Through the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve worked with our clients to help facilities reduce the spread of pathogens and maintain their spaces to the highest standard. Now, as buildings begin to re-open, we’re seeing an increased investment in touch-free and sensor solutions.
In this blog, we answer some of the most frequently asked questions we’ve heard from our clients about upgrading to touch-free parts in facility restrooms. We hope to help you avoid some of the common setbacks that cost time and money, and to identify the right solutions for your specific restrooms and budget.
> Identifying health risks in your restroom
> Selecting the right parts for your system and budget
> Popular touch-free brands and solutions
What are the greatest health risks in our restrooms?
Reducing the spread of pathogens in your facility involves a number of considerations, including identifying all of the touch-points that restroom users will come into contact with. That commonly includes things like door handles, flush handles, sink faucets, paper towel dispensers, light switches, and partition door latches.
In a recent faucet handle study conducted by Chicago Faucet’s Special Pathogen’s Lab (one of our preferred touch-free faucet vendors), researchers swabbed various faucet handles in the kitchen of a healthcare facility, and found that as many as 2080 colony forming units (CFU) on each swab.
“While faucets are an essential part of good hand hygiene, faucet handles can sometimes harbor the very bacteria handwashing is intended to fight,” they note in their report.
User Behavior & Communication
If you’ve made an investment to ensure that all touch points are made of anti-microbial material such as silver nitrate, then your touch points are relatively inhospitable to microbes and bacteria already. In this case, one of the greatest health risks in your facility may be communicating those features to users.
If restroom users are not aware that a flush handle or sink faucet are anti-microbial, they may opt not to flush the toilet or not to wash their hands to avoid coming into contact with COVID-19 or other viruses. By not washing their hands, they increase the risk to other users in your facility.
We recommend that anti-microbial touch-points should be labeled visibly, with awareness-building signage so that users feel safe washing their hands. In addition to conveying the safety features of your restroom, signage also conveys to users that your facility is maintained to the highest standard.
Microbe-Growing Touch Points
Many facilities are under pressure to make purchasing decisions based on budget rather than resilience, quality, or other non-financial considerations. If your restroom touch points are made from a porous, microbe-growing material, then you have greater risks than lack of signage. COVID-19 can stay active on surfaces for as much as nine days, depending on the surface. If you’re stuck with touch points, try to get away from decorative faucets or handles with lots of ridges. The more crevices, the more risk.
At The Part Works, we recommend that our customers look at the lifetime budget for materials, installation and maintenance, rather than the upfront per unit cost of materials only. While buying the cheapest solution can save money in the short term, lower-quality products require more frequent maintenance, increasing the demand on engineering staff at a time when trained facility maintenance professionals are in short supply.
What are the most effective touch-free restroom solutions?
If your restroom is not already anti-microbial, then you may be considering upgrading to touch-free solutions to improve facility safety for your end users. There are a number of ways to go “hands free,” for any architectural style.
- Electronic: Likely what you picture when you think of “touch free,” where the touch point senses motion and turns on automatically.
- Manual: A lower-cost option for some touch points, such as paper-towel dispensers, in which users pull on a paper towel to manually populate a towel for the next user.
Some of the most effective solutions we’ve helped customers to implement include:
Sensor faucets come in a number of variations, such as gallon flow, with or without mixing valves, and vandal-protections. Below, we feature some of the series’ we recommend most for no-touch restrooms, however within each series there are a variety of options available. Work with our sales team to identify the exact variation you’ll need for your system.
HyTronic® Series from Chicago Faucets
These German-made and U.S.-manufactured faucets are reliable, high-quality, and offer a long-life solution for your hands-free restroom. Unlike some sensor faucets which cause frustration among users, the HyTronic series has an exceptional detection system, so water turns on and off when it should.
For conservation-minded facilities, the optional SSPS (self-sustaining power supply) in this series also meets the most stringent conservation requirements, including LEED v4. Its long-term power system lasts for over 2 million activations, with an emergency backup power system that guards against water loss during a power outage. The SSPS uses the flow of water to create and store power.
BASYS® by Sloan
The battery-powered deck-mounted faucet from SLOAN’s BASYS series features a commercial grade, electronic, sensor-activated faucet in stainless steel. Sloan BASYS is the faucet of choice for CenturyLink Field, and features a vandal-resistant spray insert, as well as above deck diagnostic indicators for battery life, solenoid conduction, and power up mode.
Our favorite feature is the supply strainer, which is serviceable from above deck, saving you maintenance time and money.
BASYS® by SLOAN
Sloan Optima Series
The newly revamped Optima faucet line brings a wide array of designs to meet many aesthetic preferences and varied installation applications. This plumber-friendly line reduces the time to install, service and maintain, saving 50% or more in service time. With many water savings options and Bluetooth services, this line offers a fit for most applications.
Our favorite feature is the standardized components below deck, reducing the number of replacement parts to stock onsite and reducing training for maintenance techs. These benefits make this a no-brainer for the maintenance facility.
Optima by SLOAN
ELR from Chicago Faucets
The touch-free ligature resistant faucet series from Chicago Faucets was designed for behavioral care and healthcare facilities where ligature points are a concern. It’s a heavy-duty, durable solution with a one-piece cast brass body. What we like most about this solution is the integrated scald protection, which is sealed behind a secure, compact control box.
Scrub Mode Sensor Faucets
Several models (such as the HyTronic and E-Tronic 80 from Chicago Faucets) now offer a ‘scrub mode,’ dispensing water for 60 seconds so that users have plenty of time to follow hand washing recommendations outlined by the CDC.
Hand Dryers/Towel Dispensers
In light of COVID-19, The Part Works recommends facilities consider sensor paper towel distribution in your restrooms.
Air driers, which had been growing in popularity for their sustainability benefits, pose the risk of floating microbes. If a carrier dries their hands with an air dryer, their germs will float in the air for 30 minutes to an hour while others may walk right through it.
Smart Essence™ by San Jamar
While many paper towel dispenser vendors also require facilities to commit to a paper towel subscription, there are a few exceptions. Smart Essence™ by San Jamar provides a touchless solution that is compatible with any brand of paper towel. Dual modes allow you to choose towel out or sensor dispensing, and to adjust your paper length as needed to an 8, 12 or 16” presentation.
VERDEdri® by World Hand Dryer
If you’re interested in an air dryer, consider models with a HEPPA filter. The VERDEdri® series by World Hand Dryer is ADA compliant, comes with a HEPPA filter, and offers a universal voltage pattern to connect with whatever voltage your facility has wired in.
Wherever a hand dryer has been installed, facilities should also place a drip mat beneath it to capture moisture coming off hands. Otherwise, slippery floors pose a safety risk to users of your restroom.
Flush Handles and Flushometers
SOLIS RESS-C from SLOAN
The quiet, solar-powered retrofit flushometer from SLOAN is a user-friendly solution for toilets. It offers a 3-second delay, flashing “low battery” light, infrared sensor with multiple-focused lobular sensing fields, and a AA battery back-up power source.
SOLIS RESS-C harvests power from the artificial indoor light in your restroom to power itself, whether you have incandescent, fluorescent, or LED. Just as good, the fixed metering bypass and no external volume adjustment helps to conserve water. Based on the time spent by each user, the RESS-C determines whether to do a light or larger flush.
“The RESS-C has been very popular in the past few years because it does harvest indoor light to power itself, says Larry Farley, a technical expert at The Part Works. “Still, it’s not our most popular product in that line, because it has more propensity to be vandalized for its solar panel. It can also be more costly to repair if there are problems with the unit.”
To install the unit, you’ll need to remove the cap and use a different drop in kit and electronics, a time intensive installation. Priced at $389 plus specialized diagnostic electronics to help you fix it if it fails, the RESS-C is an investment to go touch-free.
Sloan Side Mount Operator
A budget-friendly alternative is a single flush or dual flush side mount. Rather than removing the cap and installing a new drop in kit, for side mounts you simply remove the existing handle and install the sensor unit in its place. Your system is essentially touch free, but you’re able to use the existing valve covers and the same repair kit you already have in stock.
With no time intensive retrofit necessary, an experienced plumber can install a side mount without even turning the water off. If a repair or vandalism issue arise, you can easily replace the original touch-handle while you fix the side mount unit, reducing downtime in your facility.
If you’re looking for a budget (approx. $167) and time-friendly solution, a side mount may be the right solution for your facility.
How do we know which parts will work with our system?
Our seasoned team of experts are more than happy to come out and help you audit your system and identify the right solutions for your restroom system and budget.
As an essential service, facility teams may need extra support through this time, as many buildings prepare to reopen. The Part Works team upholds the CDC’s standards to ensure that our team, and yours, are safe as we prepare your facility for usage.
Supporting your facilities has always been core to our business model.
“That’s nothing new for us,” Larry says. “The difference is that now we’re receiving more immediate requests than in the past. With an increased need for building walk throughs, we recommend you email or call sooner rather than waiting to order parts amid the rush of reopening.”
Schedule a Building Walk Through
Customers can schedule a building walk through to audit your existing touch points. Our parts experts will identify which touch points are made from microbe-growing materials, as well as which brands will work with your existing plumbing. We’ll also put together an estimate for your upgrade project with brand and pricing options.
Email us to schedule a building walk through to identify touch points and solution variations that will fit your system.
Text us a Photo
If you’ve already identified the touch points you’ll be updating, you can also email or text our technical experts at (206) 900-9093 with a photo of the existing fixture. They’ll be able to help you identify solutions for that specific touch point and put in an order for the exact parts you’ll need.