ORLANDO — Several plumbing manufacturers told CONTRACTOR that they were making new product announcements simultaneously at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas and here in mid-January. It seems that Amazon’s Alexa is the smart home hub of choice for plumbing manufacturers when it comes to controlling their products, followed by Apple’s HomeKit. The smart home trend will only grow rapidly in the future.
Moen jumped into the segment with its U by Moen, where the user creates personalized presets that correspond to the commands given to Alexa. The shower includes a digital valve that offers thermostatic temperature control, and enables the user to connect up to four shower devices such as showerheads, hand showers or body sprays. The WiFi-connected digital shower controller features a five-inch, non-touch, LCD screen that provides feedback on the shower status through on-screen messaging and notifications.
The bather gives Alexa commands, such as, “Alexa, tell Moen to start preset ‘Morning Shower’.”
Moen said that this represents a paradigm shift in how we will relate to our bathrooms, which seems like a stretch until one considers how rapidly use of apps and smart devices have changed, well, just about everything.
Kohler rolled out Kohler Konnect, designed to work with multiple voice activated systems and able to control any Kohler product that’s automated, whether it’s the kitchen faucet, control features of the high-end Numi toilet, running the shower, filling a bathtub and even adjusting the lighting on a smart bathroom mirror. Kohler Konnect runs on the Microsoft Azure cloud platform.
Homeowners' insurance companies will drive leak detection, and several companies showed solutions at KBIS.
Talk to your shower
As President/CEO David Kohler put it, “Voice services and connected devices have become integrated into every facet of the home – with the notable exception of the bathroom, until now.”
Manufacturers also showed numerous products that you can activate either by touching them or not touching them but without engaging in conversation.
Delta Faucet has expanded its Touch2O technology to nearly two dozen of its kitchen and bar prep faucets, in either pull out of pull down and in single-handle design. Beverage faucets don’t even have a handle — they’re touch-activated.
American Standard introduced a touch-activated measuring faucet, the Beale MeasureFill pull-down kitchen faucet that delivers an adjustable set volume of water, ranging from a half cup up to five cups, on demand. A blue LED light illuminates the dial window and the volume marks when the measuring function is in use. The user selects the amount of water desired by turning the dial on the side of the faucet. The water comes on with a tap on the dial. The faucet also has a temperature memory setting.
Leak detection is becoming a big thing. In our coverage of the PHCC convention, one of the speakers noted that sales of smart home products will grow because homeowners’ insurance companies will insist on some kind of automatic leak detection. Several manufacturers showed solutions at KBIS and all of them addressed the problem differently.
Reliance Worldwide Corp., the parent company of SharkBite, introduced an ultrasonic device that clamps onto the water supply line called Streamlabs. Streamlabs was born out of RWC’s acquisition in November 2016 of Soneter, a Georgia Tech startup founded in 2010.
Uponor showed its Phyn Plus water monitor that is installed in a home’s incoming water line by the Uponor Pro Squad, plumbers who have been trained on the device by Uponor. The device ties into a home’s WiFi system and will alert the homeowner of a small leak via an app, or shut the water off to a home in case of a catastrophic leak.
Plumbing suppliers also showed some other trends that don’t involve electrical outlets. One is the rise of matte black, which seemed to be the color du jour. It was seen everywhere from Kohler’s high-end Numoi toilet to Pfister Faucets’s Rhen faucet collection.
Everybody wants a clean toilet but nobody wants to clean them.
Kohler showed ContinuousClean that’s incorporated into toilets using the firm’s Revolution 360 flushing technology. The flushing system includes a space in the mechanism to hold two toilet cleaning tablets. The system works with any toilet bowl tablet cleaners, allowing consumers to use their choice of off-the-shelf solid chemistry, and is optimized to extend the life of the cleansing tablet for more than a year.
American Standard introduced its Vormax Plus self-cleaning toilet FreshInfuser, containing Lysol cleaning solution, which is hidden in an easy-to-access compartment behind the seat. Each FreshInfuser lasts up to 30 days (360 flushes); two packs are included with purchase of toilet, providing up to 60 days of cleaning. In addition, the porcelain in the Vormax Plus features the company’s EverClean permanent finish.
We’re seeing more wall-hung toilets. Grohe showed an in-wall carrier as did long-time pioneer Geberit. Kohler showed its Veil collection that includes a wall-hung intelligent toilet. Viega, which has had an in-wall system in Europe for ages, displayed the Viega 1.2/0.7-GPF in-wall Eco plus W.C. carriers and Visign flush plates, with either manual or touchless trigger. The reduced-flush carriers are designed for greater water conservation and come in 2x4 and 2x6 framing sizes. The carriers feature steel powder-coated frame construction and can be mounted in wood or metal studs, directly onto the wall or with mounting rails.