GringosAbroad Ecuador

Electric Showers: Maybe a Little Culture Shock

Posted in: Our Perspective

electricshowerheadHave you ever seen an electric shower?

Culture shock can set in pretty fast the first time you see a shower head with wires sticking out of it!

That’s what happened to us. I didn’t know if I should get in or not.

Are Electric Showers Safe?

That question was one of the first things that went through my mind as I stepped out of the shower stall. I had gotten in, but was too afraid to even turn the water on, so I got right back out!

This happened on our first morning in Ecuador, it was my first taste of expat culture shock.

The first thing I did was call Bryan into the bathroom to check it out. We were a little freaked out by how it looked! But after talking it over, we figured it had to be safe, if that’s how Ecuadorians shower every day. So I gave it a try, and it was fine.

Now, over 5 years later, I take a shower in an electric shower every day and think nothing of it.


Are Electric Showers Really Suicide Showers?

I have heard some stories of people getting an electric shock, but it’s never happened to me, my husband or our daughter. I think there may be a risk of shock if you touch the shower-head while the water is running.

A few years ago, we wrote about electric showers. Some of the comments are interesting.

There really is no need to touch an electric shower-head while the water is on because, unlike other shower heads, it’s directly above you. So there is no need to adjust the angle.


How Do Electric Showers Compare?

Sad to say, not very well.

Electric showers can be a little frustrating.

You have to choose pressure or heat. You can’t have it both ways, at least I’ve never seen it.

As the pressure goes up, the water get’s colder. There is only one tap in an electric shower – cold. As you turn the tap, more water flows through the electric shower-head, and it can’t keep up.


There is a little trick to it. If you turn the tap just a little at a time, let it warm up, then turn it a little more… you can have a half decent shower.

But an electric shower will never hold a candle to what you are probably used to. A hot shower with lots of pressure. The nice thing is, you’ll get used to it. It’s just a normal part of life for our family now, and we look forward to our shower every morning, just like we used to. It is kind of funny though, how we get so excited when we travel and get to use a shower with lots of pressure and heat :).

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Have you ever seen an electric shower? Have you used one? Please share your thoughts by commenting on this post.

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Meet the Author

Dena Haines is co-editor of GringosAbroad - Ecuador's largest blog for expats and travelers. She is a travel blogger and content marketer. She is also co-founder of ClickLikeThis (GoPro tutorial blog) and Storyteller Media (content marketing for travel brands). Work with GringosAbroad.

16 comments… add one
  • Jim Jul 7, 2015, 9:33 am

    The first time I used one it was a bit cramped in the shower, I reached up to adjust the spray direction and got a nice jolt…nothing serious, sort of like putting your tongue on those little rectangle batteries X10. Yes, interesting to say the least. But a warm or hot shower is much nicer than a cold shower.

  • Ron Watral Feb 15, 2015, 1:06 pm

    I don’t think I can get accustomed to the idea of electrical wires hanging out of my shower head…tankless water heater for me. The other thing that I will not get accustom to is NOT flushing one’s used toilet paper…I’m bringing down pressurized toilets, thank you very much. I know, “What a pussy” but I put up with this kind of
    “inconvenience” in the military…and more…and I swore that once I got out, NEVER AGAIN.

  • Bryan Suddith Jan 20, 2015, 3:45 pm

    I have used these in Cuba and in Rwanda. However, the gas powered on demand water heaters I used in Nepal this month were scarier. In Cuba I forgot the advice “don’t touch” and got a little jolt in one of my first showers there. My wife navigated it better than I in Africa.

    Great article…love reading your stories.

  • Natalie Dec 31, 2014, 9:42 am

    Electric Showers…SERIOUS CULTURE SHOCK ! The moment I encountered the electric shower in my bathroom…it became priority to change it out. My bathtub is at the top of my list, for what I will forever miss! Sad. I would not move into my home before completely renovating my bathroom…to include hot water. Shorter showers, and less time spent in the Bano…Some things are better not knowing about prior to finding out the hard way. I probably never would have made the move. Thanks Bryan, Its the first article about the Electric Showers that I have seen; very entertaining, now that I can look back on it.

  • Martina Gifford Dec 21, 2014, 1:19 pm

    Yes used these years ago in Guatemala when I lived there. It must not have been grounded because I was shocked on a regular basis. Thankfully we have a calefone (on demand gas heater) and we get water pressure and heat living in Cuenca. I could do the electric again though. Just a matter of getting used to it.

  • Max Dec 20, 2014, 7:30 pm

    Note to Margot…..India is not a third world country lol. It’s a modern superpower.
    Third world countries are where they have a lot of poverty and hunger, a lot of homeless, a poor justice system and horrid prison conditions not to mention horrific civil rights abuses and numerous other things. Kind of like the United States.

  • Max Dec 20, 2014, 7:24 pm

    Hi Bryan, the pic the you are showing looks a lot different from what i was used. I lived in Ireland from 1985-2005 and electric showers were very common. There are two types: 1. works off the mains water pressure to the house. 2. works from the water storage cistern in the attic.
    I had both types in my house and they both worked well. In Ireland the voltage is 220 v so they have to be good 🙂
    The water in them is heated by passing between two plates. The hotter you want the water the closer the plates get together using the control knob. This of course reduces the water pressure. But like i said I used them for 20 years with no complaints. I will say however that the unit you are showing looks very archaic compared to the Irish units which were self contained, the wiring was hidden behind the unit through the walls. You didn’t see wires and where they were fed in at the back of the unit it was all sealed and waterproof. Go onto the Irish Hydro Electric website and you might see some models.
    best regards,
    ps. currently living in Banos and loving it. 🙂

  • margot Dec 20, 2014, 1:29 pm

    Yep, in India, as well. Very scary. However, I guess in a lot of the 3rd world countries, this is OK. Haha…..In India, it looked like a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde ‘shock treatment’ contraction. I don’t trust the set-up. I am glad that you are addressing this subject.
    🙂 Happy Holidays!!!

  • Jerry Anderson Dec 20, 2014, 1:27 pm

    I have used these showers in Ecuador and agree with he comments about having to work up gradually to the temperature you want. They work fine once you get the hang of it. However, they should be grounded so that any stray current goes to the electrical system ground, not through your body to the floor. There are multiple reports of shocks and even fatal electrocutions by these things – all because they weren’t grounded properly. You need to check for a way to be sure your shower head is grounded, then you’ll be safe. If your plumbing is PVC (plastic) pipe, you need to have a ground wire run to the incoming electrical ground for the building.

  • Don Shader Dec 20, 2014, 12:51 pm

    So I must be missing something here. Don’t they build/sell water heaters for houses there? How do you wash dishes or your clothes? In cold water? Does that work? Now that I think about it, I do wash my clothes in cold water but certainly not my dishes and a cold shower doesn’t work for me. This is weird to say the least.


    • Bryan Haines Dec 20, 2014, 1:53 pm

      Electric water heaters (like are used in North America) are almost unheard of. An expat on the coast (Guayaquil) told me that she has one. Generally speaking, hot water is either with an electric shower head or an on-demand gas heater.

  • Paul Craig Dec 20, 2014, 11:11 am

    My wife LOVES her showers to be hot and high pressure. I am hoping that there are other alternatives to this method. This could be a deal breaker for us.
    Are there alternatives?

    • Bryan Haines Dec 20, 2014, 12:01 pm

      Yes, there are propane heaters. They generally work well, but can have some personality. In the large apartment buildings, they have central hot water.

  • Ricardo Schillaci Dec 20, 2014, 8:06 am

    Hi Dena!

    Those electric showers are common in Argentina too.
    Years ago I got an electric shok and survived. The same day I replaced the stuff for a butane water heater that I installed in the garage.
    Happy Holydays!

  • Samantha Dec 19, 2014, 12:00 pm

    Those are super common in Costa Rica too, I’ll never forget the first time I jumped in one and couldn’t figure out how to work it. If I could, I’d never use one again, I get cold easily but I need the pressure to wash out my hair. But majority of Tico homes have this kind of shower so I learned to adapt… kind of. However you are right, it does make me appreciate a nice hot shower a LOT more now! It’s like a luxury when we have one!

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