High-Water Marks: Best Buys in Kitchen Faucets & Sinks

The latest kitchen faucets are easier to reach than ever before, have better motion-activated sensors and include built-in water-filtration systems. Meanwhile, most manufacturers now make kitchen faucets that are stricter on flow rate than the federal government’s mandate.

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Not long ago, manufacturers raced to make the arc of their kitchen faucets higher. Today, manufacturers realize that it can be difficult for a shorter person to reach a high-arcing faucet, so they’re bringing back shorter, easier-to-reach faucet lines.

Meanwhile, motion-sensing technology, which was prone to accidental triggering or outright failure, improved. Also, more kitchen faucets than ever before meet or exceed the strictest water-conserving rules.

What’s best of all is that we found that prices for most kitchen faucets remained steady or even dropped. Prices for premium faucet lines increased in the past 3 years but only by 5 percent to 8 percent, according to National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA), which is a trade organization.

EASIER TO REACH. Previously, we noted that high-arc faucets soared as much as 30 inches above the base. That’s still the high-water mark.

However, manufacturers started to make low-profile (8 inches or less) single-handle pull-down sprayer faucets that minimize the need to stretch to pull the spray head. Almost all manufacturers now have at least one line of low-profile sprayer faucets, and the models cost as little as $200.

Speaking of reach, we found that most pull-down sprayers are at least 10 inches from the front of the sink. However, Delta’s Pilar ($560) places the sprayer just 8 inches from the front of the sink by extending the spout forward. NKBA expects more manufacturers to introduce short-reach kitchen faucets in the next 3 years.

“The idea of a short-reach faucet certainly makes sense ergonomically,” says John Petrie, who has designed kitchens for 30 years and served as NKBA president in 2014.

Meanwhile, Pfister’s Elevate ($352) and the Princeton Brass PKS8988DKL ($720) are the only kitchen faucets that can be adjusted to multiple heights. The Elevate is adjusted by pressing a release button and raising or lowering the spout, so the faucet hangs 8–11 inches above the base. The PKS8988DKL is adjusted by raising or lowering a clamp to hang from 6-5/8 inches to 19 inches above the base. We found that it’s easy to adjust the height of either faucet, and we believe that it’s beneficial if two people of different heights/reaches often use the sink. We haven’t heard of any other manufacturer that plans to introduce an adjustable-height faucet, however.

Slow Changes in Sink Depth

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HANDS OFF. Manufacturers struggled to develop a hands-free, motion-sensing on/off control for kitchen faucets, because motion-sensing infrared sensors were prone to accidental triggering from the ambient light that was in a room. The good news is that sensor technology improved in the past 3 years, and we found that all three of the latest motion-sensing faucets work smoothly without the light-triggering glitches of the past. In fact, the latest motion-sensing faucets work so well that you should think about where the sensor is placed on the faucet body.

Pfister’s new Response Activated Technology (REACT), which is available on its Lita, Pasadena and Selia faucets (starting at $200), positions the motion sensor low on the faucet body and activates the water stream when your hand comes within 4 inches of the sensor. We found that the low-position sensor makes the faucet easier for children to activate, because children have a shorter reach. However, we found that the low-position sensor also puts your arm or hand in the flow of the water when the faucet turns on.

A high-position sensor makes it more difficult to accidentally douse your own sleeve. Kohler’s Sensate line (starting at $688), which was introduced in March 2013, has the sensor positioned within the arc of the faucet above the faucet head.

Moen’s MotionSense (starting at $625), which was introduced in 2013, is the only kitchen faucet that uses two independent sensors to activate the faucet in two different ways. One sensor that’s on top of the faucet’s arc turns on the water when you wave your hand above the faucet, just like Kohler’s Sensate. A second sensor that’s mounted within the arc activates the water and keeps it running as long as it detects your hand or another object, such as a pot or a dish. The water stops as soon as the object is removed. No other faucet sensor detects the presence of items in the sink.

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