Life-cycle impacts of shower water waste heat recovery: case study of an installation at a university sport facility in the UK

Kenneth Ip, Kaiming She, Kemi Adeyeye

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Recovering heat from waste water discharged from showers to preheat the incoming cold water has been promoted as a cost-effective, energy-efficient, and low-carbon design option which has been included in the UK’s Standard Assessment Procedure (SAP) for demonstrating compliance with the Building Regulation for dwellings. Incentivized by its carbon cost-effectiveness, waste water heat exchangers (WWHX) have been selected and incorporated in a newly constructed Sports Pavilion at the University of Brighton in the UK. This £2-m sports development serving several football fields was completed in August 2015 providing eight water- and energy-efficient shower rooms for students, staff, and external organizations. Six of the shower rooms are located on the ground floor and two on the first floor, each fitted with five or six thermostatically controlled shower units. Inline type of WWHX were installed, each consisted of a copper pipe section wound by an external coil of smaller copper pipe through which the cold water would be warmed before entering the shower mixers. Using the installation at Sport Pavilion as the case study, this research aims to evaluate the environmental and financial sustainability of a vertical waste heat recovery device, over a life cycle of 50years, with comparison to the normal use of a PVC-u pipe. A heat transfer mathematical model representing the system has been developed to inform the development of the methodology for measuring the in-situ thermal performance of individual and multiple use of showers in each changing room. Adopting a system thinking modeling technique, a quasi-dynamic simulation computer model was established enabling the prediction of annual energy consumptions under different shower usage profiles. Data based on the process map and inventory of a functional unit of WWHX were applied to a proprietary assessment software to establish the relevant outputs for the life-cycle environmental impact assessment. Life-cycle cost models were developed and industry price book data were applied. The results indicated that the seasonal thermal effectiveness was over 50% enabling significant energy savings through heat recovery that led to short carbon payback time of less than 2years to compensate for the additional greenhouse gas emissions associated with the WWHX. However, the life-cycle cost of the WWHX is much higher than using the PVC pipe, even with significant heat recovered under heavy usage, highlighting the need to adopt more economic configurations, such as combining waste water through fewer units, in order to maximize the return on investment and improve the financial viability.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)19247–19258
Number of pages12
JournalEnvironmental Science and Pollution Research
Issue number20
Publication statusPublished - 18 Oct 2017

Bibliographical note

This is a post-peer-review, pre-copyedit version of an article published in Environmental Science and Pollution Research. The final authenticated version is available online at:


  • Domestic hot water
  • Showers
  • Waste heat recovery
  • Hot water shower system modeling
  • Life-cycle cost
  • Life-cycle environmental assessment
  • Sport facilities


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