Smart Faucets: What to Know

Learn more about smart faucets and how this home fixture trend can fit into your lifestyle.

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These days, it seems like there’s a smart version of everything. There are smart light bulbs, smart thermostats, smart locks and even smart pet feeders. One up-and-coming innovation is the smart sink faucet.

Motion sensor faucets have existed in public restrooms and commercial spaces for years, but they’re now becoming common in residential kitchens and bathrooms. Smart faucets have many benefits, including money savings, water conservation and germ prevention.

What Is a Smart Faucet?

Unlike a regular faucet, smart faucets require an energy source to run modern technology. Some are battery powered, while others connect to a power source under the sink. You’ll occasionally have to charge or change the batteries.

“The run time for an average family is between two and five years on a battery pack,” says Joseph Wood, master plumber and founder of Boston Standard Company. “And the leading brands can take either AA batteries or C batteries for a longer life.”

If you lose power or run out of batteries, smart faucets still work. You’ll lose the smart capabilities and be left with a regular faucet until the power source is restored.

Additionally, smart faucets have a solenoid valve, which is “a magnetic valve that turns the water on and off,” explains Wood. Solenoid valves are found all over the home — in electronic locks, in cars, in washing machines and even in your icemaker. A smart faucet’s solenoid can be activated with or without touch.

Smart Faucet Features

Elbow Faucet Controlbrizmaker/Getty Images

Touch, Touchless and Voice-Activated Faucets

One of the most attractive smart faucet features is touchless activation. A touchless faucet lets you wash the raw chicken off your hands without grabbing the faucet. It prevents the spread of germs and cuts down on cleanup time.

There are two main types of touchless faucets. Voice activated faucets turn on and off with voice commands, much like other smart home devices such as Amazon’s Alexa. Other hands-free faucets “use infrared sensors to detect a particular ‘depth of field’ and only activate on entry and exit to this field,” says Wood. These work like the automatic faucets you might be used to in public restrooms.

Some smart faucets are activated by touch. These use capacitance, AKA your body’s natural current. Wood gives your smartphone screen as an example of capacitance. Touch lamps are another example. This is a useful smart faucet feature because you can use your wrist or elbow to turn it on, rather than your dough-covered dirty hands.

Water Delivery and Monitoring Features

Smart faucets offer more than touchless on/off functionality. Some will even measure water for you.

James Walsh, vice president of product management for American Standard Fixtures, Showers, Toilets and Commercial, offers the Beale MeasureFill Touch Faucet as an example. It delivers exact amounts of water — up to 40 ounces on demand. Plus, it’s intuitive to use. “Simply use the dial to set the amount of water you need and never eyeball a measurement again,” says Walsh.

Many smart faucets have built-in shutoff timers, which automatically turn off the water after a set amount of time, such as two or five minutes. Why is this useful? “Maybe a kid did not close the faucet all the way,” explains Wood. “Or maybe you’ve been called out of the room for something.” The faucet will turn itself off instead of wasting water. Similarly, some faucets can remind you to turn off the water while brushing your teeth. And some can even detect and respond to leaks.

Better control of water quality is another smart faucet benefit. Any faucet can have a filter attached, but smart faucets go a step further. Smart faucets “tend to use the same filtering technology as any other water filter, but the benefit of smart faucets is that many can provide real-time analytics about the water in your home,” Wood says. They’ll tell you which contaminants they filtered out, giving you precise information about your water quality.

Walsh says that The Saybrook Filtered Kitchen Faucet “eliminates 99.6 percent of lead, 96.9 percent of chlorine and 92.6 percent of Class I particulates from your tap water.” The push of a button lets you switch between this filtered water for drinking and plain tap water for cleaning. A smart LED indicator light even tells you when the filter needs to be replaced.

Smart Faucet Designs

Some smart faucets are just attachments that connect to your existing faucet. These are less expensive than a full faucet replacement, often less than $50. One example is this touchless smart faucet adaptor, which has a rechargeable, built-in battery. Before purchasing an adaptor, be sure it’s compatible with your faucet.

Full smart faucets come in a broad range of styles. “Expect chrome and brushed nickel to be everywhere,” says Wood. “But polished brass, brushed stainless and black to be on the brands that have invested more heavily in their lineup.” Major brands offer timeless smart faucets, modern smart faucets and ornate, antique-inspired smart faucets. There’s a design to match any home, whether you want a trendy fixture with a matte finish or a classic chrome.

Why Get a Smart Faucet?

Touchless faucets keep your space cleaner and healthier. What do you do when your hands are dirty and you need the sink? Some people let the water run or maneuver the lever with an elbow. “Imagine only needing to move your hands to the right spot, or just tapping it with your forearm,” Woods illustrates. By eliminating the need to turn a knob or lift a handle, smart faucets prevent cross contamination and excessive cleaning.

Features like leak detection and automatic shutoff timers make smart faucets a green choice. They help conserve water around the home, which is good for the environment and your wallet.

A smart faucet might not be appealing to everyone. For one, they can cost more than double the price of a regular faucet. But if you’re a fan of the smart home trend and are willing to spend more for special features and high efficiency, smart faucets have some great time- and money-saving perks.

Mikayla Borchert
Mikayla is an assistant editor for Family Handyman, specializing in indoor and outdoor gardening, organization and décor. She has one cat and holds a B.A. in English from the University of Minnesota. Outside of work, she likes running, skiing, hiking and tending her balcony garden.