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On Tap

By Lesley Parker | Monday | 11/08/2003

Water conservation and hot water safety are driving advances in tapware design.


City dwellers often feel immune from the effects of drought. But the long dry has driven home to everyone the message that water is a precious resource.

One result is that moves to incorporate water-saving technology into Australian homes are fast gathering pace: the trend towards single-lever mixers, for example, is not just about design, but also about the need to limit water flow.

Indeed, Australia's AAA water conservation rating system is currently under review, with manufacturers likely to be asked to build water flow technology into all tapware under a mooted five-star system for rating water efficiency.

"There's been a move over the past five or six years or so to build much more water conservation into taps," says David Greenwood, national sales manager, Starion Industries, Australian distributor for brands such as Hansa of Germany and KWC of Switzerland.

"It's where single-lever taps come into their own," he adds, "because generally it's very difficult to build water conservation into three-piece tapware. One of the principle advantages of single-lever mixers is that you can flow-limit the product."

Most products in the Hansa range, for instance, are designed so the internal ceramic disk cartridge can be preset to a certain water flow. "In a hand basin, you really don't need to use any more than 6L/min to wash your hands, whereas on a standard basin tap, the water flows at 10 or 11 litres per minute," says Greenwood.

The Hansa Eco control mechanism operates in two stages. About halfway up - when the water is flowing at about 5L/min - the user feels slight resistance. If the user needs more water - say, to fill a sink - they just push the lever above this point of resistance. "We want to give the user choice," says Greenwood.

Australasian manufacturer, Greens Tapware, employs a similar 'set and forget' mechanism. "You don't consciously have to ensure the water flow is adequate," says operations manager Phillip Jensen. "If the volume of water flowing out is restricted mechanically, water waste is dramatically reduced."




Safety first

As well as water conservation, consumers are considering safety aspects - such as anti-scald designs - in tapware, says Jensen.

"Water conservation and safety are the two major issues. Conservation receives a lot of publicity in such a dry country as Australia, but people are also very conscious of the fact that scalding is a real risk, especially with children and the elderly."

Greens builds a device into its mixers which limits the movement of the handle so it's never fully open on the hot water side. The user sets the maximum temperature at the time of installation. It's a simple job for a handyman to change, if required.

Greens' Safeflow mechanism also protects against scalding. In this instance, a pressure sensitive mechanical device comes into play if the water pressure drops - say, when someone turns on the cold water elsewhere in the house. "This mechanical device senses - within a fraction of a second - the change in pressure, adjusts a mechanical piston and keeps the water mix constant," Jensen says.

Simon Duggan, retail marketing manager of retailer Reece, says there is a growing trend towrds shower mixers and thermostats, and he expects these to be increasing available in other forms of tapware.

Consumers can also expect to see technology already in use in public buildings. The 'no-touch' taps, where electronic sensors turn the water on and off at the wave of a hand, could soon be migrating into private bathrooms.




Moving into the kitchen, the 'semi-professional' look - flexible metal hosing and pull-out spray heads - is an ongoing trend. KWC's innovative Soda Tap, which filters and carbonates ordinary tap water, should be launched in Australia next year.

And what of minimalism? For those so inclined, now it's 'minimalist-plus'. Simon Duggan cites the popularity of pin-lever handles and products where the handle is integrated into the actual tap fitting - something consumers will see more of in the next six months.

Flexispray's range of shower and bathroom accessories reflects these trends. The company's Stilo Shower provides a simple shower with clean lines and is available as a hand shower, a rail shower or an overhead shower to suit the most modern bathroom.

The just-released MYRIAD Collection by Dorf Designer, has been designed and developed to interpret this trend with a range of low-profile tapware that aims to minimise physical and maximise visual impact. Where normal three-piece tapware might sit 7-8cm high, MYRIAD fittings extend only 3-4cm - which has required some unique engineering and development.

Obviously, that involves new plumbing, says Dorf Clark marketing co-ordinator Philippa Neve. But who wants to see the plumbing? "With the MYRIAD Collection, the spindle is hidden, giving you that cleaner look.

"As the name implies, the MYRIAD Collection also innovates by being a co-ordinated range of mix and match components - four handle designs, three flanges and two spouts - which can combine in up to 24 combinations.

So with the fabulous range of eco-friendly, safe, and stunningly smart-looking tapware now available, there are no excuses for wasting a precious drop.

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