on the shut off valve the same way you did with the threading on the main pipe. Rinse off the shower head if it's soaking in vinegar and then screw it onto the shut off valve.

While you may not use your valve for the extreme water conservation that comes with a true Navy Shower, you'll be able to properly lather up and scrub in a small shower without resorting to contortionist tricks.

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