Water Mixer Taps, Kitchen and Bath Faucet History. Plumbing systems have existed since ancient times. Around 1700 B.C., the Minoan Palace of Knossos on the isle of Crete featured terra cotta piping that provided water for fountains and faucets of marble, gold, and silver. Lead pipe systems and personal bath rooms also existed during the Roman period, from about 1000 B.C.-A.D. 476. Rome’s public baths also featured silver faucets, with other fixtures of marble and gold. By the fourth century A.D., Rome had 11 public baths, 1,352 public fountains and cisterns, and 856 private baths.
Plumbing systems have changed drastically since then, including faucets. For many years, faucets came with two handles, one for cold water and one for hot water. It wasn’t until 1937 that this design changed. That year, a college student named Al Moen living in Seattle, Washington, turned on the faucet to wash his hands and scalded them since the water was too hot. That set an idea in motion in Al Moen’s mind for the single-handle faucet.
Moen’s first design was for a double-valve faucet with a cam to control the two valves. It was rejected by a major fixture manufacturer since the faucet wouldn’t work, and Moen then went to a cylindrical design. From that experience, he resolved to create a faucet that would give the user water at the desired temperature with a piston action. Between 1940 and 1945, he designed several faucets, finally selling the first single-handle mixing faucet in San Francisco in late 1947 to a local plumbing supplier. By 1959, the Moen single-handle faucet was in hundreds of thousands of homes in the United States and sold in approximately 55 countries around the world. Today, singlehandle faucets are so popular that they can be found in over 40% of American homes.
Moen came up with a few other inventions during his life, including the replaceable cartridge (eliminating washers in faucets), the screen aerator, push-button shower valve diverter, swivel spray, pressure balancing shower valve, and flow control aerator. But Moen wasn’t the only one concerned with faucet improvements. In 1945, Landis H. Perry designed the first ball valve for faucets. Its objective was to provide a combined volume and blending control having a simple and effective means for sealing the valve element. The design also could be easily repaired.
A patent was issued for Perry’s ball valve in 1952. Shortly thereafter, Alex Manoogian purchased the rights to the patent and introduced the first Delta faucet in 1954. The Delta single-handle faucet was the first to use a ball-valve design and it proved very successful. By 1958, just four years after the product was unveiled, Delta’s sales topped $1 million.
About 20 years later, a ceramic disc was patented by Wolvering Brass for water control. Unlike cartridges that use rubber in the waterway, ceramicdiscs are lapped and polished to a degree of flatness that can only be measured in lightbands. Such discs last much longer due to their high wear resistance and provide more accurate control. These discs or valves are now in wide use.
Other recent innovations include built-in filter cartridges for reducing chlorine, lead, and cysts; built-in pullout sprays; faucets designed for people with disabilities; and electronic faucets. The latter were introduced in the early 1980s for conservation and hygienic purposes. These faucets are equipped with an infrared beam When a person puts their hands underneath the faucet, the beam is disrupted, which triggers the water to turn on. Battery-operated electronic faucets have also become available in recent years.