nfrared technology in our commercial washrooms is nothing new, but the versatility of the technology is constantly changing as new innovations and adaptations come to market. What’s more, there is a vast amount of potential that is yet to be exploited.
Infrared taps, or ‘sensor taps’ as they are sometimes referred to, have been predicted to be one of the fastest growing segments of the bathroom market between 2017 and 2025, as a direct result of the increased global awareness of water conservation and hygiene.
The Water Regulations require that the flow rate of a tap does not exceed 3.6l per minute where basins have no plug. Sensor taps reduce the water flow rate and include an aerator in the spout to optimise water consumption efficiency. Depending on the specific infrared tap in use, you can save as much as 80% on your water usage in a 12-month period.
Choosing the user’s preferred flow and temperature every time a traditional tap is turned on also wastes a great deal of energy. In contrast, sensor taps with pressure compensated flow regulators also enable you to keep water at a constant temperature, so you don’t need to expend energy changing the water temperature. For this reason, taken as a whole, they tend to be much more energy efficient than traditional hand operated taps.
Taps and WC flushing systems utilising infrared technology were originally welcomed for being more stylish and more hygienic. Users could easily understand the benefits of not touching the flush or tap after using the toilet, particularly in large commercial buildings with hundreds or even thousands of visitors – just think of the typical example of the motorway service station.
The technology has continued to become more advanced too, with more intelligent toilet flush motion sensors, for example allowing users to trigger a shorter or longer flush either through the wave of a hand or through a walk-away system. Even the latter can be programmed to assess how long the toilet has been in use and trigger a part or full-flush, so an appropriate amount of water is used every time.
Eliminating the need for physical contact with fittings prevents germs from spreading, but in addition, removing the ability for users to adjust water flow each time the tap is used, reduces the amount of water splashed onto surfaces in a washroom. And thanks to the increasingly high standards of the products supplied today, the use of sanitary facilities is a much more pleasant experience and importantly, reduces the maintenance costs for the overall facility.
The benefits of infrared control technology have also been realised in other associated commercial washroom applications, such as fans and lights – each only being activated when a user walks into the room. These systems can also be primed to shut down during periods of inactivity such as the weekend. This saves money, water and energy, but also prevents the risk of flooding when a building isn’t in use and isn’t necessarily under surveillance.
When you look at the sustainability and versatility that already exists in infrared technology utilised in bathrooms today, it seems to have all bases covered, but any good manufacturer will never stop innovating. So, what’s next for infrared? Put simply, more intelligence. With greater intelligence built into infrared devices, alongside the use of cloud based technologies, we can start to report and monitor in a way that we have never been able to achieve before.
Precise data on how often, when and where facilities are being used will deliver powerful insights for building owners and managers. The potential uses of this marrying of technologies is endless and could be a real game changer for building projects across the board. Watch this space.
Case study: Annan House
A flagship, high-quality office development in Aberdeen city centre has state-of-the-art management systems installed in all its washrooms to help control energy and water use. Annan House formed part of a £100m redevelopment project called The Grande delivered by Drum Property Group on a former derelict site.
The new-build offices are now the headquarters for EnQuest plc, housing the company’s 500 British-based employees under one roof. The company is the largest UK independent oil producer in the UK North Sea.
The eight-storey offices have been fitted with 36 Sensazone washroom systems and 24 hydraulic urinal control valves were also installed to help lower water and energy consumption. Sensazone from water management expert Cistermiser is a low-cost system which uses infrared sensors to control energy output, water supply, lighting and ventilation, providing complete management control over individual commercial washrooms while maintaining safe, hygienic washroom environments.
Hydraulic flushing control valves from Cistermiser were fitted to pipes filling the building’s urinal cisterns. Activated solely by water-pressure, the valve remains closed if there is no washroom activity (halting the constant flush-fill-flush cycle of the urinal cistern) until a tap is turned on. At this point, the water pressure drops, the valve opens and the cistern refill cycle continues. Urinal control valves are hugely effective in terms of conserving water. Water usage can drop from some 157,000 litres for a urinal with no flush controls to just 28,000 litres per annum with a control valve.
The efficient washroom control systems at Annan House were specified by Wallace Little, while Vaughan Engineering managed the installation.