You know that pull-cord switch on your shower? Well, leave it alone.


I’ve replaced three of these already this year, two just in the last week. Not that they were old either, both the recent failed units had manufacture dates within the last four years.


In each case the customer ends up paying me for the call out plus replacement parts, and although it’s a bit of a money spinner for me to keep changing these things, I have a simple fix which, if applied, will see your pull cord isolator last a lifetime.


And here it is:

Don’t touch it.


That isolator is only there so that the electrical supply to the shower can be locally isolated should maintenance be required; you don’t need to clonk it off every time you hang up the loofah and reach for the towel.


2015-02-22 20.11.16

In most cases, when you turn off the shower it isn’t consuming any electrical current. Even those with a continuous power light or soft-start switch will only be drawing a few milliamps when not in use, and the running cost for that will be much less than paying someone like me to change your worn out isolator every four years.


Now, I know some people get nervous because the shower is usually the highest load electrical appliance in the house, and nobody wants to be stood in the buff under a faulty shower when electricity starts mixing with water, but if you have a properly installed shower and it’s showing no sign of damage or malfunction then you don’t really need to kill the supply power at the isolator whenever the appliance is not in use.


Of course, if you’re concerned that your shower isn’t safe in any way then you should not only isolate it but you should call in a professional, such as my good self, to check it out, and if necessary, to put things right. You certainly shouldn’t be stripping off and using the thing, unless you perhaps feel you can leave a good looking corpse.


If however you have no qualms about your shower and you’re satisfied it is a good make/model which is installed professionally and operating correctly, then in order to keep it working I recommend you don’t bother pulling that isolator until such time as it's really needed. The reason these things burn out is because the fat cables work lose in their screw terminals causing localised arcing and overheating. Daily tugging on the thing will only serve to loosen poor connections further and exasperate the problem.

 
I should point out that not everybody would agree with this, and the shower manufacturers themselves probably state in their manuals that it is best to isolate it when not in use just to cover their own backsides, but unless you're worried about the thing suddenly turning itself on or bursting under the water pressure, then in my opinion, based on my own experience, it won't hurt to ignore that isolator. I don't, and mine has been happily in place since 2005.


Also, look at it this way; if you have an electric oven or hob then you probably have a red isolator switch in your kitchen too, but you don't clonk that off every time you finish cooking, so why feel the need to do so for the shower?


Update 18/07/18: A new safety device on the UK market has been enshrined into the wiring regulations for 2019 to protect against this kind of arcing fault in your electrical accessories! I've had a play with one for your entertainment.