What makes the ice water challenge work? Nobody likes very cold water
As the ALS challenge makes the rounds, it has raised awareness and funds for an important cause. As someone involved in water heating, I couldn’t help but notice that the challenge involved ice water. It seems that everyone knows intuitively that ice water is unpleasant and that being exposed to it shocks the body. I doubt the campaign would have had the same impact with warm water because there would be no drama before the dump, and no reaction after.
The best reaction to the ice water challenge that I saw was from Oprah, who really illustrated how uncomfortable cold water is. The next time I got in the shower, I started thinking about ice water buckets and I decided to experiment with turning down the dial. What I noticed is that as soon as I turned the dial down even a little, I started to feel cold. It seems that without paying much attention to it, I have always been setting the shower temperature to my ideal comfort level, and that anything less feels cold, although my body would slowly adjust to it. I continued to turn it down, to see how far I could go. Each time I turned down the dial, I felt a shock, followed by getting used to it to some degree. I made it all the way to full cold for one minute and then quickly adjusted the dial to a comfortable level.
Hot water is something most of us take for granted, and the energy consumed heating water is basically invisible and hidden on the energy bill. It is hard to imagine life without hot water, but if we all consumed less hot water, it would be the equivalent of taking cars off the road. We would have cleaner air and less waste. So maybe it is time for the cold shower challenge to raise awareness for the energy consumed in showers. Turn the shower down to full cold and see how long you last. And even though your body might not enjoy it, there are studies that say it might be good for you.
David Velan David Velan is the founder and CEO of Ecodrain Inc. Ecodrain designs and sells heat exchangers to recapture heat from warm drain water. Ecodrain has conducted extensive research, building many prototypes and conducting thousands of experiments in order to build high performance devices that are safe and easy to use. David Velan has a bachelors of applied science in mechanical engineering degree from the University of British Columbia, and an MBA from McGill University.