Tappan push-button plumbing – 1963

tappan-push-button-plumbing-1963ALWAYS ON THE LOOKOUT for something we’ve never seen before, I was ecstatic to find this “Tappan Ultraflo push-button plumbing” innovation. It was featured in a copy of Popular Mechanics (Sept. 1963) that I picked up at Ron’s place last week. According to the story, mysterious unseen solenoids mix the temp magically so you never have to bother with those, what are they called again…oh yeah, faucet handles.  This could be installed in the bathroom, too. Click through to see the groovy wiring diagram and full text.

And let’s hear your guesses… Why do you think this innovation failed?

Note: Get with your own properly licensed expert to assess safety etc.




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  1. Mark E. says

    Ah, but WHO remembers the Electro-Sink-Center, an e-x-p-a-n-d-e-d variation on this theme? Manufactured in Los Angeles (prior to zip codes), they were featured in the kitchen on the set of The Dick Van Dyke Show. Yes, Laura Petrie would fill sauce pans and water glasses with the push of a button. The deluxe version featured matching integral electric motors that powered mixers, blenders, juicers, dough hooks, ice crushers, AND ice cream freezers. These attachments were actually high quality German products. Not to mention the “sterilizing” Puritron bulb and hand-held washing wand that scrubbed plates and skillets by dispensing temperature- adjusted water and detergent. How do I know? My father and his homebuilding business partner bought two of them off the back of a truck long after the company was out of business (sorry, Dad) by succumbing to sales promises from a guy who GUARANTEED they would sell more houses AND Electro-Sink-Centers if ONLY they used them in their own homes.

    Did anyone else have an experience with this gem?

    • MikeC says

      I just found an Electro-Sink-Center, complete, new in the boxes and never installed. All the accessories seem to be there, mixer, ice cream maker, juicer, blender, food processer and most of the manuals. The best part is I was payed to clean out a basement so it was free. Not too sure what to do with it though. I’m guessing one of these in perfect, unused condition is so rare I may have the only one. Any suggestions would be great.

      • Mark Elsesser says

        O wow O wow O wow. I wish I had cleaned out THAT basement. If times weren’t so tough in the cabinet business, I would want to buy it.

    • Dennis says

      Hi Mark E.

      If you still have the Electro-Sink in the boxes and are looking to sell it, I would be interested. Thanks!

    • says

      My mother has an Electro Sink Center and I have kept it going since it was purchased. It is still installed. I rebuilt the whole thing once about 15 years ago. It just keeps working.

  2. John D'Amico says

    What a piece of junk! We are staying in a house with this system. You cannot regulate the flow. One speed, fast! What a waste of water. You also cannot regulate the warmth of the water. The hot is scalding, the warm 1 and warm 2 are cold. To retrofit this water system to regular faucets would cost a fortune since you have to tear out the walls to replace the pipes. Looks impressive, but I would never, never, ever buy a house with this system.

    • Vicki says

      We have had the system for 30 years. Works great, if you know what you are doing and how to set it. We love it, never had a major problem. Only problem is now getting old so sure parts will gradually start to fail, and impossible to find replacements. All those who make fun of this system, don’t know what they are talking about. I have lived with it and used it all my life!!! Still works great.

    • Marti says

      this comment has been edited by Pam. Pam: John — this commenter is suggesting there IS a way to fix this — please consult with a properly licensed professional.

  3. Phydeux says

    Absolutely amazing. Probably failed because either people were losing water service when the power went out, or were being electrocuted in the bathtub trying to warm the water up a bit during a long soak.

    And I just replaced the pushbutton stove my landlord had stuck me with. Probably had original burners too, since they never heated evenly. I could never find a proper temperature to cook eggs at. You had 4 choices, low, tepid, lukewarm, and thermonuclear cremation.

    Now I have nice, modern, radiant electric glass-top stove. Sure, I appreciate the novelty of retro stuff. But the museums can have my old pushbutton stove!

  4. Glenda Thibeau says

    We live in a home with the UltraFlo push button water system…always hold our breath hoping it doesn’t wear out…because we know parts are hard…if not impossible to find. After moving here in Jan. 2011, I am getting accustom to the UltraFlo..however, it would NOT be my choice…and someday we know everything will have to be replaced!

    • Marti Meratla says

      We have the system, my parents put it into our house being built in 1964 in Kettering Ohio – south suburb of Dayton. I was 8 and was the one my dad took to see the system and figure out where to place the panels for kids to reach. We bought my parents house and still have the system. It was upgraded through Doug Didion from Sandusky OH to the newer LED panels with lighted keys to see at night instead of the old buttons shown. It has worked well – except when the power goes out. I love showing the sytem to Plumbers and electricians. It takes up a wall with the panels. It is great for people in wheelchairs too.

      But we took a power surge / lightning strike and one of the sink panels was damaged and will not work. It shows the 4 lights, but will not work. An electrician got it function by plugging in a different sinks electronics, so it is just the panel by the sink. He does not do solid state work, so we are looking for a new panel. Also out kitchen one is cracked at the Warm button. A piece of clear packing tape over it keeps it functioning. But we are in need of parts!!!!! We like the system a lot.

      It does need to be re callibrated for temperature settings between summer and winter some years, but has worked well in 5 sinks, 3 showers and the kitchen sink. We even moved the panel from our master shower and put it to a second sink in there and it works fine!

      So if anyone knows of parts or who will tackle them, please please let me know. I do not want to put in new plumbing to 5 bathrooms!

  5. Jim costello says

    I installed one of these in a model home in Wilkes Barre Pa in about 1976…….just why did it fail to catch on???

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