This article explains the key questions that you should consider when purchasing new taps for your bathroom. The information is aimed at consumers in the United Kingdom.
Question 1: Whats the tap made of ?
Taps can be made from a range of materials of varying quality and cost.
A general rule of thumb is that the heavier the tap the better the quality of materials used!
Plastic taps are very cheap and very low quality. They are very light and are offered in a variety of colours. Plastic taps cannot be recommended for bathroom use because of their poor performance and short expected operational life.
Standard Brass ABS/Mazac
Standard brass is regularly used to manufacture the bodies of mid-priced, medium quality taps.
Many tap components (such as handles) can be made from ABS (plastic) or an alternative material sometimes referred to as Mazac (Pot Metal). These are cheaper than using brass, and whilst the quality is regularly very good, brass offers a better finish and lasts longer.
Standard brass taps are suitable for bathroom use, with or without ABS or Mazac components.
Whilst, standard brass has gained complete acceptance in many facets of the water distribution industry, in certain circumstances when exposed to particular combinations of pH and concentrations of chlorides, they can experience a serious form of corrosion known as dezincification.
The answer to this is a dezincification resistant alloy, normally referred to as DZR brass.
This is the Rolls Royce material for taps and the highest quality product will be made from DZR brass without any ABS or Mazac components
Question 2: Will the taps work with your system pressure ?
First the good news, if you have a combi-boiler or un-vented hot water system then you dont need to fret about pressure, both high pressure and low pressure taps will work well with your system.
However, if you have a traditional gravity fed system, with a cold water storage tank in the attic, and a hot water cylinder then you will want to be more cautious.
Firstly you want to work out how much water pressure you have:
Calculate the distance, in meters, from the bottom of the cold water storage tank, to the outlet of the tap and multiply by 0.1 to give you the pressure in bar:
e.g. 1.1 Meters x 0.1 = 0.11 bar
2.5 Meters x 0.1 = 0.25 bar
If you want a bath/shower mixer with a showering handset, then you must determine the distance from the foot of the cold water storage tank to the height at which the handset will be used, not the height of the tap, or the handset when it rests in the support.
You also need to be aware that elongated pipe work runs rapidly use up any pressure inside a system, so if your taps are a long way from the cold storage tank then you will want to lessen the calculated pressure to take account of this.
Once you have a good idea of your water pressure then you need to verify that whatever taps you are looking to buy will work at that pressure.
As a rule of thumb many designer taps come from Europe where the water systems have superior pressure than in the UK and these taps wont work if you have very low pressure.
Designer taps made specifically to work on low pressure systems are normally more expensive and the retailer will highlight the fact that the taps are suitable for low pressure systems. If it doesn’t say specifically that the taps will work with low pressure then assume the worst and don’t buy without asking the retailer to verify the pressure requirements.
Question 3: What is the operating mechanism of the tap ?
Ceramic disc and spindle refer to the two alternative ways that the inner mechanism of a tap can operate.
Ceramic disc technology is usually used on more costly taps, as they function better and last longer. When the lever is turned, two ceramic discs are parted opening the valve and allowing the water to pour.
The traditional spindle design is commonly used on inferior quality, cheaper tap designs. The tap has a spindle through the core, with the valve seat attached via a screw thread. A standard tap washer is fixed to the end of the valve seat. As the knob is turned the spindle rotates and the screw thread moves the valve seat up and down to adjust the flow of water
Ceramic Disc Taps
Drip free never change another tap washer again !
Long Life should never need to be replaced under regular use
Simple to Operate only a quarter turn is required to go from full on to off
Variety of styles works with modern lever designs and round handles
Inferior flow rates – Unsuitable for very low pressure systems
Superior flow rates suitable for most systems, high or low pressure
Hard to operate – handle has to be turned many times from off to full on
Higher maintenance – washers will need replacing often
Less choice of style – cannot be used with modern lever designs
There are two key things to consider.
1. Unless you have a very low pressure system or are looking for the lowest feasible price then it is best to go for ceramic disc taps.
2. When comparing tap prices always ensure that both taps use the same mechanism. They may look the same, but if one is ceramic disc and one uses a spindle then the cheapest tap may actually be the worst value!
Question 4: How will the taps connect to your system?
Mono Basin & Bidet mixers are attached to the water supply by connectors, sometimes referred to tap tails. These come in two types, flexible and rigid and the purchaser normally doesn’t get any option within a range of taps.
Both types join directly to normal 15mm copper pipe work.The tap manufacturer usually decides what type of connectors each range of tap he makes will have.
Which kind is most suitable for you depends on where the taps are being installed and who is doing the installation.
Best for DIY Installers: You dont require any plumbing skills, the bendable hose will simply trasnsform into whatever shape is necessary and the connection is made easily by tightening the compression nut with a wrench.
Best for small spaces with difficult access. The flexible hose allows connections in places that would be almost impossible to get into with rigid pipe work.
Best for professional installers: The rigid connectors become part of the sturdy copper pipe run that connects the supply to the tap. The connections are made with capillary fittings, lead free solder and a blow torch. The end product looks neater, lasts longer and is much less prone to leaks.
Best for more open spaces with simple access. Even the most professional installer will want a large enough space to bend and fit the copper pipe run from the supply. If the space is too compact then flexible connectors may be the only viable option.
Question 5: Does the Tap meet the necessary Bylaws and/or Standards ?
The first thing that confuses many people is that British Standards for taps are not quality guarantees. They just state certain things that a tap meeting with the standard should do. There is also no requirement that any product is tested by a third party to verify it actually meets the standard, so an assertion that a product meets BS5412 is only as reliable as the business making the claim !
The British Standards signify the minimum that a tap should meet to perform a particular application.
The key British Standards applied to taps are:
The specification for low-resistance single taps and combination tap assemblies.
The Specification for draw-off taps and stop-valves for water services
There is no British Standard at all for Ceramic Disc taps. So the very fact that somebody quotes that the tap complies with BS5412 or BS1010 lets you know that it is an inferior design spindle tap!
All products attached to the UK drinking water supply must be compliant to the UK Water Bylaws. There are independent testing and certification schemes in place to establish conformity, however these are not mandatory in the UK.
The expense of outside certification is high and many top brand tap manufacturers decide not to pay for certification. Any taps that have KIWA or WRAS approval have been tested for compliance and should be of a good quality, but all taps installed in the UK, must by law comply with the Water Bylaws.
James is the owner of PlumbingPages.com, The UK’s leading plumbing and bathroom information site
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