If you’re itching to do some spring projects but the weather refuses to cooperate, we may have found the perfect indoor Sunday job for do-it-yourselfers: Replace the cranky old kitchen faucet with a svelte, high-tech Moen Essie Pull-Down Touchless Faucet.
What makes the Essie high-tech is a motion sensor on the side of the faucet. Simply pass your hand across it and the water flows. Moen calls the feature MotionSense Wave. To turn it off, you wave at it again; the temperature is set by whatever position you left the single handle in. The benefit is that your hands can be covered with pastry or turmeric or you can be holding a raw turkey and you don’t have to touch the handle. And the Moen Essie complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act specifications for those who may have problems always using a faucet handle or knobs.
When your hands are free and you want to rinse off something in the sink, there’s a pull-down sprayer that retracts automatically back into the faucet when you’re done. For about $300 retail, at Home Depot for instance, Moen offers Essie in a package with all the necessary hardware (lines, plates, connectors, etc., plus a soap dispenser).
Plumbing chores are not among my favorite DIY projects, I’ll admit (carpentry, painting, basic electrical work, and sundry other travails all come out ahead). However, I had replaced components in my old Delta faucet several times, and it was on its last set of springs and washers. Furthermore, the idea of being able to wash and prep and handle raw meat without using my wrist to turn the water on and off – not to mention the opportunity to avoid picking up something unmentionable from those sniffling in the house – made the Moen Essie irresistible.
In spite of its apparent complexity, the Moen Essie is relatively straightforward to install. There’s the 15.73-inch high spout that includes enough topside hardware to accommodate a 1, 2, 3 or 4-hole sink. Underneath, the hose connects to a control box that in turn connects to the hot and cold lines and to a power box. The last item takes 6 AA batteries, acknowledging the fact that most of us don’t happen to have an AC outlet under the sink. But if you do have an outlet, there’s an optional power adapter available.
There are only two hitches: First, you have to conduct most of the installation awkwardly twisting yourself under the sink. Second, while you might have most of the tools you’ll need rolling around in the utility drawer, there’s one you may not: a basin wrench. It’s a long-handled tool designed specifically to attack (from underneath) the bolt that holds the faucet onto the sink and counter. Basin wrenches cost from $10 to $30 with the more expensive models giving you more grip.
The most difficult aspect of the project is removing the old faucet. If it’s been in there for years, anticipate that it’s going to be rusted into place, which may require soaking the fixture with a product like Liquid Wrench to loosen it up. Once you’ve cleared away the original faucet, the Moen Essie is relatively easy to install. The feeder lines have 3/8-inch compression fittings and matched up with my existing valves. The control box clips onto the underside of the faucet. The last item, the power box, can be hung to the left or right underneath the sink using a screw or supplied sticky pads.
If you don’t want to spend an afternoon on your back under the sink, a professional plumber can handle the whole installation in less than 2 hours (barring any unforeseen problems). Once it’s in place, you’ll be happy you made the upgrade. The Moen Essie is not merely some cosmetic update.
After several months of use, I’ve found the faucet’s features indispensable. The motion sensor is sensitive – but not too sensitive. A quick wave of your hand within a couple of inches of the sensor near the base of the faucet easily triggers the water; another wave turns it off. Occasionally, I have found myself inadvertently turning it off when I reached for the soap, but otherwise, it has been trouble free. And should you turn it on and forget to turn it off (or the cat manages to turn it on when you’re away), there’s a failsafe timer that automatically shuts the water off after 2 minutes.
So I’ve quickly become accustomed to the Moen Essie, and it has worked as anticipated. It has meant better hygiene and cleaner habits in the kitchen, plus there was one unexpected benefit: Better water pressure.
Those of us of a certain generation remember what good water pressure felt like (like ambrosia pounding on your skin). Water conservation efforts killed all of that and in many municipalities, you have to install newer, water-saving fixtures. The Moen Essie faucet conforms to most requirements with a 1.5 gallon per minute flow (versus 2.2 gpm), but it also has a nifty trick up its spout. A button near the top allows you to toggle between a standard flow and a power spray. By channeling the water through fewer, narrower sprays, the faucet thus increases the force of the water, giving it the power to knock leftovers off of dishes, chocolate out of bowls, and sticky eggs off of frying pans.
Will the Moen Essie touchless faucet make you a better cook or look like that woman dressed in pristine white floating through her kitchen? Uh, no. But among all the weekend home projects you could choose from, this is one of the best we’ve found yet.