It’s easy to take faucets for granted. With just a twist or a push of a knob, there’s running water in rich supply and usually at a comfortable temperature. It’s hard to imagine life without indoor plumbing or running water—life without the convenience of faucets.
If you travel back to 1700 B.C., you can learn a little more about the development of this wondrous little invention that we can easily forget to be thankful for. This was when people started using plumbing for their homes and fountains. Faucets, together with plumbing, were first used by the Romans to run water into the public and private baths as well as into fountains and cisterns.
Faucets were originally equipped with two handles – one each for cold and hot water. Al Moen started designing the first single-handled faucet in 1937, after he burned his hands under a stream of scalding water. For several years, he perfected the design before finally rolling out the fully functional faucet that would let people adjust the temperature of the water streams until they settled on a desired fit.
After Al Moen’s design changed plumbing, many others added to the improvements. The idea of using a ball valve for faucets was first advanced by Landis Perry in 1945. The revolutionary concept was first applied into practical use by the Delta single-handle faucet. The ball valve was further improved by Wolverine Brass, which drew on the functionality of ceramic discs for water control. These discs added better flow management and lasted longer than the previously-used rubber discs.
Advances have continued over the years. Faucets now include filters to reduce solid contaminants and spray hoses that people can pull out from the sink, extending spray capacity. There are now electronically controlled faucets, which are the norm in most public bathrooms. These faucets are favored for the masses because they are more hygienic, as people need no longer need to touch the handles to turn the water on or off. They can simply hold their hands in front of the faucet sensor to turn the water on and pull them away to stop the flow.
So next time you wash your hands, take a moment of silence for the faucet. It may seem like a small thing, but it has certainly done a lot to make our lives easier over the years. And given all of its recent developments, keep an eye out for even more exciting improvements in years to come.