Pouring It On: Innovative Kitchen Faucets & Sinks

The latest kitchen faucets have higher spouts than ever before, which provide more room for tall pots that are in the sink, and typically include pull-down sprayers for easy rinsing. Meanwhile, sinks are becoming deeper and have apron-front designs that are made of fire clay.

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Washing the dishes isn’t anyone’s idea of a good time, but the latest innovations in kitchen faucets and sinks make the chore easier to manage.

The newest faucets have taller spouts than were available previously, more-flexible sprayers, eco-friendly options that control the speed of water flow and motion sensors that permit the faucet to be turned on and off with a wave of the hand. The latest sinks have old-school designs that are made out of fire clay, which is a type of ceramic, and depths that are up to 3 inches deeper than previous models are for large pots and baking dishes. As a result of these innovations and an increase in the cost of raw materials, prices for all faucets and sinks have increased by as much as 20 percent since 2010.

TALL DRINK. In 2010, the tallest faucets typically reached as high as 16 inches above the base. Today, high-arc faucets soar nearly twice as high—as much as 30 inches above the base.

Three years ago, high-arc faucets were more about style than substance. The only functional benefit of a high-arc faucet was that the extra height left plenty of room between the bottom of the basin and the spigot to fill a large pot with water. However, in the past year, almost all manufacturers upgraded their high-arc faucets to include a flexible pull-down sprayer, which you pull straight down and aim into the sink. (Most faucets still have a pull-out sprayer, which you pull out from the side and then twist down into the sink.)

Pull-down sprayers have been around, but until 2012, they were rare and available only in premium faucets. Now, almost every manufacturer sells a faucet that has a pull-down sprayer, and you can find them in high-arc faucets that cost as little as $200.

The prevalence of pull-down sprayers is good news, because we believe, based on our hands-on evaluation, that a pull-down sprayer is easier on the wrist when you clean and rinse dishes than is a pull-out sprayer. The only situation that we encountered where a pull-out sprayer is preferable is when we want to fill a pot while it’s on top of an adjacent counter or stove. We could pull the pull-out sprayer directly to the pot. You’d have to pull a pull-down sprayer down to the sink and then twist it out to the side to reach an adjacent counter.

Speaking of sprayers, many manufacturers in the past 3 years changed the tubing of their sprayers in models in all price ranges to pliable brass, nylon or stainless steel from more-rigid metals to make their sprayers easier to pull and twist. We found that this change has, indeed, improved the flexibility of sprayers. Old sprayers sometimes would snag against the edges of the spigot if you tried to pull them out at an angle rather than straight down into the sink. So far, we haven’t heard of any problems with the new tubes fraying or wearing out because they aren’t made of a rigid metal.

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Finally, faucets that start at $200 now typically have magnets or weights that strengthen the connection between the spray head and the spout, and ensure that the sprayer won’t droop from the spout. Three years ago, magnets were found only in faucets that cost at least $450.

GO WITH THE FLOW. Although high-arc faucets are more prevalent than ever before, only a few manufacturers now have eco-friendly, flow-controlling faucets as standard equipment, rather than as part of an optional aerator kit. However, every manufacturer with which we spoke has a flow-controlling faucet on the drawing board. That’s because American National Standards Institute, American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers, Integrated Environmental Solutions and U.S. Green Building Council in 2012 proposed a change in the voluntary national green-building code for kitchen-faucet maximum capacity to 1.8 gallons per minute (gpm) from the current federal standard of 2.2 gpm. Every manufacturer that we interviewed expects the proposed standard to be adopted within 2 years.

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