Skip to Content

Electric Showers?! How Shocking! (Are They Really Suicide Showers?)

When I stepped in the shower for the first time in Ecuador I was shocked to see wires coming out of the shower head! I could not believe what I was seeing! My whole life I was taught that electricity and water make a deadly mix.

I didn’t know if I should turn it on or not. I called Bryan over to take a look and see what he thought. We determined that it must be OK because the wires were coming out of the top where we thought (and hoped) the water could not reach them. So I held my breath and started the electric shower.

As I think about that now, I can’t help but smile. I took a shower every day for more than a year with that type of a setup and thought nothing of it. It did take a little getting used to because there was a bit of a trick to it.

If the water flow was too fast the shower would be cold, the flow had to be started slowly and then left to warm up. Then the flow could be gradually increased until it was coming out reasonably fast and warm at the same time.

I have never been in an “electric shower” that had a powerful flow and was hot at the same time. It can be a little annoying when you are used to a hot powerful shower, but if an electric shower is what the apartment you want has, you can get used to it as long as the building is wired properly.

If it’s not, the shower will fluctuate, much the way the lights brighten and dim as the electricity flows unevenly throughout the building. If this is the case, you may not be very happy with your morning shower. You may be even grumpier when you come out, than you were when you went in.

If you don’t want to deal with that, make sure you check the shower setup before you move in. If it has an electric shower head you will be able to tell right away because you can see the wires coming out of the showerhead. If you don’t see wires, then the shower is heated by propane.

Some apartments have the propane heating unit right in the apartment, and you have to take care of setting it how you want it. Others have them in a central location; if this is the case you will probably forget all about it. You might even think the water is coming out of a hot water tank, just like in the States or Canada, if that is what you were used to.

Are electric shower heads safe? Yes. I guess you could say that we are living proof of that.


Have 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.

There really is no need to touch an electric shower-head while the water is on because, unlike other showerheads, 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 :).

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


Thursday 19th of January 2023

Just had a scary experience in Guatemala. I didn't know about the pressure so I used low pressure for about 3x (I just prefer low pressure not knowing there's an impact in heating. And when i was almost done I heard boiling so I turned it off but water continued and there was so much smoke and burnt plastic smell. I'm ok but I'm afraid to use it again. The host checked and they said it's working again so I don't think they're gonna change anything. I'm afraid it already burnt or damaged something there as the burned plastic smell lingers. Does that make sense? I wouldn't have a proper shower for a week. I'm thinking using a bucket from the sink.

Thank you for writing about this, I found few people sharing about this.

Bryan Haines

Friday 20th of January 2023

Sounds like a rough way to start the day. I don't feel comfortable troubleshooting this without being there. And when we lived abroad, we hired a tech to come in a few times to check our heater.

In regards to safety, the propane heaters seem to cause more trouble than the electric ones. Sometimes the propane water heaters are installed somewhere with poor ventilation and the carbon monoxide will collect. It wasn't uncommon to hear about resulting deaths from this setup.

If you aren't confident in the shower setup, a sink or bucket wash might be the best solution. One a side note, these shower heads aren't expensive - you could offer to purchase one for your host.

Varadero & Cienfuegos | Annie on expedition

Tuesday 3rd of May 2022

[…] thing I liked less, which is a thing you must be wary for when traveling, was the so called “suicide shower“. I normally check our accommodations for suicide showers but unfortunately, I didn’t […]

Bill Freese

Wednesday 17th of November 2021

I, too, met my first electric shower in Ecuador. We had a Spanish language class that morning in which I learned a word for fear and then said I was afraid of the electric shower. When I got back to my host family that afternoon, they explained that I had nothing to be afraid of. They also explained that I should not shower while anyone was doing anything else involving electricity because then the housemaid would have to take the broom outside to flip the circuit breaker for the house which was mounted above the front door. Ah, I thought, that explains why my morning shower had gotten hot, then cold, then hot again.


Sunday 22nd of September 2019

When I was backpacking Latin America in the mid-seventies last century the electrical shower heads in Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador were a hell of a lot more scary than those in the pix here. Us experienced travelers had a very simple solution: Ask the GH owner: "Hay un balde?" Put the bucket under the shower head, turn the water on and wait till your bucket is full with warm water. Done. Turn the water off, take off your take hiking boots, undress and Roberto is your uncle. Now that I spend part of the year in Laos I had a wooden house built. All wires (with different thickness depending on what you want to wire) are connected with twist connectors - not electrical tape. All wires are inside flexible plastic tubes for additional protection. Wherever there is a connection (with twist connectors, even available in Laos) the connecting wires are housed in a connector box for additional protection and safety. This is an easy and cheap solution - I cannot understand why anyone would put up with dangling wires taped up as shown in the pix. If the problem is inside the shower head - get a new one and install it properly, see above !!!! I am not an electrician - I just googled my way thru this whole wiring business and spoke to some of my falang (gringo) friends . Not difficult to do.

Jim Reizner

Sunday 3rd of March 2019

The electric shower you showed in the photo would not meet electric codes in any country I am familiar with, and certainly not in the US or Canada. The fact that you were not shocked by it does not mean it is safe - it only means you were not shocked by it. Not all electric showers have wires coming out of them, as a matter of fact most don't.

Bryan Haines

Sunday 3rd of March 2019

Meeting code and being common are two different things. Things are different outside of North America... Death from carbon monoxide (propane water heaters) is not uncommon. I haven't heard of any deaths from the electric showers.