If you are a foreigner visiting the UK for the first time, you might have noticed something very strange about their taps… like, that there’s two of them! When visiting the United Kingdom, tourists usually find the fact that there are two taps in the UK to be quite unusual. It’s just way too many choices for those of us who are used to a mixed tap! And where’s the warm water?! So why does the UK have this strange detail and who thought it was a good idea? We did some research and discovered the real reasons behind the UK’s strange two-tap set up. Here they are:
The plumbing in the UK is very different. The hot and cold water come from separate sources via separate pipes which makes it very hard to combine both hot and cold water into one outflow of water. Many British houses also date back to the 19th and early 20th centuries, before water mixers and modern valves appeared. When internal plumbing was introduced, it began with a simple system sending cold water directly from the network to the kitchen. Hot water was added later, separately. Thus, a dual system was created.
Second, hot water used to be considered unsafe for drinking, since it was heated in the tank commonly found in the house’s attic, hence giving them a reason to separate the hot and cold water. These tanks could be infected with dead rats and other unsanitary things. These days, although the hot water is most likely perfectly safe, the tradition seems to have stuck. Two taps are not just found in old housing; even buildings fitted with brand new sinks usually have two separate taps.
In the UK, there’s a law that prohibits mixing cold water and hot water from a boiler. Previously, a special cylinder was an obligatory part of the boiler. The water could go stale and the cylinder could rust, making the water unsuitable for drinking. Apparently, this didn’t stop people from mixing water, and it was necessary to introduce a law prohibiting mixing cold water, suitable for drinking, with hot water from the cylinder. DWI still advises residents of the UK not to use hot water or water from bathroom taps for drinking or cooking because it usually comes from “a storage tank in the loft” and is not as fresh or as safe as water “directly from the mains.”
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