Bad faucet design Ryan 29 Oct 2005

62 comments Latest by Ed Fuller

When you look at it head on you see a little blue on the handle dome.

If you pull it towards you to get cold water (as you’d expect since you see blue)…

…you actually get hot water. See how the little blue and red have tiny little arrows that meet in the center? Sure, you can see it now because I tool the photo from the side, but when you are looking at this faucet head on all you see is blue towards you. You don’t see red at all, nor are you able to see that the colors are actually arrows pointing 90 degrees from their base.

So, to get cold water you actually push away…

So, yes, to get hot water you pull towards the blue and to get cold water you push towards the red. It’s all obvious after you burn yourself, of course.

62 comments so far (Jump to latest)

Kyle 29 Oct 05

There’s actually a suprising lack of thought that seems to go into faucet, and more generally, restroom design. As someone who recently began working in various wifi cafes and public hotspots, it’s become rather annoying just how little thought goes into restrooms.

Most of them are needlessly wasteful, don’t encourage clean use, etc. I don’t necessarily expect the best at independant coffee shops, but it’d be nice if Starbucks and the ilk put 1/10th the effort into their bathrooms as they do the rest of the experience.

Anyhow, yes, I have waaay too much time on my hands.

Dennis Pallett 29 Oct 05

Nothing wrong with that, seems perfectly logical to me… :P

A better way of course would be to have two seperate handles for hot and cold. Of make hot a bit harder to use (e.g. push the handle and move to get hot water).

Mike 29 Oct 05

Looks like the installation was as bad as the design.

Seems like someone will break the ceramic tile if they turn too hard and fast to the rear/left.

Shoulda been facing you in top photo, it seems.

joshua Susser 29 Oct 05

Someone should have read Don Norman’s book, _The Design of Everyday Things_. My biggest peeve for bathroom fixtures is using round knobs for the hot and cold water. If you have shaving cream on your hands, there’s no friction and you can’t turn the water on! Let’s hear it for user testing.

Mark O'Sullivan 29 Oct 05

I recently bought my first house. Part of my renovations was tearing down the bathroom walls and replacing the tub/shower. I noticed two very obvious “bad design” problems:

1. The sink is the original sink from 1952. Back then they had separate faucets AND taps for the different temperature waters. I thought it looked cool, so I didn’t bother replacing it. Months later when we finally moved into the house, I went to wash my hands and I was suddenly puzzled with, “Which faucet should I use? If I turn on the hot faucet, I’ll get burned. If I turn on the cold one, I’ll freeze. Eventually I had to resolve to the fact that if I want to wash my hands, I either have to fill up the sink from both taps, or I have to go to the kitchen and get the temperature I want from a single tap.

2. I replaced the tap and faucet in the shower. When I went to the local hardware store to pick out a new tap, I was alarmed to discover that you can no longer purchase the old-fashioned “two faucet” type of taps. Now you can only get those wierd ones that have a single handle that spins in a circle. Personally I’ve always hated those things because (if for no other reason) you have to swing through the cold water to get to the hot water. I’m left wondering, “What was so wrong with the old method that they’ve now completely removed it from the market?”

ceejayoz 29 Oct 05

My biggest pet peeve with faucets?

The ones in public washrooms where you can’t get your hands all the way under the stream of water - instead, you bump your knuckles into the side of the sink.

Grr!

Eric 29 Oct 05

@Mark,

By “two fauct” I assume you mean two-knob. There’s actually a safety reason to combine the hot and cold in a single handle/knob combo-valve. Some areas have building codes which require that these have built-in temperature limiters. If the water coming out is too hot it automatically turns down the hot valve. This prevents accidental scalding. It’s mechanical, not electronic, so there’s no danger of it losing power. I suspect it works on the same principle as a bi-metal strip.

Just be sure not to install one of these things with the cold and hot pipes reversed. If the water coming out starts getting a little too hot, it will start to close off the *cold* water, making it hotter still, closing off the cold water even more, and eventually you get all-hot. I’ve seen a number of these installed incorrectly and then tiled over making the fix quite a task.

I suppose it would be technically possible to accomplish this with a two-knob set-up, but by keeping everything close together in a single unit they make the mechanisms more simple.

Alison 29 Oct 05

I have those separate taps for hot and cold water, too, but mine is probably circa 1920. A great trick we found is to run both, and quickly move your hands from cold to hot when you need “warm.” It’s easier than it sounds, and it keeps you from getting burned. Still, if I owned rather than rented, that sink would be outta here in a New York minute.

One of my other faucet pet peeves is the one where you have to press a big button down to run the water, and they have the automatic shutoff timed so short that you can hardly press the button and then get your hands under the stream before it turns off, forcing you to press the button again and…

Drew 29 Oct 05

Or how about the faucets that only work when you’re holding a button down?

In other words, you can only wash one hand at a time.
And you have to touch the already-wet knob that everyone else has touched and gotten wet, too.

I really am starting to enjoy the motion sensor ones, even if they don’t allow for temperature control.

Eric 29 Oct 05

Well, since we’re now sharing faucet pet peeves, I hate it when I turn on a faucet expecting water to come out, and instead twenty-year old scotch comes out. First, I’m constantly getting cuts and abrasions on my hands for reasons I still can’t explain, and the scotch just stings. And second, it’s just painful to see it go down the drain.

Ian Ashley 29 Oct 05

Drew, my thoughts exactly. The push button design is “awesomely bad”. Funny part is - we have those installed in every bathroom at my work. I work in a hospital. Yeah. Ew.

single lever temp control 29 Oct 05

You should not be buying a lever that goes “through” the cold to get to the hot, your lever should start in the middle. Pulling OUT increases the flow, moving left increases heat, right decreases (or the other way if you’re a contrarian.)

This is not complex, and if you’re using something other than what’s described (where you must go THROUGH cold to get to hot, or where the volume is affected by temperature controls (damn hotels)) you need to find a new shower body (which is what the thing that controls all of this inside your walls is called.)

Mark 29 Oct 05

Looks to me more like a case of bad faucet installation.

Mark 29 Oct 05

In fact, it’s very bad installation. There’s nothing wrong with the design of the faucet, the graphic is correct — albiet ugly. The standard for plumbing is that cold comes from the right and hot from the left. So, aside from the faucet itself being installed wrong, it was also connected to the water lines incorrectly, as well.

Brian Rose 29 Oct 05

I think the motion-sensing faucets are a great idea, but the biggest problem is that the sensor often doesn’t pick up the fact that my hands are in the sink until they’re almost at the rear of the basin.

Also, it seems stupid to give people motion-sensing faucets and still have the hand-controlled towel dispensers.

Bathroom design should be just as well thought out as any other room in the house.

joel 29 Oct 05

If nothing else, the arrows should be bigger on the “head” end and smaller on the tail, that would at least visually cue you that in the direction the arrow points, you get “more” of that color.

eric scheid 29 Oct 05

“If you have shaving cream on your hands” … why are you shaving your hands?

Arrows on the diagram??? The first mistake is that this diagram is representing what you have to do, instead of what the end results would be. Two different cognitive processes.

Me 30 Oct 05

I second reading Don Norman’s Design of Everyday Things. Just the cover of it is amusing:



From Amazon.com

For those who don’t realize it: “How would you pour [the tea]?”

Ryan 30 Oct 05

Lots of Men don’t wash their hands when they leave the bathroom… So that’s all good and well.

But you have to pull the handle that they touched with their dirty hands. So for those who wash their hands, get them dirtied up with someone elses filth! Pah!

So I always though why couldn’t they put the doors around the other way? So I can open the door with my foot (the doors open inwards in most (if not all) toilets in this country…).

So a good strategy is to wait near the door until someone comes in then you can quickly jam in your foot before the door closes and jump out!

Or you could just not wash your hands…

Matt 30 Oct 05

http://mocoloco.com/archives/001233.php

I found the best and the worst examples in the space of an hour :).

Dave 30 Oct 05

@Eric,

> “By “two fauct” I assume you mean two-knob.”

I don’t want to speak for the original poster, but they used to make sinks with two separate faucets, each one having it’s own knob (two faucets, two knobs):

http://www.slvoimageserver.com/36341/5156.jpg

Anon 30 Oct 05

Two knob, two-faucet sinks (basins, actually) are common in Europe and Great Britain. Even in brand-new construction. I visisted Ireland for two weeks recently, stayed in a dozen different accomodations, not one had a single faucet design. Apparently, the style of “looking just like it always did” or perhaps, “looking like the tourists want to see”, trumps the functionality of “being able to get water at temperatures other than very cold or very hot”. Stupid.

Mark Wilson 30 Oct 05

The two faucet design is also meant to help conserve water. In some societies the idea of turning on water and letting it run while you move your hands under it for an extended period of time (or shave or brush your teeth) is unthinkable.

Christopher Fahey 30 Oct 05

In some societies the idea of turning on water and letting it run while you move your hands under it for an extended period of time (or shave or brush your teeth) is unthinkable.

Yes. Also in many countries hot water itself is still something of a luxury compared to in the US. It’s not uncommon in Europe (in my experience) for middle-class houses to have tiny hot water heaters right in the bathroom, and they definitely can’t contain enough hot water to support a typical American hot shower. Not even close.

The correct way to use one of those basins, I suppose, is to fill it up with warm/hot water, do your washing/shaving business, then use cold water to rinse off. In all, you’ll use a quart of hot water and maybe a gallon of warm. A good old fashioned American handwashing will typically use several gallons of each.

Mark, if you hate those single-knob hot-to-cold shower valves (as I do), you may want to look a little harder than just the local hardware store. Theyr’re pretty easy to find if you’re willing to look at specialty plumbing stores, designer kitchen-n-bath stores, or, in what I think is the ideal solution, go to an antique store and buy a proven classic: not only will you get something beautiful and long-lasting, but there will be no cheapo plastic shit in sight.

Christopher Fahey 30 Oct 05

Just be glad we’re not still using these old-style wash basins:

http://www.englishtrunkshowco.com/images/DSCF0005.jpg

And let’s not even get into chamberpots

JK 30 Oct 05

JF - it’s definitely a case of the wrong installation.

Jens Meiert 30 Oct 05

Here we go again… must refer to Don Norman, too.

Mark O'Sullivan 30 Oct 05

Hahaha - this discussion is awesome.

Kalin 30 Oct 05

@ryan

Rather than not washing your hands in poorly designed restrooms, why not just grab a paper towel and use it to turn the tap on or off. The same technique works well for the door, as does pulling your jacket over your hand momentarily.

Get creative! But don’t forsake clean hands, I might have to shake that unwashed hand some day.

Michelle Lee 30 Oct 05

This summer, I spotted a shower lever with pre-marked temperatures. You did have to swing through cold to get to hot, but since you could just remember where you liked it, you could swing quickly through to get exactly your personal ideal temp every day. Especially useful since it was a communal hostel shower. Alas, it was in Iceland and I’m not sure how soon the US will see the light…

Eric 31 Oct 05

@Dave,

Yes, but Mark O’Sullivan was talking about buying something for his shower. This has to be a two knob, one shower head design. (On the other hand, it can only be fun to imagine having two shower heads, one hot, one cold, where you have to hop back and forth between them.)

Darrel 31 Oct 05

Your computer keyboard typically has many more germs than your typical toilet seat.

During our recent bat remodel, we ended up with an Ikea faucet. It was the only nice looking one we could find under $200. It’s OK…the hot/cold knobs are clearly labeled, but you turn each one in opposite directions. So, if you have both on, turning one or the other doesn’t reduce the actual flow, and you really have no idea which one is on or off.

The biggest gripe was the tub…we had to replace the old, small, in-tub faucet with one of those new ugly boxy things (which seem to be the only style sold) that neither has nice water flow (it just sploshes out) and requires me to bend down to turn the shower on.

Eddie 31 Oct 05

People are making comments on how the diagram is correct and faulting the installation etc..

It depends on your mental mapping of the controls:
refer to this paint drawing I did (the circle is the faucet axis, and the arrow is the handle- http://el73.net/faucet_mapping.JPG - if you choose the bottom for your mapping (which this faucet does), then everything is pretty straight forward- but I think most people choose the top.

better would be to put straight (not curved) arrows pointing out from the center with the red on the right and blue on the left. But since that would still be an unnatural mapping (cold should be movement on the right side of the handle) - I say just build it with the correct mapping.

Damien 31 Oct 05

You could always swap the input water pipes? Only takes a few minutes.

Michael Spina 31 Oct 05

The previously-installed faucets in my house got it almost right. Two axes: up/down for pressure, clockwise/counterclockwise for temp. But it’s a round knob so just by glancing at it you can’t tell what the temperature will be before you turn it on. And to make it worse, the indicator inserts are loose so you can’t trust them. So I always reset it to full hot then back off before I turn it on. Needlessly annoying. A straight handle would have been stupidly clear, and easier to turn as well.

Kim Siever 31 Oct 05

Some of the more modern washrroms I’ve used in public places have sensor-activated toilets, sensor-activated urinals, sensor-activated soap, sensor-activated sinks, sensor-activated dryers and door-less entryways. Once I clean my hands, I never have to touch another surface in the washroom.

It’s great.

JAC 31 Oct 05

“Get creative! But don’t forsake clean hands, I might have to shake that unwashed hand some day.”

You could also spray the handles with a little travel bottle of disinfectant spray. Leave it cleaner and better than you found it.

Darrel 31 Oct 05

You could also spray the handles with a little travel bottle of disinfectant spray.

Provided it’s alcohol based. If not, you’re likely just making the little germs stronger. ;o)

andrew Tonkin 31 Oct 05

Could easily have been solved by swapping the red and blue arrows (so the heads of the arrows would be pointing outside instead of at each other; arrows would still be pointing in the same direction as originally). Thus you would turn toward the red arrow for hot, and towards the blue for cold.

Problem is that the fact that they’re arrows is too subtle. You just want to turn the knob towards a color for hot/cold result.

I have the same issue with close-open buttons inside elevators - they’re also counterintuitive. The “open” button shows closed doors (with arrows pointing out). Wanting closed doors, I always press that button, and it’s wrong.

Dan 31 Oct 05

I have to add something to this discussion. I recently built a house and of course had to select all of the fixtures. I quickly discovered that, unless I was willing to spend an arm and a leg, I had basically two choices: ugly and uglier. And when I did occasionally find an attractive, modern faucet within my budget - it was more often than not hampered by poor design as described in this post.

What’s a designer to do?

Lukesed 01 Nov 05

SO why is red hot and blue cold anyway?

Ronnie 01 Nov 05

My biggest pet peeve with faucets is that the design inherently wastes water while you open them and move your hand., then when you move your hand and close them. It literally just goes down the drain. (Don’t even get me started on the two-faucet crazy sink).

Also, it’s often hard to set just the right temperature. In some models you can more-or-less learn where the best setting is but often it doesn’t quite stay when you turn the water on or off.

I really think all faucets should be pedal-driven. Hand-set the temperature (that setting should keep for next time), put your hands under the faucet, press the pedal with your foot, water comes out, take the foot of while putting soap, press the pedal again to rinse. No wasting of water.

Maybe it will be trickier for kids or handicapped people, but I think in this case it will be better for the majority of people and for the planet…

Don Wilson 01 Nov 05

SO why is red hot and blue cold anyway?

red = fire, blue = color of ice

…the design inherently wastes water while you open them and move your hand., then when you move your hand and close them. It literally just goes down the drain.

Imagine that, manual labor. :)

Walt Daniels 02 Nov 05

So why does one have to worry about being burned by too hot water? Our water heater is set to top out at a temperature that I can shower in comfortably with no cold added. Saves a lot of energy.

Don Schenck 02 Nov 05

Tonight I will raise a toast of McClelland to Eric’s comment!

Cheers!

Don Schenck 02 Nov 05

Tonight I will raise a toast of McClelland to Eric’s comment!

Cheers!

Craig Sakowitz 02 Nov 05

…And what is with the new trend of putting the front of the sink about a foot in from the edge of the counter so that you end up getting your shirt/tie/jacket wet every time you want to wash your hands. I am seeing this in every hotel & restaurant that has done a “we must have those granite counter!” remodels in the past 5 years. STOP IT. STOP MAKING ME ALL WET!!!!!!!!!!!!

Andreas 02 Nov 05

I really think all faucets should be pedal-driven. Hand-set the temperature (that setting should keep for next time), put your hands under the faucet, press the pedal with your foot, water comes out, take the foot of while putting soap, press the pedal again to rinse. No wasting of water.

Actually there is such a beast. Most hosptals I have been to have wash stations with pedal operated faucets for scrubbing. Keeps you from touching anything you don’t have to.

John Gnauck 03 Nov 05

How about an electric (low voltage) kick switch on the floor?

Make the kick switch operate a pump that circulates the cold water from the hot water line into the cold water line.

When a thermostat senses that the water is 90 degrees the pump shuts off and the faucet valve turns on.

NUUL 03 Nov 05

Yes. Also in many countries hot water itself is still something of a luxury compared to in the US. It’s not uncommon in Europe (in my experience) for middle-class houses to have tiny hot water heaters right in the bathroom, and they definitely can’t contain enough hot water to support a typical American hot shower. Not even close.

oh no, those are not there because hot water is luxury. it’s there because when they built the house (70-90 years ago) they didn’t made hot water pipes in the building (yes, it was luxury then).

There are heaters which do not store hot water but creates them on the fly (I also have one of these)., they can go from 15 to 35 liter/minute, and that’s hot water, which can burn you badly.

kenliu 04 Nov 05

The kitchen at my office has a faucet with two knobs at the base. Instead of one knob for hot and the other one for cold, the left knob controls the temperature and the right knob controls the pressure. Being left-handed, I usually wind up turning the left knob only to find out that nothing happens, then turn the right knob to turn on the water, then go back to the left knob to fix the temperature setting I just messed up. Pretty annoying.

FWIW, the knobs are labeled (with graphics), but who reads labels on a familiar interface?

Lyndsey 04 Nov 05

Just be sure not to install one of these things with the cold and hot pipes reversed. If the water coming out starts getting a little too hot, it will start to close off the *cold* water, making it hotter still, closing off the cold water even more, and eventually you get all-hot. I’ve seen a number of these installed incorrectly and then tiled over making the fix quite a task.

Recently at a hotel in Nashville I encountered a faucet like this. I turned the knob about 90 degrees into the blue/cold half (at the last hotel I had been in, I pushed it to halfway to start with and ended up having to adjust it again because it was too hot). After a moment or so I stuck my fingertips into the water only to have them burned - the water was very, very hot, and it seemed like which ever way I turned it, the temperature only increased. After the bath started steaming and the mirror was completely fogged up, housekeeping was called in. The “plumber” promptly informed us of how simple a problem this was, and “fixed” the issue by unscrewing the plastic plate over the temperature dial, reversing the label, and sticking the plate back on. Apparently, this was all that was wrong with the faucet, and it was perfectly natural to go all the way through the hot.

In addition, it was very silly of me to stick my fingers underneath the bath faucet without testing the temperature, he said. What on earth was I thinking?

Lukesed 06 Nov 05

“‘SO why is red hot and blue cold anyway?’

red = fire, blue = color of ice”

A) Ice is not blue
B) The hottest fire is blue

Seraph 08 Nov 05

I think the motion-sensing faucets are a great idea, but the biggest problem is that the sensor often doesn’t pick up the fact that my hands are in the sink until they’re almost at the rear of the basin.

We went to the very modern and very nice American Airlines Center in Dallas a couple of weeks ago to see U2 in concert. The motion-sensing faucet in the restroom was installed so that it wouldn’t come on unless your hands were both near the rear of the basin and higher than the lip of the basin, causing the water to spill off of your hands and all over the counter. There was actually a uniformed attendant standing behind washers, moving in after every few with a paper towel to mop up the mess. It was sad.

Vareen 09 Nov 05

I live in Japan, and the motion-sensor taps (‘faucets’ for the Americans) are all over the place. Railway stations, department stores, you name it. And most of them are set up correctly! Come to think of it, they also have motion-sensors on the urinals in the men’s bathrooms, too.

Philip 11 Nov 05

If it’s possible to burn yourself with the water coming from your home faucet, your water heater is set too high and you’re wasting money. Measure with a thermometer and set it so you get water at 125 deg F. Otherwise, go ahead and waste your money.

Kevin 16 Nov 05

My faucet will stop in mid-stream or other times when you turn the faucet on, water will not start to flow. We have to keep turning it on and off until it catches. Is this a pressure issue or somethihing with the faucet mechanics?

Bob 04 Jan 06

In my house, the shower handle is shaped like so: cb(kinda pear-shaped really) so the pointy end clearly points out where on the temperature scale it is located, and to get water, you pull the handle towards you, simple, no?(imagine that the c connects with the b and your picture will be clearer). As for the idea of a switch-operated water dispenser, many people use public restrooms as a way to make other people have to clean up after their random act of cruelty(just look at a bathroom stall in any public restroom and you’ll see what I mean), and some people would find a way to jam the switch so that water is constantly running. An add-on to your suggestion would be to have a switch on the floor that acts as a push-button switch, with pressure on it causing water to come out, no pressure = no water, and have a temperature dial placed near the faucet.

Sheila Mulcahey 08 Feb 06

I have been having a problem with my shower facuet. The water would not stay hot. I had the handle turned all the way to hot and the water would get cold. I had the hot water heater replaced and also they put in a new cartridge in the shower facuet. It still will not stay hot.

Jessica Johnston 13 Apr 06

When we take showers our hot water gets cold quickly. I’m tempted to raise the hot water all the way up and see if it helps. Even if it’s going to cost more money. I’d rather take my time in the shower than rush. Any suggestions?

Thai Vu 02 Aug 06

I had one auto faucet designed, it has temp. control and will be in the market soon.
If anyone want to see and give me comments, I would have email a short video . It is cost under $100.00.
TV

Ed Fuller 08 Aug 06

Jessica - If you have a dual element electric hot water heater, this can be caused by a bad upper element. If you’re mechanically inclined it can be replaced fairly easily. You will need a special socket but an element and the socket should only cost you on the order of 30USD at Lowe’s or its equivalent.

In general, as long as your tank isn’t leaking, its cheaper to replace the defective part than to buy a new heater.

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