Sometime last year I read that the average person in the UK runs the shower for 1.75 minutes before they get under it. My immediate thought was ‘WTF??’ I get it that no-one wants to jump under a cold shower and start washing while they wait for the water to get warm. And I also get that if you live in a hotel, in a room in the annex, as far away from the centralised hot water store as it is possible to be, with no secondary return, and a shower connected to the bath taps, then maybe, just maybe it would take almost two minutes for the shower to get hot… But as an average UK figure the mind boggles.

The amount of time you need to wait for a shower to run hot depends on several things. An electric shower will get hot immediately. If your hot water is stored in a hot water cylinder in a bathroom airing cupboard, then the water should be hot within 15 – 20 seconds (unless the flow rate is really slow). If it’s coming from a combi boiler it depends on the distance between the boiler and shower head. Our shower is fed by a combi boiler in the kitchen (located below our bathroom though it’s a distance of about 6m from the boiler outlet to the shower head). It takes about 45 seconds to warm up from cold (so wasting 5.6 litres for the first person who showers). If you are the second person then the water is already hot.

So just what is everyone doing while they wait for the hot water? “I shall have to investigate” I thought harnessing my inner Frankie the flamingo. And so we set up a shower questionnaire here and waited for the results to roll in. As it was more a steady drip … drip than a torrent and we had a captive audience of 120 Year 10s on a PSHE immersion day, we thought we’d check them out first.

Out of those 120 adolescents, 89 actually answered that part of the questionnaire – not a bad result. Just over 55% (49) waited for less than a minute, and only 20% (18) waited for longer than two minutes, before getting under the shower. Of that latter group, the general consensus was they were waiting to get the bathroom warm/or “getting ready” (whatever that means). We did get one 16 year old girl who runs the shower for 15 minutes before she gets in. When I asked her why, she told me she heats up her supper in the microwave. I lost the plot a bit after that starting comment (too busy demonstrating my crowd control methods to fully take it all in) because I think she then said she had her shower, by which time, surely, the food must have been cold again!

My initial thought re the 1.75 minute average time was that a load of people must be brushing their teeth as the recommended two minutes would dovetail in quite nicely. But that was not the case among the respondents to our on-line poll. Of the 96 adults who answered, 93% run the water for less than 1 minute, just 6% for 2 minutes and 1 person for more than 3 minutes. What does she do in that time? “I run around doing bits and bobs of housework”. The survey is anonymous so much as I would love to find out the rationale behind this I can’t!

What do the more focussed responders do? Well, a lot of them just take off their clothes which is fair enough. Others hang around testing the temperature of the water, waiting for the water to get warm. Chris (in the office) “does lunges”. Though when I just asked him for a demonstration of a lunge he claimed he doesn’t anymore! Someone feeds the cat (quite quickly it seems). And one hard core person jumps straight in – “It only takes 15-20 seconds to get hot. But happy to be woken by the cold blast first – no waiting!”

And what do I do? Well last week I was in a hotel in Machynlleth with a shower connected to bath taps, a hot water supply full of air and no secondary return. I easily spent 1.75 minutes faffing around with the taps trying to get the water hot before I realised that the hot tap by itself was only producing a lukewarm shower! Usually I am the first to shower and I mither about trying to make lining up my contact lens stuff, and putting toothpaste on my toothbrush last for 45 seconds. But now, following Rob’s (also in the office) comment that it’s always good to do exercises, I think I just might start a one handed push-up regime.

June 2015 – What do you do while the shower gets hot?