College of Product Knowledge: Residential Faucets - Part I
The College of Product Knowledge ran in Supply House Times for three years and resulted in a reprint manual that sold for many years to follow, totaling thousands of copies. It became something of an industry classic. Much of the original training material is still applicable to the products sold today - but there is also much in the wholesalers' product mix that is new since then. The purpose of this updated series is to look at what has come along since the first edition.
Faucet MechanismsDuring the last 20 years, we've seen a shakeout in terms of faucet mechanisms used in this country. The types of valving most popular back then are still the leading ones today, but several lesser technologies have dropped from the scene. Among the surviving types, the division of market share has shifted somewhat, with the most significant gains being made in ceramic categories. (Ceramic's biggest gains have come in replacing discontinued technologies.) A bit of terminology confusion has evolved in this department, with washerless often used as a category separate from ceramic. Sometimes it seems to imply the specific technology of rubber seal shearing types - sometimes the broader range of "everything that isn't compression or ceramic." Logic would seem to say that ceramic would fall under a term like washerless, as well, but why should we start letting logic dictate our plumbing-speak now?
Here's what the common options in faucet valving look like today:
- Two-Handle: Compression valving (washer type) has continued to decline with the growth of washerless and ceramic types. The key technologies in the washerless category today are the rubber seal shearing type, and the rotating piston.
- Joystick: This newest category of mechanism is actually a single-lever type in terms of function, but unlike that variety, it utilizes a handle with a vertical orientation (kind of like a stick shift in a car). We haven't seen too much of this in the U.S. yet, but it's hot in Europe and will probably begin to be offered by more manufacturers here soon.
- Single-Lever: Here, the three most popular types of valving continue to be (1) rubber seal shearing, (2) sliding piston and (3) ceramic, with the latter showing the most growth in recent years.
- Electronic: Like a lot of products originally intended for commercial applications, electronic faucets are now being introduced into the home. The types being marketed for residential use are often equipped with a manual mixing mechanism to select the desired temperature. The on-off function is accomplished by means of a sensor that opens and closes an electrically operated solenoid valve. Some electronic faucets are hard-wired, some battery powered.
Kitchen Faucet ModelsOur focus on specific faucet models this month will be the kitchen varieties, where we have seen more innovation than anywhere else in the home.
- Pull-Out Spray Models: This is probably the most popular new basic faucet design of this generation. We're talking here about the spray device that pulls out of the spout of the kitchen faucet. While a spray function was a long-established option on U.S. lines, we historically made it a separate component situated alongside the faucet and occupying a separate mounting hole on the sink deck. The Europeans showed us a different way to do it, however, by integrating the spray with the spout. With this approach, the spray hose snakes through the faucet body and the swing spout, with the sprayhead doing double duty as both the regular outlet as well as the pullout device.
The primary advantage of this concept involves more than just a cleaner, more compact look. A conventional separate spray provides only that: a spraying device on the end of a flexible hose. The integrated approach offers one more function: the choice of a spray or an aerated stream. The latter offers "splashless" rinsing as well as the ability to fill containers beyond the reach of a conventional spout. Another advantage over the conventional side spray is the function of "hands-free" rinsing while the sprayhead remains in its receiver.
Faucets To Serve Drinking Water NeedsAs water filtration has become more popular in the home, several trends in water delivery have emerged:
- Dedicated Drinking Faucets: This is basically a second faucet on the sink, used specifically as part of a filtration system. The options in this department have expanded considerably since the early days when most every system used a generic little faucet with spring-loaded valve operated by a black lever on the base. Today there is a wide variety of drinking faucet options with many more choices in styling and finish options (many using ceramic valving).
- Integrated General Purpose / Drinking Water Faucets: There is a trend toward reducing the clutter of gadgets on faucet ledges and counters today. This has resulted in faucets that combine delivery of general-use water and specific drinking water into a single housing.
(1) Faucets With Dual Delivery: This type features an extra handle or button for delivering water from an undercounter filter. To accomplish this, it is made with a "spout within a spout" to keep the two types of water separate right out to the point of discharge. Containing no filtration component of its own, it can be used with any undercounter filter or reverse osmosis system. Proponents of this approach cite the advantage of flexibility of filtration technology (using any system desired), as well as higher capacity for less frequent changing of elements.
(2) Faucets With Integral Filter: This type of faucet goes one step further by including an integral filter cartridge in the spout or base. Typically, these models have a button located toward the end of the spout for delivering drinking water through a small discharge nozzle separate from the regular aerator outlet. Producers of this type will tell you that in addition to providing a clean and compact solution to the functions provided, it allows quick and convenient servicing of the filter cartridge.
Commercial Kitchen FaucetsThe growing popular use of commercial equipment in residential kitchens has carried some plumbing items along.
- Pre-Rinse Faucet: You may not recognize the name, but you know the look. This is the faucet with the big spring-wrapped hose and a lever-operated spray on the end. It is typically used in a commercial kitchen to rinse dishes before they head into the pass-through dishwasher. Its utility is growing in popularity in the home these days, fitting design themes that include things like Viking ranges and commercial refrigerators. Some manufacturers offer this type of faucet in its pure commercial form, which means the exposed spring and a "spray-only" water delivery. Others have domesticated the concept a bit by sheathing the hose in a high-arcing brass spout, and adding a dual delivery capability to the sprayhead (aeration or spray).
- Pasta Or Pot-Filler Faucet: Here's another import from the restaurant. This cold-water-only type of faucet is mounted to the wall above the range for convenient delivery of water directly into pots. Typically equipped with a double swing spout, it usually has two valves - one at the wall and one at the end of the spout (after use, it should always be turned off with the one by the wall to keep pressure off the spout seals).