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?tappan-push-button-plumbing-1963-wiring-diagram


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  1. Femme1 says

    I saw pushbuttons like this in a bathroom once when we were looking at houses for sale. Of course, I was charmed and fascinated, and wanted to buy the house, even though the rest of the place was pretty shabby. Cooler heads prevailed.

    Betcha these came out around the same time as pushbutton transmissions on cars. Just seemed like pushbuttons were SO space age and modern.

  2. sablemable says

    This is new. Never knew it existed. Probably failed like the Rambler cars that had push button transmission-the keys stuck.

  3. says

    Oh’ wow. I don’t remember the push button plumbing. But, I do remember the Rambler car that sable mentioned in her comment. My parents had one. I remember most that it didn’t run! :)

    Great site!!


  4. says

    We have a mess of solenoids in the basement of our 1961 ranch house that runs our switches, light fixtures and some outlets. It is powered by a dual dial G.E. switching system. The original owner even had one of the 10 stations dedicated to an outlet in the kitchen so he could turn on his coffee maker (before coffee makers got smart on their own!).

    Having lived with this for nine years, I can tell you that if one of the solenoids fails, the whole system goes down! Usually on a major holiday too, haha. Perhaps that is why this innovation didn’t take hold?

  5. John says

    My grandparents had these in their house in Westchester, custom built in 1965. They were working until the early 80’s but I think it was impossible to get someone out to fix them (along with the remote push button electric stove, drapes, electric driveway heaters, awnings, etc. I think one my grandfather’s accounts was GE and they got him some kind of deal on these gadgets.

  6. Happy Daze says

    While these seem really cool and futuristic, I can understand why they never caught on. I saw a renovating show covering the renovation of a bathroom that included push-button faucets. The homeowners hated the button system because it was impossible to regulate the water temperature – they were stuck with cold, lukewarm, or scalding.

  7. Joe says

    My dad has always been addicted to all the latest gadgets for home and garden. He’s in his 80’s, so he’s seen it all! He tells me he thought these pushbutton faucets were the greatest thing ever invented when they first came out, but was quickly “talked out of it” by salesmen and my mom. The salesmen expected tons of sales just because it was something new but felt that one person’s idea of the “perfect warm setting” was not the same as someone else’s. My mom, ever the practical one, simply stated “No. We’re not getting it. If the power goes out, we can’t get any water!

    • pam kueber says

      Great story, Joe. So this post gave you a reason to call or see your Dad and ask him for his memories? SO COOL! What else does he have to tell us?!

  8. Judy P. says

    Very cool! My Aunt still has and uses her push button stove. The push buttons are above where the vent-a-hood is.

  9. Elaine says

    My first car was a 1962 Rambler Classic with the push button automatic. It worked great. I loved that car, it was so dorky-looking, but the back seat made into a full size bed.

    These push buttons for the water are interesting. I have a water temperature select knob in my shower. It works by establishing the correct mix, and is not electronic. No matter where you set the temp, though, you have to let it run awhile to get up to operating temperature. Husband likes 110, I like 85, so luckily it is easily adjustable.

  10. Beejay says

    WE have lived with this system for 13 years. Where can we get parts for it? Anyone interested in “retroing” your house, make an offer on the system…………..

  11. Erica says

    My high school boyfriend had a 1963 Plymouth Valiant with push button transmission. (This was in 1995). ’63 must have been a button year!

  12. Barb says

    The system didn’t actually fail. Our home was built in 1963 with the system throughout the main floor. However,when the man who developed the system, Doug Didion died suddenly from a heart attack sometime around 2001, the family, rather than pull together & keep the business running, fought to the point that they simply closed it down. At one point there was a warehouse full of parts, but no one seems to know what happened to those. Consequently, as the diaphrams dry out & you lose a solenoid you slowly lose your system. We have searched for years for parts & are now preparing to replace the system with a standard system. If anyone out there has found a place to get parts please post it as I would love to keep our system!

  13. Gary G says

    I have the system and have only changed the seals 3 times in 29 Years. Email team4747 [at] yahoo [dot] com for a few spart parts.
    Good luck

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

  16. 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!

  17. 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!

  18. 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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