An automatic faucet or tap (also hands-free faucet, touchless faucet, electronic faucet, motion sensing faucet, sensor faucet, or infrared faucet) is a faucet equipped with a proximity sensor and mechanism that opens its valve to allow water to flow in response to the presence of a hand or hands in close proximity. The faucet closes its valve again after a few seconds or when it no longer detects the presence of hands. Most automatic faucets are battery powered and incorporate an active infrared sensor to detect hand motion.
Automatic faucets are common in public washrooms, particularly in airports and hotels, where they are supposed to reduce water consumption (however, some evidence to the contrary has been published) and reduce the transmission of disease causing microbes. They can also be found in some kitchens and in the washrooms of some private residences. Other uses include providing drinking water to pets or livestock, whereby the presence of an animal allows water to flow into a watering trough or dish.
Automatic faucets were first developed in the 1950s but were not produced for commercial use until the late 1980s when they first appeared to the general public at airport lavatories. They have gradually become commonplace in more developed countries. Because of their assistive qualities, automatic faucets are often found at assistive living establishments and places where the elderly and handicapped individuals call home. Automatic faucets are water saving devices, helping save 70% of the water that would otherwise swirl down the drain unused and conserve as much as 3-5% of the water used by a standard household. Other benefits of automatic faucets are found in inhibiting the spread of germs which are known to thrive on faucet handles, as well as help prevent or mitigate scalding incidents caused by hot water flowing out of the faucet.
Automatic faucets have the advantage of shutting off automatically after hand washing, thereby reducing water waste. When installed in a home, sensor faucets alleviate the need for parents to ensure that children have turned off the faucet. They can also benefit the elderly and those suffering from arthritis or other mobility limiting conditions since there are no handles to twist or pull. Their automatic shutoff mechanism also greatly reduces the risk of sink overflow due to a faucet being left on either inadvertently or deliberately.
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- Ronn, Julian (7 May 2010). "Guidelines and Comprehensive Explanation of the system of Kitchen Faucet". Faucet Magazine. Retrieved 26 June 2016.
- In April 2011, the VOA Special English service of the Voice of America broadcast a Health Report about a new study of automatic faucets: Why Hands-Free Faucets May Be a Risk to Some Hospital Patients