Lever taps and possible alternatives

Lever taps and possible alternatives

If you have difficulty turning taps on or off you may wish to consider purchasing lever taps. Most lever taps only require a quarter turn to turn the tap fully on/off, although half and full turn taps are also available. A lever length of 75mm to 85mm long is recommended as sufficient for most people's circumstances (COT 2006, p11). You will require someone with adequate plumbing skills to fit these taps.

The design of the lever handles may make a difference to their ease of use, considering the user’s ability to grip. Levers may be rather thin, making them harder to grip for some people. Broader ceramic handles or flatter wide handles may be easier. Some handles have a paddle shape on the end which is easier to push/pull on. Lever taps with Braille labels are available for those who are blind or partially sighted.

Lever taps are available in the following main categories.

Single lever taps are individual taps with lever handles, one tap for hot, one for cold. They may be designed for wall or base-mounting.

Single lever mixer taps have the temperature and flow rate operated by a single lever. Some have top levers which move up and down to turn on/off and swivel side to side for hot/cold. Others have side levers which move out and in to turn on/off and turn back and forwards for hot/cold.

Twin lever mixer taps have separate, lever-operated hot and cold water controls, with the water flowing through a single spout.

Elbow (Medical) lever taps have extended levers (160mm approx) that can be operated by pushing with the elbow. These are often used in medical/dental settings but are commercially available for single and mixer taps.

Knee and/or foot controls have a horizontal lever extending under the basin for operation by knee; or a floor plate, pedal or lever for operation by foot. Some automatically shut off after preset time period. These vary in style and shape of the lever, but will give extra leverage when turning the tap/s on/off.

Lever head tap conversion kits
If you are happy with your existing taps, you may be able to keep them and just change the tap head to a lever design. Several tap head conversion kits are available, for both basin and bath taps. Care should be taken to select the appropriate kit for the differing size of the taps, this is generally 1/2 inch to fit basin taps and 3/4 inch to fit bath taps. Some have a conversion adapter to allow one kit to fit either size. You may require a plumber or handy person to fit these conversion kits.

Tap turners
Alternatively, consider purchasing tap turners. These are plastic lever handles that fit over the tap head, and give you extra leverage when turning a tap on or off. There are a variety of designs to fit the various types of tap (the main difference being cross-head or crystal-style taps). Some define themselves as ‘universal. They are easy to fit, usually just sitting over the tap head. Some require tightening. As they are usually red and blue or marked with these colours, they can be very helpful to distinguish between hot and cold.

Alternative types of taps

There are other types of taps which can make them easier to use, including:

Joystick controlled taps have a joystick instead of a lever. This controls both temperature and flow.

Toggle action taps have a long joystick or toggle which requires only a small degree of movement to operate.

Self-closing taps

  • Press lever taps are operated by resting a hand on the press lever, taking very little effort. They run for a predetermined period before stopping.
  • Push-down taps generally have a knob on the top. Pushing this down allows the water flow to continue for a predetermined period.

Remote controls can be obtained for some taps, in a number of designs. These enable the control part of the tap to be sited on a wall or surface away from the tap/spout unit. This may be useful when a carer needs to easily access the controls.

Automatic touchless sensor taps have an inbuilt sensor, usually in the stem of the tap. This registers when a persons’ hands are in situ below the tap and activates the water flow. These taps are usually battery powered.

Thermostatic mixing valves
If considering a mixer tap, look for ones which have a 'point of use' or 'outlet' thermostatic mixing valve (TMV). This blends the hot and cold water to ensure constant, safe outlet temperatures, preventing scalding. They may be called thermostat taps. They maintain the pre-set temperatures even if the water pressure varies when other appliances are used and provide a high level protection against scalding and thermal shock (Disabled Living Foundation 2017).

Advice last checked: 22 May 2019 Next check due: 22 May 2022

All advice is either supported by references (cited in the text) or is based upon peer reviewed professional opinion. Our advice is impartial and not influenced by sponsors or product suppliers listed on the site.
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