Creating innovative water recycling showers for the future
In the next three years, nearly two-thirds of the world's population may end up facing water shortage. With 10 per cent of global water consumption happening at home, IKEA has decided to explore and innovate around water-saving solutions. One of the innovations is a water recycling shower that enables water reuse. IKEA product development engineer Antony Smith takes us through his journey of creating this innovative shower and his learnings along the way.
The IKEA Test Lab was abuzz with activity this Thursday morning as four people gathered around a shower, testing it out. From the pressure of the water and its temperature to the functioning of the drain, they tested all functions of the showering concept several times. And they seemed pretty pleased with what they saw. They were testing out the new, innovative shower that IKEA has been developing for the last two years. But it’s no ordinary shower. This one recycles shower water, which can help save the most precious liquid on Mother Earth.
Besides the four, Antony Smith, the product development engineer at IKEA, who has worked extensively on the solution, was also there in the test lab, looking almost like a proud yet nervous parent. Water is a big focus at IKEA, Antony explains as we go about testing the shower.
Elaborating more, Antony explained that IKEA has identified showering, toilet, laundry, washbasin/sink activities and water for cooking and drinking as key areas to enable and inspire change. By creating water-efficient products around these activities, IKEA can influence over 90% of the water use at home.
"Water scarcity is real. At IKEA, we want to develop solutions that enable and inspire our customers to become water efficient. And studies show that showering consumes the most water," says Antony.
The journey to create a suitable, effective solution
Over the last two years, IKEA and Flow Loop have together developed a water recycling shower solution that can fit any existing shower space. Flow Loop is a Danish company that started working with IKEA after being selected in one of the IKEA innovation accelerator programs. IKEA has also made a minority investment in Flow Loop.
So, Antony and the team decided to break down the shower from being a "dinosaur" to a "kitten". They broke down the complexities and took off the parts that were not essential to create a slimmer, lighter, and quieter version. For example, the earlier prototypes had many sensors to measure water flow and temperature during a shower. Therefore, the new version uses nearly 50 per cent fewer components than the last one. The shower's design and layout were also simplified further.
Tiny drops of water make a mighty ocean
According to several estimates, nearly one-third of the world's population may face water shortages by 2025. But small changes like turning off the water while brushing teeth or shaving can help save water at home.
Studies indicate that showering consumes the most water in a typical household – up to almost 40 per cent.
The latest version of the water recycling shower has proven to be successful at recycling water in real-time and reducing energy consumption by about 70 per cent. Antony did not just share these numbers. He showed how it worked:
Typically, every time one takes a shower of about 10 minutes, 100-120 litres of water go straight into the drain. However, this shower solution can kick off recycling within 15 seconds of starting the shower. The only thing one needs to do is press the drain cap that comes with the set-up. The pressing of the drain cap starts the recycling process, sending it through a loop for cleaning and disinfection.
Recycled water then goes to the showerhead. So, if one were using 120 litres of water in a 10-minute shower, with this solution, they would have used only about 30 litres of fresh water and 90 litres of recycled water without feeling any difference in temperature or quality of water.
"In the home test, the showers have sensors in them. So, we know how long one showered, the quantity of recycled water and city supply water used," says Troels Grene, CEO, Flow Loop, who currently has a home test in his house.
And home testers seem quite pleased with this solution.
"It ticks all my boxes for a good shower," said one.
Another home tester said it helps her live sustainably. "It's just really good to have it and relax with a good conscience."