Existing steam shower - need advice on steam diffusing

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  #1  
Old 01-02-14, 03:32 PM
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Question Existing steam shower - need advice on steam diffusing

Recently bought a home with a steam shower. It's nice and we use it all the time. I don't think the prior owners used it much as I'm starting to notice wear and tear on the shower floor close to the steam nozzle after living in the new place for only six months. Before this turns into a nightmare, I want to get some advice.

I know zilch about steam showers, but what appears to be happening is the shower floor is very slowly pitting and discoloring right under the steam nozzle. I immediately thought of installing something to divert or diffuse the steam and after some Interwebz searching there appear to be some acrylic products that serve this very purpose but they are ridiculously priced...like minimum $80+shipping for the cheapest one I could locate and I'm not even sure if it will fit the old steam head on this shower.

This is the item in question:

Name:  steam diffuser.jpg
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I don't have any pics of the shower stall but I believe it's some type of fiberglass enclosure. It's like 20 years old but it's in good shape and I don't want to replace it.

Any quick ideas on what I can do? My steam nozzle looks like this one. It works fine and I don't want to replace it either but it directs the steam right to the floor and I'm guessing over time, I'm going to have a real problem if I don't redirect the steam. Thanks.

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  #2  
Old 01-03-14, 05:31 AM
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Steam should not have any effect on a fiberglass enclosure and without a picture, I can't imagine what kind of damage is happening to your shower floor. If the shower acts anything like my canister steam cleaner, the temp coming out of the nozzle will be in the 180 degree range. However, it quickly cools 6 to 8 inches from the exit. If you have an instant read thermometer you can place it in the steam during operation and see if the boiler is acting correctly. You can also measure how hot the steam is at the floor. I suspect that you can divert the steam temporarily by loosely draping a rag around the nozzle so it has air to breathe but the actual steam is diverted before it hits the floor.
 
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Old 01-03-14, 04:55 PM
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Here are a few pics. I do not own an instant read thermometer. My steam head is not 8" up....more like 5" -- perhaps that's the problem. The steam definitely hits the floor.







Here's the discoloration and pitting on the floor. It looks pretty bad in this closeup pic:



Here's a couple shots of the steam unit, which is located downstairs in a utility closet almost directly under the shower.



 
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Old 01-03-14, 08:22 PM
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Is it possible they refinished the old unit and thus it is the new surface that is showing damage. Maybe they used it a lot more than you thought and now you are seeing the old condition.

Bud
 
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Old 01-04-14, 12:14 AM
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Is it possible they refinished the old unit and thus it is the new surface that is showing damage. Maybe they used it a lot more than you thought and now you are seeing the old condition.
The shower stall floor is smooth and appears to be original. Only the area directly under the steam head is discolored and has hairline cracks. I think if the inside of the stall was refinished, I'd be able to see some color mismatch or a seam or some other indicator.

I have fiberglass resin (for car body work). Would that help to seal these cracks before they get worse? Or is there some sort of patch that I can epoxy onto the floor under the steam head?

I'm just thinking long term and proactive.

One other thought. Is it possible that what I'm seeing is actually mineral build up on top of the surface? It does feel very rough, but it's hard to tell if it's a new layer or actual damage of the existing surface. Should I try some vinegar and baking soda??
 
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Old 01-04-14, 05:04 AM
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First, do you have an automatic drain on your steam generator? It appears yours is manually operated. After each steam use you should open the drain valve (red handle) and drain all the water out of the steam unit, then close the valve. Every time you use the steam generator it boils off water leaving the minerals behind and it has a very small tank with a huge heating element so it can't tolerate much mineral buildup.

I can believe your shower is having trouble. The steam coming out of the nozzle is superheated and generally the emitter is mounted higher off the floor except when installed in a tub. I'm betting the sudden blast of steam rapidly expands the surface of the tub eventually causing little bits to flake off. I'm also betting you get your toes cooked if you are not careful.

10 years ago deflectors were commonly available and reasonably priced but they have become much more difficult to find, especially after the 2008 big economic meltdown. Manufacturers also changed the design of the emitter heads so a deflector is not needed as much and some new head's shapes makes it almost impossible to hang a diffuser.

I make my own steam deflectors. I take a strip of polycarbonate (Lexan) about 4-6" wide and a 8-12" long. I drill a big hole in one end to fit over the steam emitter head. Then I bend the other end of up into a "U" shape. After bending I drill a couple 1" holes in the bottom of the U to let a bit of the steam go straight down. Acrylic bends easier but cracks and breaks sooner because of the heat. Polycarbonate requires more muscle to bend but I can get almost two years out of a deflector before I need to make another.
 
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Old 01-04-14, 11:14 AM
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First, do you have an automatic drain on your steam generator? It appears yours is manually operated. After each steam use you should open the drain valve (red handle) and drain all the water out of the steam unit, then close the valve. Every time you use the steam generator it boils off water leaving the minerals behind and it has a very small tank with a huge heating element so it can't tolerate much mineral buildup.
Yikes. I have no clue what you're talking about unless you're referring to the red ball valve that exits the box in the utility room. You can just barely see it in the last picture above (hiding behind that blow-off valve tag).

So you're saying this thing needs to be purged after each use? That seems like a real PITA and I'm willing to bet the prior owners never touched this thing. In fact the utility closet was a mess when we bought this place and I've slowly been making repairs to various things over the last six months.
 
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Old 01-04-14, 11:38 AM
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Pilot Dane - Thanks. Sure enough I located a user manual online for my unit and it recommends manually draining at least once per month. Per the instructions I switched on the steam and then opened the drain valve. The manual says to keep the valve open for only 10 minutes. Only a small amount of water actually drained out....maybe a cup or so. Do you know if that's normal?

Link to Nasscor/Amerec AR5 manual: http://www.amerec.com/Files.aspx?f_id=41773
 
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Old 01-04-14, 02:09 PM
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If you purchase an auto drain valve (about $250) it will drain it after every use. I'm on a well with pretty hard water so I drain mine after every use. Once, before having a softener I went a month without draining and the drain plugged with minerals and I had to remove the valve and poke around with a wire to break up the deposits and get it draining again.

You should get more like 1/2 to 1 gallon of water when draining the unit. One thing you can try is to open the drain valve and turn on the steam generator. The heating element should not come on unless the tank is full but it will open the inlet valve which will generate some pressure and water flow to help flush out debris.
 
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Old 01-04-14, 03:09 PM
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Hmmmm. I did turn on the steam unit earlier when the small amount of water drained. I noticed that steam DID generate even though the manual states exactly what you did (that the heating element should not come on).

I'm in Chicago. Our water isn't hard, but it's not soft either and we do not have a softener so I'm wondering if my drain is clogged. I will try draining it a few more times and see what happens. Perhaps it will unclog itself. I'm telling you, the prior owners were NOT on top of this stuff. My guess is this drain has not been opened in YEARS until today.

Thanks for your input. I'll keep updating the thread over the next couple weeks.
 
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Old 01-05-14, 04:57 AM
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For the next several weeks I'd get in the habit of opening the drain valve right after you are finished using the steam. Maybe the hot, freshly aggitated water will help flush out any sediment.
 
  #12  
Old 01-12-14, 04:25 PM
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I've tried draining the steam machine after a few steam showers and I only get a very small amount of water draining from the valve after a steam shower. I got considerably more drainage when I tried purging it with the steam shower turned on from a cold start.

The unit appears to work fine....beyond fine actually. It seems to be overkill for our small shower stall. I will continue to drain it after steam showers and see if it eventually opens up.

I also tried baking soda and vinigar and light scrubbing on the floor under the steam head and that did nothing. It seems like the gel coat is worn under the steam head, so I ordered some epoxy filler for the hairline cracks. We'll see if that does anything for the floor.

Stay tuned.
 
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Old 01-12-14, 07:14 PM
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My generator sounds like a small jet engine when operating and you literally can not see your hand in front of your face in the shower. And, I love how even sounds become muted when the steam is so thick. A few drops of eucalyptus oil an nothing is better for a cold or hard day at work.

The deflectors I've made out of Lexan all start cracking in months and I'm lucky to get a couple years before the fall completely apart. I think the blast of intense steam is an incredible thermal shock to any material. Your emitter is so low that a deflector might look silly but putting a inexpensive mat under the emitter might work. Let the mat take the abuse and replace as needed.
 
  #14  
Old 01-12-14, 09:07 PM
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Your emitter is so low that a deflector might look silly but putting a inexpensive mat under the emitter might work. Let the mat take the abuse and replace as needed.
Excellent idea.......I like it better than mine. Thanks!!

I had a similar thought although I was thinking of permanently installing a patch. Figured I'd epoxy the cracks, try to repaint that area (with a gel coat repair kit) and then cover it with something. That something I've been unable to figure out. Any ideas for something white or off white that won't look ridiculous in that space?
 
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