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The Advantages & Disadvantages Of Hands-Free Infrared Taps

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Infrared taps: are they worth the extra cost?

Mixer taps that use hands-free, infrared technology are becoming an increasingly common sight in our bathrooms - but are they really worth the extra cost? In this article, we’ll take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of hands-free faucets, and explain how they work.

The technology

The sensor in an infrared faucet contains a light emitting diode (or LED), which, as you may remember from school technology classes, is like a tiny light bulb. Much like a normal LED, the infrared diode continuously emits light - the only difference is that the light from an infrared diode has a longer wavelength than visible light, which means it’s invisible to the human eye.

When a solid object (such as a human hand) enters the LED’s range, it reflects the infrared light signal back into a receiver diode. When the receiver diode detects infrared light, it opens an electrified valve (called a ‘solenoid valve’) which then allows water to flow up through the faucet.

When the solid object is removed from the LED’s range, cutting off the signal to the receiver diode, the solenoid valve closes and the water stops running. Alternatively, the receiver diode can tell the valve to open for a set amount of time, as is the case with our Markwik 21 time flow hospital tap.

Are infrared taps dangerous?

You’ve probably always been told that water and electricity don’t mix - and with good reason. We take safety very seriously at Washware Essentials; accordingly, all of our infrared faucets (with the exception of our nursery sensor tap, which uses batteries) are supplied with a 240v DC to 9v AC transformer, which reduces the electricity supply from the mains to a level that is completely safe for humans. Alternatively, each unit can also be powered by batteries if desired, although these will have to be changed periodically.

The advantages of infrared taps

Infrared faucets have a number of advantages over regular taps. For one thing, they are far more hygienic than normal taps because they require no human contact, meaning they’re far less likely to become contaminated with bacteria and viruses. This makes them ideal for places like hospitals and old people’s homes where hygiene is paramount - although of course, they can be used in any facility, workplace or private household to help keep the transmission of disease to a minimum.

The lack of human contact also means that infrared faucets are far less prone to soiling. As a result, they require less cleaning and maintenance than normal taps.  

Infrared taps can also lead to significant water savings, because the taps only run for as long as is required for hand washing. Many models, such as the infrared angled basin tap, will also shut off automatically after 90 seconds of continuous use. This makes infrared taps ideal for schools, colleges and nurseries, because they eliminate the risk of children leaving the taps running.

Although touchless taps cost more than regular taps, the initial outlay is offset by the reduction in your water bill, meaning they’re not only good for the planet, but good for your bank balance, too.

The disadvantages of infrared taps

Like any product, infrared taps also have their drawbacks. Although we’ve stated that touchless taps are suitable for care homes, older people who aren’t familiar with infrared faucets can sometimes be confused by their operation. If your facility caters to older people, it may be worth explaining how the taps work when they are first installed. You could also consider putting up an explanatory sign.

The fact that touchless faucets supply premixed hot and cold water means that the user cannot adjust the temperature, which may be of particular concern in nurseries and preschools. For that reason, we always recommend the installation of a TMV3 water premixing valve. TMV3 valves are the most effective way of ensuring a safe, comfortable hand-washing temperature, and are essential in places with vulnerable users, such as schools, hospitals and care homes.  

Occasionally, the sensor in a touchless tap can be triggered by false signals from reflected light. When planning your washroom, make sure that the infrared signal from your touchless taps won’t be interrupted by light bouncing off mirrors or polished metal surfaces. Similarly, electronic taps can also be accidentally triggered by light reflected from hi viz jackets, which means they may not be suitable for industrial facilities where hi viz jackets are commonplace.

Infrared taps can sometimes become unresponsive; this normally means that the batteries need to be replaced. Thankfully, all of our battery operated units come with a low battery warning. This can also be prevented by running the infrared tap from the mains electricity supply.

Cheaper touchless taps that use inferior parts can present all sorts of problems - however, you’ll be pleased to know that all of our infrared faucets are produced using the highest quality components and come with a manufacturer’s warranty.

Summary

Infrared taps are a cleaner, greener, more cost-effective alternative to regular faucets - and with a little consideration and forethought, they can be successfully integrated into almost any washroom. To discuss your requirements and find out more about our range of infrared taps and other products, get in touch with us today.