High-tech faucet forgives forgetfulness

Automatic shut-off feature can prevent mishaps

By Inman News Feed
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Oct. 14, 2010

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Automatic shut-off feature can prevent mishaps

Bill and Kevin Burnett
Inman News

Q: After reading your reply on a question involving a soaked bathroom floor, I wonder if you have any suggestions for a problem that cropped up in my parents' home.

My father (he turned 100 in September) is still ambulatory, but has become forgetful. A few days ago, he left the hot water running for several hours in a small guest bathroom. The sink overflowed, and by the time my sister got home and turned the faucet off, there was an inch of water on the floor, soaking the rugs and floor of the adjacent bedroom, and dripping down into the basement below.

As I live about 400 miles away, I learned all of this over the phone and advised my sister to employ every box or oscillating fan she could find to help dry the soaked wood upstairs and down below.

It's a well-built house with good wood, so I'm not too worried about this particular flood, but the prospect of my dad doing it again is worrisome. Does anybody market a faucet that will stay open only for a limited amount of time -- say five minutes -- before automatically shutting off?

I'm not looking for the kind of expensive water-saving fixtures found in public buildings, but just a simple timer valve, be it mechanical or electronic. Thanks so much for any advice you can offer.

A: As we get older, devices to help us become critical. Handrails on stairs, grab bars in showers and tubs, canes and walkers all aid in keeping us mobile, functioning and safe. A faucet with an automatic shut-off feature fits into this category.

We're sure you've seen public toilets and lavatories that operate automatically. This is part of the green revolution aimed at conserving water. The faucets operate on battery-operated infrared sensor technology.

The faucet turns on when you place your hands under the spout and shuts off when the hands are removed. This seems like the perfect fix for your dad's forgetfulness. There's no way he can leave the water on and flood the house again.

They are readily available and prices vary from $50 to upward of $800. This is a case where you'll have to do a little research to figure out the features you want and the price you're willing to pay.

A word of caution: Many of these faucets aren't capable of mixing hot and cold water. If that's an important feature, count on paying a premium.

Do an Internet search for "automatic shut off faucets" for an overview of what's out there.

Once you've got a handle on the range of products and prices, take a trip to a plumbing supply house and see what they have to offer. Stay away from hardware stores and the big-box operations for this type of purchase.

Plumbing supply houses cater to the trade. Because of this, the products they carry are reliable and fairly priced, and the salespeople are experts. We've always found them to be eager to do business with non-tradesmen, provided that we came in armed with some knowledge of what we wanted.

Don't hesitate to ask the salesperson's opinion of a particular product and for any feedback customers have given.

Follow these steps and we're confident that your father won't create another deluge.

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