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If you’ve ever stood in front of a faucet or an infrared towel or soap dispenser waving your hands but unable to activate the device, you’ve experienced a common frustration. In fact, it’s that annoyance that inspired the engineers at Delta Faucet to create a better technology. Activating a faucet without having to touch it is a great idea to help keep your bathroom clean, but only if it works.

“About 10 years ago, the engineers here started thinking about touch technology and ways to solve problems,” says Joel Sawaski, a Delta design engineer. “Infrared sensors are finicky, and it can be difficult to find the right area to place your hands. We knew there had to be a better way of doing things.”

Infrared sensors have some drastic limitations. They require the product to be engineered to contain a sensor, which can create design limitations. They also don’t work well in bright light, which can blind the sensor, and have difficulty sensing some colors. “Infrared sensors might not work if they’re scratched, dirty or worn out,” Joel says. “Once the sensor is broken, the faucet is toast.”

Taking a fresh approach, Delta design engineers began to think about capacitance, which is the ability to store a charge between two surfaces. If you’ve ever used a touch lamp or a smart phone, you’re already familiar with this technology. Capacitance creates a detection field that can be interrupted to trigger a device to activate. For a faucet, that means when your hand interrupts the detection field, the water turns on. 

Delta Faucet introduced the first touch-activated faucet under the Delta brand in 2008 and has expanded the line from there. In 2011, the company introduced Touch2O.xt hands-free products for the home bathroom.

“When we introduced capacitance to our Touch2O.xt faucets and accessories, the product became the sensor,” Joel says. “This way, we don’t have to package a separate infrared sensor. Capacitance creates a four-to-six inch field around the faucet.” With an infrared sensor, your hands must be directly in the water-flow area to activate the faucet. Capacitance allows you to turn the water on and let it run to warm up before you get your hands wet. The water runs for up to two minutes before automatically shutting off.

Infrared_vs_Capacitance_Article-Side-Small.jpgAfter seeing the successful application of capacitance technology to faucets and soap dispensers, the engineers knew they were onto something groundbreaking. “In the Research and Development Department, we’re big on patents,” Joel says. They patented the idea for how a faucet works with capacitance, making Delta Faucet the only company that can offer this technology in faucets and soap dispensers while the patents are active. 

They also realized that not everyone would immediately take to turning on a faucet without touching it, so they made sure it worked in the traditional way as well. “If a person who knows nothing about this faucet comes up and grabs the handle to turn it on, it will deliver water,” Joel says. You can activate the flow of water three ways: manually with the handle, with a touch anywhere on the spout or faucet handle, or by placing your hands near the faucet.

As for durability, unlike infrared sensors, capacitance cannot wear out. Some models require a battery pack, but the latest versions have an optional AC power supply that is specially designed to work with Delta products. Products with Touch2O.xt Technology are available at retailers, and can be a DIY installation.

“When our industrial designers come up with a concept for a new faucet design, this easily connects up to it,” Joel says. “We have hundreds of choices, instead of offering only a few styles and finishes. If you find a bathroom faucet you like, chances are it comes with Touch2O.xt Technology.”

Learn more about products with Delta Touch2O.xt Technology.