ORLANDO, FLA. — Aging-in-place was a clear theme among plumbing manufacturers at this year’s International Builders Show here. Manufacturers showed a variety of tubs and showers that were easy to get in and out of. Official attendance was announced as 55,212, although the show didn’t seem that crowded and exhibits occupied one hall as opposed to the usual two.
Kohler displayed its Elevance Rising Wall Bath, an alternative to walk-in and institutional-looking baths. The bathtub is about chair height. The user sits down and begins filling the foot basin. The integrated footwell allows users to temper water before entering the bath. The sidewall rises effortlessly; a reporter lifted it using his pinky finger. The sidewall is sealed with a double chamber inflatable seal. State-of-the-art sensors prevent the door from opening when the bath is full and also keep the footwell from overflowing. The tub, with a bubble massage option, is 14-in. deep and will drain in two minutes.
Kohler also launched two new kitchen sinks made from enameled cast iron. The Wheatland and Lawnfield offset double-basin sinks provide homeowners with a durable product that is made at the company’s headquarters in Kohler, Wis. Available in 16 different colors, Kohler Cast Iron is guaranteed not to chip, crack or burn, a feature demonstrated as visitors were invited to whack the sink with a frying pan. Kohler also showed a line of cast iron tubs with the same BubbleMassage technology that it has been putting in acrylic tubs. At Kohler’s Sterling unit, new engineering and additional bowl heights were shown on five high-efficiency water closets — Karsten and Rockton Dual Force, and Stinson, Windham and Riverton Pro Force. All five toilets carry the EPA’s WaterSense label. The newly re-engineered bowls in Sterling’s Pro Force flushing technology line now provide the ability to hold both a 1.6- and a 1.28-gpf flush tank. Sterling Pro Force technology creates a siphonic suction to remove all waste and water, and 100% of the water passes through the rim to ensure a clean bowl.
American Standard Brands announced that it recently acquired Safety Tubs LLC, a privately held U.S. business specializing in the design and manufacturing of walk-in bathtubs for those with limited mobility, including the elderly, obese and disabled. Safety Tubs will operate independently as a subsidiary of American Standard Brands called Safety Tubs Co. LLC, and will be part of a dedicated division for Assisted Living.
American Standard also showed products that provide a safe and independent shower opportunity, such as the Seated Safety Shower, the first seated shower designed for universal access, including the elderly and disabled. The firm displayed walk-in baths with ease of entry, ergonomic seats and privacy. The walk-in baths employ technologies such as a patented door system guaranteed not to leak for life, and fast water removal with the patent pending Quick Drain feature. All can be customized with advanced hydrotherapy options. The bathing systems offer faucets that pivot, pulldown or pullout to facilitate easy rinsing of hard-to-reach areas, such as the Berwick Widespread Bath Faucet, which features a swivel spout that rotates from left to right.
Moen Method lavatory faucets have been certified to meet WaterSense criteria. The faucets are flow-optimized and allow water to flow at 1.5 gallons per minute (gpm), Eco-Performance showering options are also available within the Method collection. These showerheads are certified to meet WaterSense criteria, with a flow rate of 1.75 gpm. Available in Chrome or LifeShine Brushed Nickel finishes, Method faucets make a modern statement at the sink in both a single-handle, single-hole mount with optional vessel extension to accommodate vessel sink applications; as well as a two-handle widespread platform. Coordinating showering options, three- or four-hole Roman tub faucets and a complete line of matching bath accessories are also available.
The Method suite also utilizes Moen's innovative M•PACT valve system on its widespread faucet, showering options and the three- and four-hole Roman tub faucets. Moen's innovative M•PaCT valve makes it easier to upgrade the style of the bathroom without replacing any faucet plumbing. a common-valve design allows for a quick faucet change within minutes: simply unscrew the handles and spout, lift them out and replace with the new style. It’s just as easy to change the shower trim by removing the handle from the wall and replacing the trim.
Noritz America previewed the newest addition to its EcoTough Series of high-efficiency, easy-to-install, gas-fired condensing tankless water heaters for residential applications at the 2011 Builders’ Show. Offering a maximum input of 180,000 Btu per hour, the NRC98 Tankless Water Heater is designed to fully meet the domestic hot water needs of northern residences with two bathrooms and southern homes with three baths. Using state-of-the-art condensing technology, the NRC98 will have an Energy Factor of approximately 0.93, or nearly 10 points higher than that of a comparable, conventional tankless model and more than 30 more than the EF for a standard gas-fired storage water heater. Available late spring, the NRC98 will be ENERGY STAR-qualified.
Delta Faucet’s zero-threshold shower bases install flush with the bathroom floor, allowing easy accessibility for wheelchair and foot traffic alike. The integrated trench drain with stainless steel cover spans the entire opening of the shower, draining up to six gallons per minute. The slip-resistant textured floor provides added protection and an attractive design. Made from acrylic with a high-density styrofoam and PVC backing, Delta brand zero-threshold shower bases are built to support repeated wheelchair and walk-in use. The threshold is reinforced with aluminum and the trench drain cover is made of stainless steel.
Delta also showed a Transfer Tub with several features integrated into it to help enhance its safety and accessibility. A flip-up bench allows bathers to sit at a comfortable height that makes it easy to get in and out. The bench can be flipped up or removed completely, allowing the Transfer Tub to be used like a conventional bath/shower unit. Going along with the ease-of-use theme, Delta showed its Pilar Pull-Down Kitchen Faucet with Touch2O Technology. The faucet will operate manually or with a tap of the hand. A blue LED shows the Touch2O technology is engaged and a red light means the batteries need to be replaced. The handle can adjust flow rate and temperature. The design includes a two-function pull-down spray head that pops back into place with a magnetic closure called MagnaTite. The faucets also incorporate the firm’s Diamond Seal Technology with a diamond-coated valve and one-piece InnoFlex PEX waterways.
Rheem displayed energy-saving products such as its Integrated Heating & Water Heating System Powered by Tankless Technology a long name for a product that provides both space heating and domestic hot water in a cross-platform product that is designed, built and warranted by a single manufacturer, Rheem, ensuring seamless product integration.
Rheem also showed its new Prestige Series Condensing Tankless Water Heater, the most efficient Rheem tankless water heater to-date. Boasting a minimum flow rate of 0.26-GPM and a minimum activation flow rate of 0.40-GPM, homeowners using low-flow fixtures receive hot water without having to increase the flow. Units can vent with PVC piping. Rheem also presented its smaller Hybrid Water Heater with Heat Pump Technology for smaller households with a lower hot-water demand. The 40-gal. Rheem HP-40 hybrid is Energy Star-rated and qualifies for a variety of state and local incentives or rebates.