BY ROBERT P. MADER
OF CONTRACTOR'S STAFF
LAS VEGAS — The Kitchen/Bath Industry Show can be artsy/craftsy because it draws a crowd of architects, interior designers and remodelers. But what was striking about the plumbing products at this year's show in May here is how much technology is being incorporated into the flow of water, whether it's taking a toilet flush down to 1 gal., changing the way water flows through a showerhead or turning on a faucet by waving your hand.
Let's start with the toilets where a regular 1.6-gpf toilet has become ho-hum.
In addition to showing the 2005 models of its Neorest toilet, TOTO rolled out its latest gravity flushing system, the Double Cyclone Flush Engine, which the firm said is better than its own G-Max system.
The Double Cyclone is available in the one-piece Guinevere and Soiree 1.6-gpf toilets. During a flush, three actions occur almost at the same time. A nozzle at the back of the bowl fires a high-speed stream of water that scours the rim. A second nozzle fires another jet of water around the rim and bowl, and then a siphon jet is initiated for improved waste removal.
TOTO also introduced the Aquia Dual Flush toilet that can flush either 1.6 or 0.9 gpf, saving 20% more water than a standard 1.6-gpf toilet. The toilet has a skirted bowl for easy cleaning. The dual-flush button is integrated into the top of the lid.
Kohler introduced a toilet that doesn't look like a toilet, the Purist Hatbox, a tankless, chair-height, electric toilet that's influenced, the company said, by the minimalist school of design. The tankless design uses Kohler's Power Lite technology, a 1/5-hp electric pump enclosed within the toilet bowl to provide a 1.6- gpf flush. It's flushed with a "soft touch" actuator on the side of the bowl. The water supply can come up through the floor and attach inside the bowl base so it's concealed. The Hatbox is offered in six colors.
American Standard took its Champion toilet containing its Flush Tower 3- in. flush valve, then tweaked the waterways, and out came FloWise, a gravity toilet that reduces water usage by more than 20% using a single flush and a standard trip lever. The FloWise toilet uses 1.28 gpf, allowing it to save as much water over the long term as a dual flush or pressure-assisted toilet. The Flush Tower releases the water in less than a second. The toilet also has the Champion's 10-year warranty.
Manfield showed off its latest advances in high-performance toilets. The Maverick Suite uses the MagnaFlush II flushing system that has a 3-in. flush valve and a double-trap 21/8-in. trapway that the firm said creates more vacuum and a stronger siphon action. The bowl design includes a direct-feed siphon jet for faster water delivery at higher pressure.
The company showed its QuantumOne 1.1-gpf pressure-assisted toilet that's available in round, elongated, chair-height and rear-outlet variations. Mansfield introduced its EcoQuantum dualflush pressure-assisted toilets. When the user pushes the handle down the way most toilets flush, the toilet flushes at 1 gpf. When the handle is pulled up, the toilet flushes at 1.6 gpf. Mansfield is targeting hotels with the selling point that the Eco-Quantum can save 4,500 gal. per room per year.
Eljer introduced what it called a super toilet, the Titan, which features a streamlined trapway and dual jets inside the walls of the bowl to complete a flush in 2.5 seconds. It has a 3-in. flush valve and can flush 900 grams of miso paste, according to company tests. A large footprint covers up marks on the bathroom floor from the old toilet.
Gerber displayed the Ultra Flush 1.1-gpf pressure-assisted toilet that uses water pressure to compress air inside the tank. The Ultra Flush line includes a 1.6/1.0-gpf dual-flush model. The toilets have an ultra trapway, 3 1/8 in. on most models, with a minimum of 2 in. and as much as 5 in. at key points. The Ultra Flush line comes in elongated and round, comfort height and rear outlet. For the recently potty trained, Gerber introduced the Pee Wee collection of 101/8-in.-high toilets and lavs with lower mounting heights for the "junior bath."
For those seated on a regular toilet, Bemis introduced the Puritè Personal Cleansing Spa, a toilet seat with the cleansing and comfort advantages of a European bidet. Puritè is outfitted with two automatic cleansing wands that cleanse a person's underside — one wand extends forward for feminine cleansing, the other for perirectal wash. A touchpad control panel located on the side of the seat activates cleansing. With the push of a button, the dual nozzles dispense warm water at one of three selected temperatures and five pressure settings for maximum cleansing and comfort. The retractable hygienic nozzles are selfcleaning and flush automatically before and after each use to ensure safety and hygiene. The seat is equipped with a pressure sensor so that cleansing will not commence unless the seat is occupied.
For those more concerned with cleaning the bathroom than their backsides, Bemis' Easy-Clean toilet seat hinge makes it easy to remove the toilet seat for cleaning. Within seconds, the seat can be removed with a twist of the hinges and lift to unlock the seat and remove it from the bowl. Only two small posts remain on the back of the toilet rim. Once cleaning is complete, users can lock the seat back into place just as quickly as it was removed.
Brass products range from beautiful to high-tech, with at least one product leaving you wondering, "How did they do that?"
Technical Concepts presented a package of electronic faucet controls that qualify as just plain amazing. The under-sink Radius controls use a capacitor, the company said, that creates an electrical field around the faucet. When the user waves a hand near the faucet, it completes the circuit and the water comes on. The controls, which work for any faucet on the market from any manufacturer, can be set in a variety of ways. For example, a powder room faucet could be set to come on and automatically shut off after 15 seconds. A kitchen faucet that needs continuous flow can be set to turn off with a second wave of the hand. The controls can also be used to flush a toilet or activate a soap dispenser.
Delta Faucet Co. displayed its H2Okinetic Technology. Defined as the study of water in motion, it was introduced last year in the Vesi Custom Shower System from Brizo. H2Okinetic Technology provides greater control over the showering experience by managing the water droplet size and velocity, spray coverage and thermal dynamics, the company said. Its water conserving properties deliver a high-flow shower from a medium-flow water supply. Larger droplets provide more water coverage, droplets are delivered at a higher velocity and a dense spray pattern provides more complete water coverage.
K/BIS was the showplace for Moen's ShowHouse collection that focused this year on powder room collections under the Organic, Mannerly and Tres Chic brand names. The Mannerly has a Victorian look with white ceramic caps on the taps labeled "Hot" and "Cold." Tres Chic is meant to evoke Hollywood's Golden Age with graceful curves and an antique nickel finish. But the real stunner is the Organic that the designer made to look like a living plant. The pull for the pop-up looks like a leaf or petal.
Danze showed its usual large selection of brass, including the Opulence Collection of kitchen faucets with a Victorian-style pull down faucet and pot filler, an expanded Tiburon Collection with spun wire handles and traditional style of bathroom fittings called the Fairmont Collection.
Danze displayed a custom shower system that allows customers to pick out any selection of body sprays, showerheads and handheld sprays. The system includes a four-port diverter that allows a bather to use one or all the sprays simultaneously or in any combination. A thermostatic valve allows a user to select a preset preferred shower temperature. Danze showed a new ceramic pressure balanced tub and shower valve with a 6-gpm flow rate at 40 psi. The valve is available with or without stops and with stops and diverter.
Swiss faucet maker KWC showed its wares at a nearby hotel suite because showing the faucets on the show floor would make them vulnerable to counterfeiters and knockoffs, a spokesperson said. A highlight of the KWC collection is the Systema, a system of interchangeable matching components, such as pull-out sprays, that a customer can put together to create an "ideal water appliance and delivery system." The faucets come in stainless and chrome. The height of the faucet can be changed with an extension pillar, for example, and a pre-rinse spray can be mounted on the top of the faucet.
Hansgrohe showed its Downpour Air Rainmaker showerhead, a 24-in. oval with 350 spray channels. The firm's air injection technology mixes air bubbles in each drop of water. The showerhead comes with an overhead whirl-air massage mode. The huge head is designed to be built into the ceiling of the shower.
Porta Faucets introduced its line of modern, minimalist and luxury Italian designs to the United States, showing a range of kitchen and basin faucets, tub and shower fixtures, thermostatic controls and accessories. Porta is selling 13 lines of luxury styles, including a hand-made line. Porta recently opened an office in Beverly Hills, Calif.
On the fixture side, Kohler introduced a twist on the traditional double-basin cast-iron sink. The Smart Divide design for deepbasin double kitchen sinks uses a divider that's half the height of a conventional divider, making it easier to move large pots and pans from one side to the other. The Smart Divide will be first offered on the Iron/Tones and Langlade models.
Kohler's Sterling division unveiled the Stor-Ganize shower door, a 70-in. high shower door with a storage column with up to six shelves for bath products that can be mounted on either the left or right side of the door. The shelves lift out for cleaning and are dishwasher safe.
Elkay continued to show that it could do virtually anything with stainless steel, including making custom countertops or any kind of sink imaginable. The firm's Mystic 4-ft. long meandering entertainment sink has proven so popular that Elkay has come out with a shorter version. Elkay also introduced the Avedo, a zero-radius undermount 16-gauge satin finish sink. It's available in single-, double-or triple-bowl designs.
Elkay also showed its expanding collection of Italian designed and manufactured faucets. Just for the sake of amusement, the company showed a diamond-encrusted faucet that reportedly costs about $100,000 and had its own security guard at the show. Even though Elkay wasn't serious about it, some professional athlete or rapper will probably want one.
Blanco, with a reputation for its stainless steel sinks, showed a solid-surface line of sinks called Blancodiamond. For new construction contractors, the company showed its packaging for pallets of 24 nested Silver Elite stainless steel sinks. The pallets measure 24 in. by 35 in. and come with full freight allowed and at a special net "24 Pack" price.