Showers account for a third of a person’s average water use, with the typical 10-minute shower gushing nearly 40 gallons of water. But a new concept by Swedish company Orbital Systems aims to cut that volume down to roughly 1.5 gallons.
The Orbital Systems shower design collects the used water in a basin, purifies it to drinking-level standards, and puts it back through the shower head to be reused during the same shower. Not only does the closed-loop system reduce water use, it can cut energy use by 80 percent since the recycled water doesn’t need much reheating to maintain its temperature.
Industrial designer Mehrdad Mahdjoubi formed the concept for a collaborative project with NASA Johnson Space Center to reduce the amount of resources needed on a space voyage ahead of the Mars mission. Mahdjoubi founded Orbital Systems in 2012 to bring that technology down to Earth.
“Our technology applies the principle that, just like in space, resources on Earth are precious and must be utilized in the most efficient way possible,” he says.
Orbital Systems’ patented purification system ensures the water is free of bacteria and viruses such as legionella. In fact, the water quality through the purification system has been proven to be equal to or above most conventional tap-water resources, the company says.
The innovative showers were first installed and tested in 2013 at Riversborgs Kallbadhus, an open-air swimming bath where 170,000 people wash off annually after swimming in ocean water with seaweed and bacteria. With just two units, the bath house saved 100,000 liters (26,417 gallons) of water over four months.
Since then, Orbital Systems’ showers have been installed in sports arenas, fitness centers, climate neutral houses, and fire stations all around Sweden, and was most recently installed in a small hotel in Malmo, Sweden.
Mahdjoubi has also been awarded the Green Mentorship Award in 2012 and the most prestigious innovation award in Sweden, SKAPA UTVECKLINGSSTEPNDIUM 2014. His company was also recently nominated for the SUSTANIA100 as one of the five most trendsetting water efficiency innovations in the world.
Since the product is an entirely new shower and not just an
item someone can attach to a current
shower, it will be hard to convince buyers to make the switch, unless they’re already building or remodeling a bathroom.
It also doesn't come cheap. There are two models: a floor unit and a cabin. The floor unit simply is installed into the floor to be even with the rest of the flooring and costs 3,200 Euros ($3900). The cabin unit is essentially an entire shower stall and runs 4,000 Euros ($4,900).
However, Orbital Systems estimates a San Francisco family taking two 10-minute showers a day could save $731.72 annually.
The showers are available for pre-order now, which Orbital Systems states can be installed by regular plumbers and electricians following the company’s instruction.
Though Orbital Systems is currently focused on expanding its business across the globe, Mahdjoubi hopes for a future where its shower could make a larger impact.
“Our long term goal is to let anyone who can
benefit from our technology enjoy it—whether it is to reduce household costs,
shower in clean water free from bacteria, or take a shower in places where
water is scarce,” he says. “We firmly believe that our water-recycling
technology can change the world, and enable us to build a better, more
sustainable future for all.”