Hot water heaters provide water that can be close to boiling, so it's important that it is mixed with cold water before using it to wash any part of your body. With a two-handled faucet, you regulate the hot and cold water flows separately, but a single-handled faucet does this automatically. Some single-handled faucets prevent scalding by including a scald guard feature that limits the maximum temperature or keeps the temperature setting steady.
History of Single-Handled Faucets
The inventor of the single-handled mixing faucet was Al Moen, for whom the Moen Company, a leading faucet manufacturer, is named. As a college student, he scalded his hands one day while using a conventional two-handled faucet and, as a result, determined to design a safer alternative. Ten years later, his signature mixing faucet, which incorporated an internal cartridge to regulate water flow, was introduced by Ravenna Metal Products of Seattle, and it quickly became a market success. According to an article on Moen's website, Al Moen's invention has been cited as one of America's best designed mass-produced products by Fortune magazine.
Types of Mixing Faucets
The cartridge faucet that Moen designed is not the only type of single-handled faucet available. In the 1950s, the Delta Faucet Company introduced one that regulated temperature by means of a spring-loaded plastic ball. Like the cartridge valve, the ball valve has a series of strategically placed holes that regulate water flow when you lift or rotate the handle. A third type of mixing faucet that was developed in Europe has a valve constructed with overlapping ceramic disks. They move relative to each other when you turn the handle to regulate water flow.
Problems with Temperature Control
Even though mixing faucets are designed to automatically regulate water temperature, they can still deliver water that is dangerously hot. This can happen if you turn the handle too far to one side, opening the hot water inlet while completely closing the cold. You may do this unintentionally by, for example, brushing against the handle while in the shower. Moreover, even if you set the faucet to deliver comfortably hot water, the water pressure may force the valve to turn incrementally by itself until the water is too hot.
The Scald-Guard Feature
Many single-handled faucets are now supplied with additional mechanisms to prevent scalding. These scald-guard features vary according to the type of faucet on which you find them. On cartridge faucets, you may find a plastic limiter that prevents the user from turning the handle too far to one side. On other types of faucets, there may be a pressure compensating device that keeps the water temperature steady. If a faucet has a scald-guard feature, this is always indicated on the packaging and the product brochures.
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