What Kind of Technology Could Improve My Bathroom?
If a tech-enhanced bathroom sounds a bit sci-fi, read on. It may be more accessible – and practical – than you think
No longer gimmicks, these additions can increase safety and improve hygiene, and you could also use the technology to save water and energy, identify leaks, or turn the bathroom into a spa-like space that soothes every sense.
Professional advice from: Ivan Simpson of Ivan Simpson Kitchens + Bathrooms; George Holland of Victorian Plumbing; Justine Bullock of The Tap End
“Definitely,” Justine Bullock says. “We’re having requests for everything from bathroom TVs and Japanese WCs to more basic tech, such as under-tile heating. Even those more entry-level additions are now compatible with phones, so you can set timers for everything from lighting to heating, which clients love to do.”
“With smart tech having taken over most other parts of the home, bathrooms have finally started to follow suit,” George Holland says. “In the past two years, in particular, we’ve seen a rapid rise in demand for our many smart bathroom products.”
“Simply put, people are turning to tech to make the little things that bit easier,” George says. “There are demisting mirrors for safer shaving, digital showers that pre-heat the water to your preferred temperature, and smart toilets that save you having to use paper. Name almost any bathroom inconvenience and you’re likely to find a smart product to solve it.”
Audiovisual additions are also popular, Justine says. “These turn a bathroom into a more relaxing space, which really appeals to people who like to bathe for long periods of time.”
Other motivations are safety, lower bills and pre-empting damage. “You can equip spaces under basins, baths and showers with smart water sensors that can detect leaks before they become problematic,” George says. “If you live in an old home with troublesome pipework, these could potentially save you thousands of pounds for repair work.”
“Anything you can hook up to your phone can also save you on utility bills,” Justine adds. “You can really hone in on how you like to use your bathroom and set timers accordingly, conserving electricity and not having items running longer than needed.”
“It varies from product to product, but most bathroom tech can be retrofitted,” George says. “You can easily add things such as smart mirrors, automatic taps and bathroom speakers to recently renovated spaces. However, you may need to give your plumber another call.”
Ivan Simpson says smart shower handsets are relatively easy to retrofit, too, though smart loos may be harder. As Justine points out, “They need electricity, so may be a little tricky unless power is in that area of the bathroom already.”
Here are some of the smart features on the market in more detail:
Multi-functional mirrors “Smart mirrors are amazing for storage, illumination, USB sockets and even wireless charging,” Justine says, adding that motion-sensor technology often also comes as standard. “That means you don’t have to put wet hands on the mirror itself, and gone are the days of pull cords.”
“If you’ve ever stepped out of a hot shower and been faced with a steamed-up mirror, then a motion-activated heat-up mirror could be just the gadget for you,” George says. “Some smart mirrors have Bluetooth connectivity, too, allowing you to connect your phone or tablet and use your mirror as a bathroom speaker.”
But things get even more hi-tech than that. “Beauty mirrors are starting to incorporate skin analysis technology,” George says. “From wrinkles to red spots, these mirrors are providing us with more information about our bodies than ever before.”
A simple LED added beneath an existing mirror can be customised to work this way, too. “These can be put on a motion sensor outside the room, and retrofitted easily,” Ivan says.
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The top-of-the-range features on these bidet-style loos can include anything from male and female settings and anti-bac rims to automatic flushing. Heated seats and dryers often come as standard and George flags up other features including foot warmers, music and mood lighting. “These toilets offer a truly personalised experience and are more than just a gimmick – they can offer users with mobility issues more independence and privacy than a standard toilet.”
“We would love it if every bathroom we designed included one,” Justine says, agreeing on the hygiene benefits. “Clients absolutely love them once they’ve tried them.” And if that sounds like something out of Bladerunner, fear not. “The ones we favour look no different to a regular loo,” Justine says. “Gone are the days when such items looked as if they were from outer space!” This photo of one illustrates her point.
Water-saving shower heads: “People are wanting more out of the shower,” Ivan says, explaining that water conservation is a big plus, especially for homes with meters. He describes rain shower heads that break up water into droplets and designs that soak you with a mist instead of a torrent of water. “These use 20% to 25% less water, but it feels as if you’re using a lot,” he says.
Chromatherapy showers: “These shower systems are a way to incorporate colour therapy into your bathroom,” George explains, adding that orange light is said to relieve tiredness, while blue light is said to relax and ease muscle tension. “The showers are controlled using a remote or a smartphone, meaning you can blend different colour palettes while you shower for a personalised experience.”
Justine adds that some smart showers can be controlled remotely for other reasons. “Digital showers can be turned on from your bed, so they’re the perfect temperature when you get in.”
You can also swap taps for a fill valve, which can be locked, meaning children can’t fiddle with the tap and risk scalding themselves.
“We have access to many styles, from hard-wired into the electrics to battery-operated. They’re easier for little ones, elderly people and anyone with mobility issues, who can operate them with a simple hand wave rather than struggling with an awkward handle,” she says.
They’re also a sustainable choice, George says. “They help to reduce the length of time a tap can run for, as well as the need to touch, making for a more hygienic trip to the bathroom. They also have a lower flow rate and a pre-set temperature feature to keep everyone safe.”
“Automatic soap dispensers have planet-friendly benefits, too,” George adds. “You can say goodbye to plastic bottles and simply refill the dispenser when you run out.”
“My husband, on the other hand, would rather listen to music in the shower, making a TV that can do both the perfect solution for families like ours,” she says. “The TVs we favour are mirror finish, so they look fab in a scheme.”
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“In a traditional setting, we’d steer away from things such as illuminated buttons, colour-changing lights, super-modern styling and futuristic shapes,” Justine says.
George suggests there are ways to incorporate some features, though. “One of the best things about bathroom tech is how unobtrusive it can be,” George says. “Many of the products, such as automatic LED lights and sensor taps, are really discreet in their designs. You can even find traditionally-styled smart products, such as mirrors with hidden Bluetooth speakers, none of which will detract from a traditional bathroom’s looks.”
“Bathroom tech is safe, but this safety largely hinges on whether the product itself has been installed correctly,” George explains. “Every piece of electrical equipment designed for use in bathrooms will have its own IP [ingress protection] rating. This will determine just how waterproof the item is and tell your plumber in which locations it’s safe to be installed.”
Has any of this made you rethink your bathroom’s tech possibilities? If so, which item would you add? Share your thoughts in the Comments.