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 user's hands in close proximity. The faucet closes its valve again after a few seconds or when it no longer detects the presence of a user's hands.
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.
Sensor-activated faucets were invented by the Australian Oliver N. Wareham. His patent was filed on October 9th, 1981 and awarded on February 7th, 1984.
Wareham initiated electronic controls of water flow for domestic, commercial, medical and industrial uses. As described in the following excerpts from his patent claim, the system is activated by various electronic sensor means to achieve ‘no touch’ flow control to prevent bacteria transfer in areas such as hospital use or food preparation. It includes an electronic thermo-responsive control to prevent scalding, or water flow exceeding pre-set safe temperatures and by use of pre-set electronic timer devices, prevention of flooding and waste of water. In the event of an unplanned reduction of the cold water supply; to prevent scalding or the flow of higher than pre-set temperature, the patent also includes a thermo-responsive device capable of instantly cancelling the operation of the solenoid valve which supplies the hot water.
10. A liquid flow control device as claimed in claim 1 wherein the outlet has a thermo-responsive means capable of cancelling the operation of the solenoid operated valve which controls the hot water.
11. A liquid flow control device as claimed in claim 1 wherein the switches are actuated by air pressure means provided by a bellows.
13. A liquid flow control device as claimed in claim 1 wherein said switch means is actuated by proximity sensing means.
14. A liquid flow control device as claimed in claim 1 wherein said switch means is actuated by an interrupted light beam and photo-sensitive device.
15. A liquid flow control device as claimed in claim 1 wherein said switch means is actuated by a contact button.
In locations where there was no power supply or supply was unreliable, as the system required negligible low voltage electrical power, the system was designed to function off of rechargeable batteries or two 6-volt lantern batteries.
In addition to United States patent 4,428,422, patents were also awarded in Australia (#74774/81), Great Britain (#2,083,092), Germany (G 81 26 239.6), Canada (#1,169,329), and New Zealand (#198,226).
In the Geneva International Inventions Exhibition in 1982, the product was awarded the Gold Medal in the Architectural Division.
In Australia, the product was awarded the Australian Design Award and the Australian Design Selection Certificate. In 1985, it was awarded the Australian Plumbing Industry Excellence in Design and the "Commercial and Industrial" award and the "Product for Disabled" award and the "Product for Domestic Use Certificate".
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. Their automatic shutoff mechanism also greatly reduces the risk of sink overflow due to a faucet being left on either inadvertently or deliberately.
Because of their assistive qualities, automatic faucets are often found at assisted living establishments. Automatic faucets are water saving devices, helping save 70% of the water that would otherwise be 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.
- "Automatic Faucet". www.byoh.com. Retrieved 2015-07-28.
- "Do Sensor-Activated Commercial Faucets Save Water?". Alliance for Water Efficiency. Retrieved 12 August 2015.
- "Automatic faucets is a water conservation faucet". Guide2faucets. Archived from the original on 2009-05-01.
- , "Flow control device", issued 1981-10-09
- Ronn, Julian (7 May 2010). "Guidelines and Comprehensive Explanation of the system of Kitchen Faucet". Faucet Magazine. Retrieved 26 June 2016.
- "MAC FAUCETS Background on Sensor Faucet History". 2008-10-07. Archived from the original on October 7, 2008. Retrieved 2015-07-28.
- 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