Effortless access to water is something many of us take for granted. A quick twist, lift, or wave activates water flow from faucets in our homes, providing quick and easy access to ample water for cooking, washing, and more.
But how does the faucet work?
While multiple parts contribute to smooth operation, the faucet cartridge is the unsung hero hard at work behind the scenes.
Hidden inside the faucet, the cartridge is often forgotten or unheard of.
So, how does it work? Let’s find out.
The Inner Workings of a Faucet
Faucets feature various components that allow them to do their jobs effectively. They serve a simple purpose: supplying water when you need it. A simple twist, turn, or lift of the faucet handle engages the water, sending droplets flowing out of the spout.
But how does it work?
It comes down to the parts of the faucet, each working together to ensure smooth functionality. When you turn the handle, you control the water temperature and flow.
As you turn it, inner mechanisms move, allowing the water to move from the supply lines, through the faucet body, and out the spout.
Valves and a cartridge allow this to happen, working based on instructions from the handle, which you can easily control with a simple movement. When the water reaches the top of the spout, it moves through an aerator or a small screen with tiny holes that add air to the water.
And just like that, you have water. It happens in a split second, so the time between turning the handle and the water exiting the spout is minimal.
The Role of a Cartridge
The cartridge in a faucet serves a vital role: to regulate and control water flow through the setup. Faucet cartridges are the creation of none other than Al Moen, founder of plumbing giant Moen.
The tale of the cartridge’s inception goes back many years to when Al washed his hands and scalded himself.
The incident inspired Al Moen to create change, which he achieved by developing the faucet cartridge. The early conceptions of the cartridge are far different than those we see in modern faucets, but the general concept remains the same.
Cartridges: The Specifics
Modern cartridges are made with ceramic, plastic, or brass, although plastic and ceramic are most common. The durable materials allow the cartridges to function well for many years, ensuring your faucet doesn’t encounter premature leaks or drips.
The cartridge rests inside the faucet body, joining the handle with the rest of the assembly. It features strategically placed holes that allow water to flow when you turn the handle on but effectively block water flow when the handle is off.
Manufacturers have carefully designed the holes to allow temperature adjustments with a simple twist.
For example, think of a standard single-handle bathroom faucet. When you twist the handle to the left, hot water comes out. Tepid water comes out when the handle is in the middle, and cool water flows out when the handle is all the way on the right side.
The design of the holes facilitates the temperature changes, allowing hot and cold water flow based on the position of the handle. Furthermore, the design also helps control the amount of water spewing from the faucet.
The higher you lift the handle, the more water will come out of the tap, but when you lift the handle slightly above its closed position, a small trickle will come out.
The specific way the cartridge allows this to happen varies based on the model you have. Some models employ rubber washers, ceramic disks, or a rotating ball.
For example, consider a model that employs a ceramic disk. A stem connects it to the handle at the top of the cartridge. When you move the handle, it moves the stem, which causes a chain reaction throughout the assembly.
The disks move over each other, adjusting to expose holes in the assembly. The hole that is exposed varies based on the way you rotate the handle. One direction opens the hole responsible for hot water flow, while the other allows cool water. The open hole lets water move through, sending water to your faucet for use.
A Watertight Seal
Plastic and ceramic don’t create watertight seals against a valve seat, so manufacturers had to adapt to ensure proper functionality. So, to correct the problem and create a snug seal, they use rubber gaskets and O-rings.
These gaskets and O-rings are located in the valve seat and around the cartridge, effectively creating a watertight seal that prevents water from flowing when the faucet is off. Without these rubber components, the cartridge wouldn’t be able to seal properly, thus allowing water to flow when the faucet is off.
This is why many manufacturers recommend that customers check the cartridge first when dealing with a pesky leak or drip. If the O-rings or gaskets are worn out or unseated, they can’t do their job correctly and may allow the faucet to leak.
Many homeowners can remedy the leak by replacing worn-out pieces or reseating the misplaced parts within minutes.
However, it’s important to note that not all cartridges feature rubber components for sealing. Some are manufactured with precision, allowing the plastic or ceramic to do the job without help from a rubber component effectively.
Do All Faucets Have Cartridges?
Not all faucets have cartridges. Instead, some are designed with a compression system that regulates water, while others feature a ball valve setup.
It’s common for older faucets to have different systems in place to control water flow, while more modern faucets usually have a cartridge.