A typical 10-minute shower can use 150 liters of water and requires energy to keep all of that incoming water hot. An innovative new design recycles shower water so only around five liters of water is needed and can be used and reused for weeks.
The OrbSys shower system is the brainchild of Mehrdad Mahdjoubi, an industrial designer. The idea was first conceived when he was studying at the University of Lund in Sweden when he wanted to combat the large amounts of water waste associated with bathing. After graduation, he began to collaborate with NASA to bring life to the idea.
Astronauts recycle water all the time, as urine, bathing water, and even condensed humidity from the crew’s breath are filtered into drinking water. That urine and breath aren’t just collected from humans, even the lab rats are included in this massive recycling effort. Mahdjoubi was inspired by efficiency onboard the ISS and has been working tirelessly to recreate a system like that on Earth.
His design is fairly simple, but brilliant. It may sound a bit disgusting to have old water circling through the pipes and falling back on your face, but a state of the art filtration system means that the water coming out of the shower head is clean enough to drink and is actually more pure than average tap water. As the water falls down, it goes down into the drain, through the filtration system, and then is pumped back up to be used again. Because only a little heat is lost during this process, it only needs to be slightly reheated, which can significantly reduce energy costs. Orbital Systems has done the math, and over the course of a year, this showering system can save over US$1300 on energy bills. There is even a calculator on the website that allows you to configure your actual savings based on your local rates.
To test the practicality of the shower, Mahdjoubi installed several by the coast of the ocean. As swimmers came out of the water, the shower was used to help clean away plankton, algae, seaweed, and grime. Over 1000 people used the showers over the summer and he claims to have gotten some good feedback. While he knows that saving water in the shower isn’t exactly a novel idea, Mahdjoubi has made sure to address the reasons why many people choose not to use water-saving shower heads, primarily water flow. The system produces 24 liters per minute, which may entice more customers who have passed on previous low-flow designs.
The efficiency of the filtration system has the potential to be used on many other applications where water waste or water cleanliness is an issue. When the filters become dirty, they can be sent back to the company to be recycled, which also minimizes landfill waste from filters.
There is currently no listed price for how much an OrbSys shower would cost in a residential setting and requests for more information were not immediately returned. This article will be updated if and when that information is provided.