For a market that is often perceived to be demure, or even dull, the commercial tapware industry has seen a huge improvement in technology over the past few decades. Spurred on by industry, political, and environmental pressures to improve water efficiency, tap and sink designers have created products that deserve far more praise than they have received. This is mainly due to the fact that most people find commercial taps and tapware an uninteresting topic, but for those of us with an interest in fluid mechanics, technology, and contemporary design, recent advancements in water flow technologies can be described as nothing short of fascinating.
Upgrades from the traditional commercial tap units began in the 90s with simple mechanical on off switches that allowed users to control the flow of water with their foot, knee or hip as they washed their hands or performed whatever task they needed to in the sink. This step up from the standard turn on/off taps was hailed as a godsend for many industries where the use of a hand to turn the tap on or off was seen as a major inconvenience. As well as in commercial kitchens, these taps were also quickly adopted for usage in many higher end restaurants and bar bathrooms where they were seen as an ideal way to reduce the spread of germs.
Hands free taps also offered benefit through ease of use (once users had initially learned how to operate the unit), to prevent excessive water overflow, and to save water, which equated to saving money. Increasing prices of utilities like water have increased to demand for water saving devices and has been a continual driver of new technologies. After the success of hands-free commercial taps, many designers looked toward newer technologies for the next big thing in tapware design.
Like in so many other industries, the reduction in prices for chipsets and sensors allowed for the development of a new wave of tapware in the form of infrared sensor taps. This next generation of commercial tapware offered even more mobility for users while turning on the flow of water, allowing them free use of all limbs while workings. Electronic sensors also mean an even greater reduction in waste-water, with water only flowing when something is in the vicinity of the sensor ready to utilize the release of water.
While originally introduced for hand basins and commercial sink applications, electronic sensors have also shown to be quite popular for commercial toilet and urinal applications. Ongoing improvements have to sensor controlled fixtures have increase water efficiency and offered even greater cost savings. While sensor taps and toilets cost a slight premium over standard or traditional units, they offer many advantages and the cost savings can often be made back in as little as 3 months. Water savings are obviously greater in high use industries and cost savings can be phenomenal when used for the right applications.
Continual improvements by the leaders in commercial taps, sinks and kitchen design will reduce water consumption and wastage even further. While sensor taps have been a boon for cost saving there are still a plethora of potential improvements we can expect to see over the coming years that make this technology even more environmentally friendly. As the technology becomes even more mainstream, expect to see it being increasingly used for residential applications as well.