This article originally appeared on WQP June 2020 issue as "Growing Demands"
Point-of-use (POU) faucets and systems are becoming increasingly important in helping meet consumer demands for safe, high quality drinking water. Water treatment systems can be fancy and require faucets in a wide variety of styles and finishes. Their appearance should be sleek, attractive and contemporary with ergonomic handles required in today’s high-end kitchens.
Perhaps the most decorative and attractive faucets available are used on sinks and water treatment systems for homes, recreational vehicles, yachts and more. Cost is not a major factor here; function and appearance are primary issues.
Amendments to the Federal Safe Drinking Water Act required faucets and other endpoint plumbing devices to comply with the low lead requirements of ANSI/NSF Standard 61 Section 9 by August 1998. Some of the products covered include drinking fountains, water coolers, hot water dispensers, glass fillers, kitchen and lavatory faucets, as well as residential refrigerator icemakers.
Faucet Design: Styles & Finishes
Faucets for POU, reverse osmosis (RO) and other water treatment systems are available in either an air-gap or non-air gap version. The air-gap style provides protection from back-siphonage. Back-siphonage is the flowing back of used, contaminated or polluted water from a plumbing fixture or vessel into a water supply pipe due to a negative pressure (vacuum) in the pipe.
POU faucets are usually available in many different styles and finishes to help complement or match a specific décor. Some of the most popular finishes today are venetian bronze, antique bronze, mattew black, satin nickel, brushed stainless and polished nickel. Some POU faucets feature an ergonomic handle, a stream straightener, a protective tip and goosenecks that swivel easily. The faucets should have a maximum temperature rating of 150ºF and a maximum pressure rating of 120 psi to efficiently dispense the treated water.
Decorative or designer faucets for RO and water treatment systems are a great up-sell for the modern homes of today. These faucets must be NSF listed to ANSI/NSF Standard 61-9 & 372, which ensures the faucet meets the lead-free requirements of U.S. state and federal laws.
A growing trend for POU faucets is the incorporation of motion sensors to activate the water flow. The user can simply place a glass under the spout and does not need to turn or press a handle.
An unsafe level of lead in drinking water is an old and ongoing issue. This situation can occur as a result of lead pipes or fixtures that have lead solder. Unsafe lead levels have been found in older drinking water systems. The U.S. EPA recommends that lead levels in drinking water be below 15 parts per billion (ppb). Lead-free faucets are the answer to lead problems occurring in older drinking water equipment and systems in public areas, such as restaurants, hotels, parks and schools.
An area of concern is public schools. Some school systems have initiated plans to replace old drinking fountains with newer models. Test results in schools showed that many of the bubbler fountains have unsafe levels of lead in drinking water.
The faucets used on the indoor and outdoor drinking water fountains can be either bubbler style or projector head. The bubbler incorporates the activator button right into the faucet, which controls the flow. The projector head allows for the activator button to be located away from where the water is being dispensed, such as on the side of the cooler or fountain. This is quite common. The projector head simply provides the flow characteristics for drinking. An interesting option available with the projector head is a set screw that allows for protection from vandals. This is especially popular with outdoor fountains. Bubblers and projector heads should be lead-free and NSF-certified.
Fountain Glass Fillers
Fountain glass fillers feature lead-free brass construction with a chrome-plated finish and a lever-actuated flow. The unique internal design provides a smooth flow through a wide range of pressures without the need for a flow-control design. The fountain glass fillers have a 3/8-inch NSF connection and are available with a 5-inch, 8-inch or long-reach spout. Dispensing styles include push down, push back or cup trip. Another option is a vertical mount glass filler. Fountain glass fillers should have a maximum pressure rating of 120 psi.
POU water coolers offer an endless supply of refreshing water. They attach directly to the water source and never require filling or replenishing. A hidden reservoir assures there is always plenty of cold, hot or room temperature water. A variety of sizes are available ranging from countertop models to larger floor model drinking water fountains. Both floor models and wall-mounted models are available in a variety of styles, sizes and configurations, including barrier-free coolers that allow for complete accessibility for wheelchairs. Some of the new water coolers actually use foot pedals to activate the water flow. Both innovations have increased the number of uses and users of POU water coolers.
Some POU water systems use plastic cooler faucets. These faucets should be made of FDA-grade polypropylene and be lead-free. These materials do not distort or affect the taste of the water being dispensed. The faucets should be NSF-listed and many are available in a variety of colors. Optional handles, including a cup trip style for one-hand dispensing and a safety handle design to help prevent accidental dispensing, are additional choices to enhance the unit.
Hot Water Dispensing
Other applications for POU faucets are hot water dispensing units, coffee brewers and coffee urns where water lines are plumbed directly into the unit. These faucets are dispensing very hot water, sometimes boiling water, and are made of chromed brass. Both gravity and high-pressure faucets are available. Most faucets are NSF-listed and can be supplied with safety-style handles to prevent accidental dispensing. Some high-pressure faucets come standard with a safety clip and aerator for a smooth, controlled flow. When required, a spout extension can be installed on the metal faucets to ensure even more control over the dispensing of such hot liquids.
The key to faucet selection is safety. Avoid the inexpensive, leaded brass styles for any RO or bubbler-style applications. The materials used in all units, from basic to high-end, must meet requirements, such as FDA-grade materials and NSF listings on all models. NSF certification ensures that the design and materials used provide for safe products. Beyond that, the rest of the considerations revolve around aesthetics, such as which style and color look best for a given product or specific location.
In the near future, all consumers will demand purified and/or filtered water. The consumer will choose how and where that water is treated. Consumers are already choosing to install POU systems and point-of-entry (POE) whole-house systems to obtain high quality, good tasting water. With the threat of contamination of large municipal water treatment plants, POU/POE water treatment and filtering systems will be considered a means of ensuring safe and pure drinking water within homes.