Electric showerhead problems

I'm having a continuing problem with my hot water showerhead that I can't figure out, so I hope someone here can give me some tips. I should explain that I know next to nothing about electricity.

The brand is Lorenzetti and the breaker box is wired for 220 V. The house I'm renting was just built before I moved in so I am the only tenant who has lived here.

The first showerhead I owned worked fine for two years, but then I noticed that one of the wires in the showerhead (not the ground wire) was getting so hot that it was melting the plastic, so I threw it out, bought a new one and installed it.

The second one worked fine at the start, except that when I shut off the water while the head was still on the hot setting, the heating element inside the head did not shut off and continued to burn hot, so before shutting off the water I turned the setting to run cold water for a few seconds, and that solved the problem.

But one day a few weeks later while showering, I smelled burning plastic and the second showerhead began to shake, and I heard a buzzing sound inside the head. As soon as I turned to look at it, there was a bright flash inside the head, so I jumped out right away, ran to the breaker box and shut off the circuit to the head. Then when I returned to shut off the water, I touched the head and it was burning hot.

A friend of mine who's an electrician took the second one and replaced the internal wiring (but not the temperature control thing) and element with OEM parts and re-installed it.

One week later exactly the same thing happened -- the smell of burning plastic and a bright flash inside the head. The only difference is that the showerhead was not fried -- after there was a bright flash in the head, I waited a few hours to test it and it continues to produce hot water on both the high setting and the medium setting (although of course I am not using it for the time being). But once again, the element does not shut off unless I turn the control to the cold setting for a few seconds.

I've asked around and some friends who know electricity have offered some fixes.

One thinks that the temperature control in the second one is crap and that the problem will not reoccur if I buy a new one. But this doesn't explain why the first head malfunctioned. Also, while Lorenzettis are not expensive, they do cost money and I don't want to keep buying new ones if this won't fix the problem.

Another thinks that the wiring from the breaker box to the showerhead is too weak ("small") to carry the demand from the breaker to the head and that this is what is causing the problem. Once again, this doesn't explain why the first head worked fine for two years. His suggestion is that I run the current one on the middle setting rather than the hot setting.

When I test this, the showerhead does produce water that's hot enough for me, but I'm worried that there's something fundamentally wrong with the head or the wiring for the box, and that I might eventually electrocute myself or cause the wiring inside the wall to do something dangerous.

Another suggests that that I stop using Lorenzettis which are rated up to 5,500 Watts, and go with another brand that they have down here which is rated up to a maximum of about 4,400. Since I don't know electricity, I don't know why that would work.

I hope someone out there can help me fix this. I live a pretty simple life down here, no tv or radio or fancy electrodomesticos, a hot shower before bedtime after a sweaty day running around town or gardening is one of the few luxuries I allow myself.

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I had this exact problem.

I had this exact problem. Went through 2 Lozzetti showerheads, both with correct voltages. The problem is that they use a plunger to activate the voltage when the water pressure is high enough, after you turn on the tap. The plunger makes the connection on the two contacts, which puts the power to the shower element. Seems like on the new Lozzettis, the plunger does not release when the water is shut off, and the power keeps going to the element. I installed a Enerducha brand and have had no problems at all since.

...

Yes Gregger, that turned out to be the problem with my showerhead as well.

The breaker box in the house is 220V but it is split so only 110V was reaching my 110V Lorenzetti, which of course was the right voltage.

As it turned out, when I shut off the water while the heat setting was on high, power continued to keep the element hot.

I've solved the problem by switching the control to the unheated setting at the end of the shower and letting cold water run through the showerhead for a few seconds before shutting off the water.

Perhaps not worth nothing.

I was a sailor entering US in 1963 or 64, getting old. I had a small salary and those days US was really cheap. I bought some electrical stuff for my home coming, well it was a long time before I hit Telemark Norway.

Looking at all this that was collected it was all 110 volts, Norway have 220 - Sweden even use 440 for heavy duty appliances like washing machines - dryers etc.

But forget that, to use my US stuff and other countries stuff it has a cord with 3 wires, I just used one and connected the second to ground and it worked like a charm, not for a few days, I bet they will would work today, its quite simple half of 220 is 115 and by doing this you get the correct current.

I never trusted the " widow maker " in the first place and have no need for hot water, isn't it hot enough here in Nica anyway?? you have a better solution by connecting a hot water heater to your incoming water line that will kick in when you need hot water, the deluxe version with safety features should run you around 400$ plus installation, this is the top end model I found and not at the Nicaraguan Home Depot.

Just my practical experiences with 110 volt

Merry Christmas NL and hope you all will still argue and fight to make this site worth looking up.

More Than You Want To Know About Electrc Shower Heads

BTW - Mike - As KWP explained your problem is unrelated to this.

I have maintained about 15 of the "Cheapie" Lorenzetti types or imitators with the open heater coils in water for about 7 years now. Water was very high mineral content until recently and this is my experience. It seems too detailed & complicated but it is very simple when you actually get hands on involved. My Nica "farm boy" workers quickly learned to do it themselves without any help from me. There may be a few members here equally talented so I posted this - OK bad joke!
Remember to turn off the breaker before you start or you may get a thrill you did not expect.
YMMV.
-- When you install (or replace) the head add a soldered insulated extension cable and make the wire nut connections outside the shower area for obvious reasons. On some we used a tight non soldered taped wrap with no problem if it is kept dry. Put that whole cable including connection inside plastic conduit out to the connection point but leave a small drain hole at the bottom to drain any condensation inside the tube.
-- The "book" says that connection wires to the breaker for the typical 110 V (5000 watt) head should be 8 gauge. Most people use 10 and 12 is usually OK if the wire is out in the open. If the voltage is 10% low the power consumption is 20% low.
-- In 7 years I have only replaced 3 heads just recently, This was due to wear failure of the rubber "piston-bellows" mechanism that pushes the switch. Replacing those with a rubber part from a new head did not help.
-- There are 2 resistencia heater coils, a long and short one. The 2 are connected in series & used for the low setting The short one is switched out of the circuit for the high setting so the full voltage is on the long resistencia. If you know a little about electricity you can easily bend the switch contact to only use the low setting to draw less current. That is what I do and at lower flows the water is heated OK. You can bend the contact back later if you want.
-- Resistencias usually break at the connection to the terminal because they bend and work harden there caused by movement as water passes over them. If the resistencia has any spring or meat left it is easier to wrap the end around the terminal in a few seconds than replace it. Common sense would say otherwise but the connection is as good or better than new because vibration keeps the wrapped connection clean with no single point to bend & break. When resistencias get brittle replace them.
-- The switch contacts are self cleaning and wipe as they open & close and that is why they last so long. When they go bad a nail file (metal or sandpaper) will clean them up for another year or more. The protective plating is long gone anyhow.
-- As the head ages you may have to bend the switch contact springs or the top contacts a little to keep a connection at low water flows. Be careful and watch the contacts open & close with water flow before you turn on the breaker - If both contacts stay closed with no water flow you cook the head immediately. It is normal to see a flash from outside when the points open or close.
-- Lime deposits can clog the holes in the shower head caps but if so you will probably need acido muriatico to clean the toilets as well. Put the shower head cap in the toilet along with the diluted acid (I use 5:1) for a few minutes. Then use a medium paper clip to finish cleaning the holes. Do NOT drill out the holes so they won't clog. The conductive stream of water (rather than individual drops) will give you a you a real thrill. I tried various filters on the face of the shower head caps but the lime deposits are inside the holes.
-- Rebecca's vinegar idea works too but takes longer. Better yet sometimes is to put the vinegar in a plastic bag and bag the whole head in vinegar without removing the cap. But if there is still lime in the holes it is easier to remove the cap to clean it with the paperclip.

Whew - That was a lot but actually it is very simple to maintain these heads. A few minutes work will save the time and cost of replacing them every few years or finding a Nica "electrician" that can do it right.

Jinotepe has very low calcium if any.

Reason is the Japanese Government drilled 40 wells to actually supply mostly Managua, but Carazo benefited with all the tanks and wells.

In the early 1990 this when you drove from Managua to Carazo you passed all this tanks and signs with the Japanese flag on them, all gone now, forgotten I guess.

There is a lake under Carazo with super pure water, but it is deep, I am not to sure but I was told the wells was 600-800 meters deep.

Just some old memories, on this site there is probably people who know more than me, and that is the reason why I like NL, lots of smart people.

I soak the cap in vinegar overnight

…then clean it in the morning. The holes need to be cleaned about every three months here (coming onto another bout of cleaning). I also use vinegar and baking powder in the sink drain periodically.

Rebecca Brown

Shower head facts

Clearly, 240V on a 120V shower head was the problem. It's rather amazing the breaker did not trip (assuming it is the right size as doubling the voltage will double the current.) Thus, a 5500W shower head designed for 120V would draw about 90A if connected to 240V. The correct breaker would be 30A and the wire size should be #10. With the shower head across 240V, the breaker should be a ganged double one (that is, a breaker on each side of the 240V ganged together such that if one trips, the other will trip as well.)

The rest of this is about the showheads themselves:

  1. There is no temperature regulator -- there are just two separate heating elements. Once is connected in the warm position, both in the hot position.
  2. The flash you see is from the pressure switch which is supposed to break both sides of the power going to the shower head. Normal, yes, but at four times the current you will have a lot more exciting flash.
  3. The ground is only connected to a piece of wire that runs vertically down the center of the water flow. The idea is that tends to make the average voltage of the water be around the ground level. The heating elements are not insulated from the water flow so tends to is about as far as it goes.

  4. There are some metal-bodied showerheads which are much safer if the ground is connected and much more dangerous when it is not.

For those who want an alternative that would be relatively easy to install and is a lot safer, look for a small flash heater. They are commonly used for single point of use like the hot water in lavamanos where there is no other hot water used (such as in a gas station restroom). You can usually find them in the 2400-3000W range.

They are designed to have a ground hooked to the metal pipes the water flows through and you should connect it. But, even without that ground, the water does not come in contact with the electricity to power the unit so they are much safer.

Another alternative is point-of-use gas

The folks at El Jaguar have these and they get the water quite hot. I don't know where the owners got them, possibly brought them from Europe, but I think similar things are available in the US.

Rebecca Brown

They Are Available

at Sinsa in the hot water heater "department",, as well as the same unit powered by electricity (that doesn't flash as you shower).

They ARE a lot more money and would involve some plumbing, whereas with the Lorenzeti Widow Maker, you just replace your existing shower head, hook up the wires - - - - and pray.

So not for rentals perhaps

…but they really do get the water hot and don't require memorizing exactly what angle the water faucet needs to be for optimum hot water.

I can get parts for my brand of electric shower head about a block and half from the current house. A friend replaced the heater wire. Periodically, I soak the plastic shower head part in vinegar and water and push out all the holes with a needle.

Rebecca Brown

Two Suggestions

1, about two years is what you can expect from a Lorenzetti if the water is high in mineral content.

2, yes, many of them have insufficient wire size (and not just the Lorenzetti shower heads), and the terminations at the shower head are also "weak". Running on 220 you need a lesser gauge wire, but even so, that's a lot of juice. Have your electrician use wire nuts to connect the wire from the shower head to the supply wires, and after they are tightened down, have him wrap them with electrical tape to prevent entrance of water that would corrode the connection. There's a grease called No-Ox that prevents that corrosion, but good luck in finding it.

Luckily you live in the area of plenty, I couldn't find wire nuts at ANY of the hardware stores in Condega, had to get them from Sinsa in Estelí. One fereteria owner even took the time to show me how to twist the wires together and cover them with tape. That could be one of the reasons the power grid in Nicaragua is so shaky.

If you buy the shower head yourself (like at SINSA for $25, you're right they are cheap), make sure that you are getting the right voltage. The 220 would work on a 110V supply, but not provide a large amount of hot water,. However, the 110V unit connected to a 220V supply would just burn up.

Lorenzetti is what I use, and short of re-plumbing the bathroom, seems like the best solution. The flashes you see, I thought they were normal :)

troublesooting

If your shower head continues to produce heat with the water off, this is only possible if the internal electrical connections are still forming a closed circuit. This might be cause by the pressure (bladder) valve located inside the shower head. It could be this bladder is not flexing back when the water is turned off.

These shower heads make me nervous, and I don't recommend changing the water temperatures while the water is on. I know everything should be safe, but these things aren't exactly UL listed. In any case, I think your best option is to buy a new one. Since quality control is always in the back of my mind in Nicaragua, you may have bought a shower head that is not in the best condition.

1st Capt. Ron

(Title by Miskito Alan)

...

Thanks John, I just checked the unit. It is indeed rated at 110 - 127 V and is connected to a 220V supply. Is that in fact the problem? What do you think?

Yeah, I Think

that's why they are burning up.

Sinsa has both, the voltage is on the heavy paper tab that closes the bag at the top.

Pick up some wire nuts at the same time, the red ones, and a roll of electrical tape.

Good Luck, nothing worse than a cold shower .. .after you're used to a hot one every day!

...

Thanks John, I will check out Sinsa.

For years before moving into this house I got used to cold showers, and when I wanted a hot one, I boiled water in a big pot on my stove, hauled it to the shower, poured it into a five gallon plastic paint can I had cleaned up, then brought the temperature down by diluting it with cold water from a big plastic garbage barrel I put in my shower stall as a water reservoir (in those days I was living in houses that only got water 3 or 4 hours a day). Then I used a small bucket to pour water on me, lathered up and rinsed off.

I was happy enough to do so then and wouldn't mind living like that again. But now that I am in my 60s and get sore muscles from working in the garden bent over, as you say, there is nothing like a long hot shower.

Your problem immediate is the voltage

The unit comes with instructions telling the copper wire size and breaker needed, after getting by the obvious of whether it is 120 or 240. I think I have only seen one in the whole country that had the correct wire. The rental house where we lived also had the wrong breaker.

Generally, the heating coil (resitencia from the Portugese word) should last a couple years. Turning the water on before the electricity will extend the life. They cost about 5 bucks and can be replaced with a screwdriver and needlenose pliers.

One year we had hard water and I had to clean the head as described above just so the water could flow.

``Socialism works fine until you run out of other peoples` money``

Margaret Thatcher