Plumbing giant’ Moen dies

DESTIN, FLA. — Alfred M. Moen, 84, died April 17 at his home here. Moen is best known for his invention of the single-handle mixing faucet.

Its creation eventually led to the formation of Moen Inc., one of the world’s largest producers of residential and commercial plumbing products. The company employs 3,500 and is headquartered in North Olmsted, Ohio; it is an operating company of Fortune Brands.

Moen’s business card identified him as “Inventor,” but it took an on-the-job mishap to lead Moen to his first–and most famous — invention, the single-handle mixing faucet.

Today, more than 70% of the kitchen faucets sold in the United States are the single-handle type, according to the company.
“Al Moen was a giant in the plumbing industry,” said Bruce Carbonari, Moen’s chairman and CEO. “The conveniences many of us enjoy in our homes today came from the ideas of this gentle, inventive man.”

The circumstances that led to Moen’s first of many inventions occurred while he was working in a garage as a student at the University of Washington in 1937. He burned his hands while washing them using a conventional two-handle faucet.

Plumbing-giant'-Moen-dies

“The hot water came on sooner than I expected,” he once said. “It got me thinking that you ought to get what you wanted out of a faucet. The more I thought about it, the more I was convinced that a single-handle mixing faucet was the answer, so I began to make some drawings.”

The first Moen single-handle faucets were sold in 1947. By 1950, the faucet reached national respectability. Homes built during the 1950s’ building boom typically included single-handle faucets.

Fortune magazine honored the Moen single-handle faucet twice: the first was a 1959 survey of the world’s leading designers that named the faucet as one of the top 100 best designed mass-produced products of modern times. In 1991, Moen faucets were included as “100 of America’s Best.” Moen was also honored by the plumbing industry, being named to the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling-Piping Hall of Fame in 1991 and the Kitchen & Bath Hall of Fame in 1993.

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Moen, who headed Moen Inc.’s research and development group until his retirement in 1982, held more than 75 patents, including the replaceable cartridge (eliminating washers), the screen aerator, push-button shower valve diverter, swivel spray, pressure-balancing shower valve and flow-control aerator. But many of his patents were in fields totally unrelated to plumbing.

A man of varied interests, he was a championship roller skater, and learned to fly a twin-engine plan in 1960. Rather than being instructed on a conventional aircraft, Moen learned to fly in a float-plane. At age 78, he piloted his own plane from his retirement home in Destin to attend Moen Inc.’s dedication ceremony for its new headquarters in North Olmsted (near Cleveland) on Al Moen Drive.

Moen’s wife, Barbe, died in Florida in 1988. His son David also preceded him in death. He is survived by his daughter, Christine, of Destin; son Eric of North Ridgeville, Ohio; daughter-in-law Edie Moen of Gibsonia, Pa., and several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.