Home » Types of Faucets

Showdown: Air Gap vs. Non-Air Gap Faucet Comparison

This post may contain affiliate links. If you use these links to buy something we may earn a small commission. Thanks.

If you’re renovating or building a new kitchen, you’ll need to consider what kitchen faucet types or trusted faucet brands you may want to choose.

If you’re trying to get a faucet that purifies water then you’ve probably looked into Reverse Osmosis (RO) systems.

There are primarily two kinds of RO systems: Air gap and Non-air gap faucets.

My wife and I have an RO system so we had to do a bunch of research on air gap vs non-air gap faucets. Both of these faucets will purify your water in different ways. But which is better?

Let’s get this showdown started!

air gap vs non air gap reverse osmosis faucet in kitchen

What is a Reverse Osmosis Faucet System?

A reverse osmosis faucet system works to remove impurities from water by using a semipermeable membrane

Generally, a system installed under your sink purifies your water, then dispenses it from a dedicated faucet mounted on the countertop. 

You’ll often find them used in: 

  • Homes with poor-quality tap water
  • Homes that want to ensure their drinking water is as pure as possible. 

These systems are commonly used to remove contaminants such as:

  • Lead
  • Arsenic
  • Chlorine

There are two different types of reverse osmosis systems: Air gap and non air gap faucets.

Reverse osmosis faucet in kitchen

What is an Air Gap Faucet and How Does it Work?

Air gap faucets work by preventing contaminated water from flowing back into your clean water supply. They have an air gap built into the base of the faucet. As the system purifies water, the impurities never re-enter the water supply because the air gap serves as a backflow prevention.

They also serve as a visual indicator of backflow, allowing potential problems to be detected and corrected quickly. 

On air gap faucets you’ll notice a small, raised channel between the faucet and the sink or countertop where the water comes out. This provides a physical barrier, preventing water from flowing back into the faucet. 

Often, air gap faucets are used in:

  • Commercial kitchens
  • Laboratories
  • Other settings where water contamination is a problem.

What is a Non-Air Gap Faucet and How Does it Work?

On the other hand, non-air gap faucets are designed for use with a water filtration system. Unlike air gap faucets, they have no physical barrier between the water outlet and sink or countertop. 

These faucets work by blocking the flow of water if there is a drop in pressure or a change in direction, which could indicate that backflow is present. 

The whole system relies on backflow prevention devices, such as check valves or vacuum breakers, to prevent contaminated water from returning to the clean water supply.

In residential settings, non-air gap faucets are often installed under sinks or countertops for water filtration.

Quick Summary: Air Gap vs. Non-Air Gap Faucet:

I’ve pulled together this handy table for you to compare and contrast air gap and non-air gap faucets at a glance, though I’ll go through everything in more detail further down.

Air Gap FaucetNon-Air Gap Faucet
Backflow PreventionExtremely effective, creates a physical barrierAdequate, but may be less effective
Compliance with CodesOften required, especially in commercial settingsCheck with local authority for compliance
MaintenanceRegular cleaning to prevent debris accumulationInspect and test backtflow prevention device
CostGenerally more expensiveMore affordable, but factor in backflow prevention
Installation considerationsRequires more space, compatible with filtration systemEasier to install, requires less space, must be installed correctly and compatible with filtration

Going with an air gap faucet may make sense if:

  • You prioritize the highest level of backflow prevention
  • You’re concerned about water contamination
  • You live in a dual-purpose commercial building or area
  • You want to ensure code and regulation compliance.

On the other hand, you may want to choose a non-air gap faucet if:

  • You’re on a budget
  • You live in a residential setting
  • You have limited space
  • You want a more straightforward installation process.

Both kinds of faucets have limited faucet flow rates because they are much smaller systems and have to purify the water first.

Deep Dive: Air Gap vs. Non-Air Gap Faucet: What are the Differences?

Now that you know how the different types of faucets work, I’m sure you’re wondering what the differences between air gap and non air gap faucets actually are.

Well, let’s go on a deep dive together into their key differences to help you make your decision!

1. Backflow prevention

Air gap faucets create a physical barrier between the sink and water outlet, making it extremely effective at preventing backflow. 

The backflow prevention device in non-air gap faucets may be less effective than an air gap, but I find they can still be adequate for protecting against backflow.

2. Compliance with codes and regulations

Codes and regulations often require air gap faucets, especially in commercial settings where water contamination is a concern. 

Though your renovation is probably for your home, you should check with your local authority to be sure your chosen faucet complies with codes and regulations.

3. Maintenance

When you have an air gap faucet, you need to make sure that you’re cleaning and maintaining it regularly. This will stop debris from accumulating in the gap and potentially causing backflow. 

While air gap faucets may require less maintenance, it’s still important to inspect and test your backflow prevention device periodically.

4. Cost

Generally, air gap faucets cost more due to their complexity, compared to non-air gap faucets. 

A non-air gap faucet may be more affordable, but you should factor in the cost of the backflow prevention device.

5. Installation considerations

Air gap faucets require more space between the faucet and sink or countertop to accommodate the gap, which may not be possible in every kitchen. 

In most cases, non-air gap faucets are easier to install and require less space. However, you’ll have to make sure the backflow prevention device is installed correctly.

You’ll also need to make sure your chosen faucet is compatible with your water filtration system.

Reverse osmosis faucet in kitchen

Common Questions About Air Gap and Non Air Gap Faucets

Do I need an air gap for my faucet?

Your specific circumstances will determine if you require an air gap faucet. Consider your location, plumbing codes, and the level of risk of water contamination. You may also want to consult with a plumber.

What is a faucet air gap used for?

Air gap faucets are an RO system that prevent contaminated water from flowing back into clean water supplies. It does this by creating a physical barrier or gap between the water outlet and the sink or countertop.

Does a kitchen sink need an air gap?

In some cases, a kitchen sink may need an air gap to comply with local plumbing codes and regulations, or to provide an extra layer of protection against water contamination.

What happens if you don’t have an air gap?

If you don’t have an air gap, contaminated water can potentially flow back into the clean water supply, posing a risk of water contamination and potential health hazards.

Can you use a faucet without an aerator?

While it’s possible to use a faucet without an aerator, doing so can cause issues such as splashing, uneven water flow, and increased water usage.

The Verdict: Air Gap vs. Non-Air Gap Faucet, What’s Better? 

When choosing between an air gap and a non-air gap faucet, there isn’t necessarily a one-size-fits-all answer. Both options have advantages and disadvantages, and the decision ultimately depends on your specific circumstances and needs. 

Ultimately, it’s essential to weigh up the pros and cons carefully. You may also want to consult a professional plumber so that you can make an informed decision.

In my opinion, an air gap faucet is worth spending money on and making space for. If you are looking for the highest quality option, why not choose what’s used in commercial kitchens? 

While it may be more expensive and require more maintenance, the extra layer of protection against backflow and water contamination is invaluable. You’re also unlikely to fail strict plumbing regulations if you go with an air gap faucet. 

Ultimately, while both options have advantages and disadvantages, an air gap faucet is the way to go if you prioritize safety and compliance.

Photo of author

Richmond Howard

Richmond Howard started My Plumbing DIY in 2022 to help people solve all their home plumbing issues. He and his wife have been problem solving DIY issues all around their fixer-upper house they bought in 2018. His goal is to build My Plumbing DIY into the one stop shop for home plumbing needs so that people can save money and time.

Leave a Comment