U.S. Water News Online
LAFAYETTE, Calif. -- Heila Hubbard doesn't dare tell her
neighbors, but she recently spent weeks figuring out how to run water
out of her tap.
"I felt silly having to practice using my faucet," says Hubbard,
of Lafayette, Calif. "But I felt confident from the beginning I'd
Honed by how-to DVDs, Hubbard's faucet skills became old hat in a
matter of weeks. She had good reason for the home schooling: Her
faucet was a cutting-edge version of a hands-free, tap-on, tap-off
appliance that may become common in U.S. kitchens within a few years.
The faucets are similar to, but light years beyond, technology
routinely seen in public facilities where water flow activates at the
wave of a hand. The user simply taps this new breed of faucet
anywhere on the spout to turn water on or off. Motion sensors and a
traditional handle lend added operational flexibility.
On Hubbard's model, the user adjusts the handle to set temperature
and the strength of stream in advance -- among the nuances that
Hubbard became adept at with practice. Trial and error helped her
negotiate slipping dirty dishes into the sink without tripping the
"You have to slide in dishes from the side rather than head-on
like you normally do," Hubbard said. "Other than that, it's
terrifically easy and handy."
Bob Rodenbeck of Brizo, the company that makes the faucet Hubbard
toiled to conquer, says video research in kitchens showed cooks were
bogged down by messy hands and often fumbled to fill pots or rinse
foods. Hands-free technology was overdue in kitchens, Rodenbeck said.
Hunter Dance of Galleria Bath and Kitchen Showplace in Bradenton,
Fla., forecasts that such faucets will be the norm in five to 10
years. "Homeowners are blown away by the functionality, especially
those who do a lot of cooking," he said. "It's definitely the trend."
So why the long wait for household versions of technology long
used in public bathrooms? Product engineers needed to catch up to
complicated needs in the kitchen, Rodenbeck says.
"The sensor technology wasn't high-performing enough," he said,
crediting the robotics industries with key improvements in sensor
The bugaboos skirted by supposed hands-free products were
temperature control and water pressure. The one-function approach --
water on, water off -- is fine for public facilities, but it's a
whole different kettle of fish in kitchens where cooks want to
control cooking apparatuses.
The new technology isn't cheap. But like other consumer goods,
prices may drop as the technology enters the mainstream, Rodenbeck
says. Chrome versions are $849, while the stainless faucet is $995.
Brizo touts advantages beyond convenience. Cooking is inherently
messy, and the faucet promotes a cleaner, more hygienic environment.
And the absence of knobs makes the faucet easier for aged, arthritic
Water conservation is also a plus; Brizo research showed
homeowners often leave faucets on for minutes at a time.
When the faucet use stops, Pascal turns the water off
automatically in moments, a point not lost on Hubbard: "The ability
to save water is a big deal in California."
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