Improvements in Faucet Technology Make Up for Water-Wasting Behavior

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Improvements in Faucet Technology Make Up for Water-Wasting Behavior

A faucet can only conserve so much water. But careful monitoring of human behavior has given companies like Delta key insights into how to reduce the amount of water wasted in both the kitchen and bath.
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Wednesday, July 20, 2016 - 10:15am

CAMPAIGN: Saving Water

CONTENT: Blog

Faucet makers sometimes have a tough time coming up with a new sustainability story. In recent years, faucet flow has shrunk to what many believed might be as low as it could go. But the combination of some good R&D, and borrowing technology from commercial applications, has tightened the water use belt once again.

"We did a lot of research, including real-time observation of how people use their faucets," notes Mary Ahlbrand, Channel Manager for Delta. I visited with her at the Pacific Coast Builder's Show last week in San Francisco. "At first, they would show up wearing their nice clothes and makeup, because they knew they were on camera, but after a couple weeks they settled into the routine, and we go to see their real behavior."

That behavior, she says, gave the technical team at Delta new ideas about how to conserve. Most notably, the company continues to go deeper into "hands free" faucet technology. "One thing they noticed [with conventional lever faucets] is that people would turn on the faucet in the kitchen and walk away," she says. "They would just get busy with other things."

To compensate for this kind of waste, she says, the new touch-activated lines of faucets,Touch2O.xt  has built-in timeout features. For example, a sink faucet left running will automatically shut off once the amount of water reaches the point where it could overflow a stoppered sink. Many of the faucets also offer "hands free" mode, where the water turns on and runs for about 4 seconds, for when hands are soapy or covered with food.

Factoring in the Human Factor

People often use well-intentioned new technology in unexpected ways. For example, early studies of hands-free faucets in public restrooms have found that people sometimes used more water than with a conventional handle faucets. The culprit was probably a sub-optimal running time. The same is likely true for concerns that germs might build up in hands-free faucets (based on a single study at Johns Hopkins in 2011).

The key to success with hands-free and touch products, says Ahlbrand, is good research. Water has to run long enough to satisfy the user and clear the pipes, as it were, but not so long that it wastes water. With the help of some real-world research, Delta seems to be finding that sweet spot.

These "smart" faucets run on a AAA battery pack that's easily accessible under the sink. The batteries could also be replaced with a rechargeable variety. The available A/C power unit could then be used to recharge the battery pack, adding one more notch in the product's sustainabilty belt.

Keywords: Responsible Production & Consumption | Environment | Green Builder Media | Innovation & Technology | Water

CAMPAIGN: Saving Water

CONTENT: Blog

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