ASPE Highlights: Touch-Based Faucets; Better Toilets; Piping

The most unusual sight on the floor of the biennial American Society of Plumbing Engineers convention and Engineered Plumbing Exposition, held in Tampa last month, were the oversized beriatric toilets which were available in both traditional ceramic and stainless steel. The neatest product on the floor was a set of prototype touch-based faucets also capable of automatic shut-off.


The most unusual sight on the floor of the biennial American Society of Plumbing Engineers convention and Engineered Plumbing Exposition, held in Tampa last month, were the oversized beriatric toilets which were available in both traditional ceramic and stainless steel. The neatest product on the floor was a set of prototype touch-based faucets also capable of automatic shut-off.

The latter, exhibited by Delta, will shut itself off after 10 seconds and is being developed as a possible product targeted for schools or for those who suffer from Alzheimer’s. Besides the water-conserving aspect, said Sherry Petrin, Delta’s director of commercial business development, non-handled, touch-based faucets also provide a greater degree of vandal-resistance.

Ron George, CIPE, CPD, president, Ron George Design & Consulting Services, Newport, Mich., who “guided” CSE staff through the aisles and aisles of new plumbing products, said the one thing he likes about no handle, or at least single-handled faucets, is that it guarantees a mixing valve is in place to prevent scalding.

Delta already has a one-touch unit on the market, the Pascal (pictured at the right), part of its Brizo line, which is geared for commercial kitchens.

Back to the big toilets, the stainless steel offering by Indianapolis-based Willoughby caught George’s attention, as it offered greater structural strength and better weight distribution than its ceramic counterparts. The company also exhibited a knee-activated sink great for surgery suites.

Elsewhere in the realm of toilets, Toto had both a number of aesthetically pleasing and better performing fixtures on display. The company’s products use a dual-discharge, double cyclone flushing system helps keep bowls cleaner. Toto also exhibited its EcoPower faucet system, which senses when hands are placed under or removed from the faucet, helping prevent random activation.

In the world of low-flow toilets, George said products have come a long way. When low-flow legislation was mandated a number of years ago, the problem was that most manufacturers weren’t ready and simply made the holes in the fixtures smaller, leading to all the clogging issues everyone experienced. The catch, of course, is despite problems with clogging, most businesses don’t want to replace their fixtures. Gunnar Baldwin, a water efficiency specialist with Toto, said such a reaction is very common, and it’s more a case of pay me now or pay me later. For example, they ended up replacing all the fixtures in a major hotel after the operation rejected their original bid.

Another toliet-related product more common on the floor now are waterless urinals. Like those original low-flow toilets, George said the technology is experiencing some hiccups, notably on the cleaning and maintenance side. That said, they do have a place, and he in fact, has been commissioned by a key vendor to investigate some solutions to these issues.

Besides toilets and faucets, there was plenty of other interesting product on the floor, including piping. One product that intrigued George was LeGris/Trans Air’s aluminum piping system. This kind of system, which is very easy to install, is great for compressed air in large, wide open spaces such as automobile manufacturing. The problem, like waterless urinals, is also cultural, especially in big corporations that have very strict specification guidelines.

On the subject of mixing valves, George liked some products offered by Cash Acme, particularly since they were geared to help guard against Legionella bacteria.

“Right now there’s no regulation for hot water [temperature],” said George. It needs to be 180°F [to prevent legionella] vs. 120°F, which is the temperature most hot water heaters run at. That’s where the importance of having mixing valves come into play, be it the shower or sink, and again why I like the single handle. But right now there’s still a lot of protest from the residential side, which I have a hard time understanding since a valve only costs around $35.”

The good news is that ASPE is trying to make mixing valves mandatory in the code. In the meantime, George said products like Cash Acme’s Shower Safe device can go a long way to help prevent scalding and is great for older row houses and the like.

On the subject of hot water heaters, Lochnivar exhibited a not-quite-ready-for-prime-time product—Armor. Planned for launch in early 2007, the unit is basically a condensing boiler with a stainless-steel heat exchanger that can produce up to 5,000 BTU, but in a much smaller package that’s ideal for hotels and schools, according to Stirling Boston, the company’s marketing manager. He added the unit also comes with an integrated smart control system and that as many as eight units can be inner connected. Besides its scalability, he believes its major benefit is the efficiency the heat transfer and water cycling brings.

“You don’t want it to be constantly going on and off, so with the heat transfer, it can cycle much more efficiently,” said Stirling.

Cheswick, Pa.-based Cemline also showed a line of smart boilers that literally can tie into a building automation system. Their product also used a plate-and-frame heat exchanger to produce high efficiencies. A major advantage in doing so, according to Cemline’s Bill Chapelle, is that you can run the boiler at a lower overall temperature, say 160°F vs. 180°F, to get the 120°F water for your domestic system.

George was a big fan of the dual-fuel units being offered by Ft. Worth, Texas-based PVI Industries. According to Jan Delgado, their TurboPower unit is great for universities, especially in summer months when you don’t have a big steam load and the switch to natural gas makes a lot of sense. George is also a big fan of PVI’s use of plastic, both in their piping and shell. For example, if something goes wrong with a heat exchanger, you simply replace that component, not the whole kit and kaboodle. Similarly, because their units produce lower flue temperatures, said George, the company can use PVC or CVPC piping, an advantage over galvanized steel piping which, he said, can have issues with condensation.

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