4 FM quick reads on plumbing systems
1. Minimizing Water Waste, Maximizing Savings
New plumbing products and systems have come a long way in performance and water conservation in recent years. Unfortunately, restrooms in many institutional and commercial facilities continue to use outdated and inefficient plumbing fixtures, valves, toilets and faucets that contribute to water waste and drive up utility costs.
By identifying top water wasters in restrooms and fine-tuning inspection, maintenance, and monitoring procedures, maintenance and engineering managers can eliminate or minimize water waste. They also can use benchmarks to determine whether a plumbing retrofit is the most appropriate course of action.
Outdated technology, piping leaks, and seal leaks are three of the top water-wasters in restroom plumbing systems. Old fixtures — those made before 1992, when regulations on low-flow showerheads, toilets, urinals, and sink faucets went into effect — used twice as much water as newer fixtures. This combination can make it difficult for managers to hold the line on utility budgets, especially when added to continued water and sewer rate increases.
Allowing water to run when fixtures are not in use is another water-waster. This situation can result from leaking valve gaskets and fittings, as well as corroded piping. It also can result from leaking toilet seals that go unnoticed because they are hidden under floors or in walls. Only when the water shows up in another area as puddles on floors or soggy wallboard can technicians trace the leak back to the source.
Clogs in toilets, tubs, and showers that result in overflows also are culprits. Often, but not always, building occupants spot and report them right away, due to the water on floors.
Vigilance is the best defense against wasted water in restroom plumbing systems. The sooner technicians can identify the source, the quicker they can prevent water waste. Regular, preventive inspections are the surest way to spot and correct problems.
The first and least costly method to eliminate waste is to look for leaks and high flow rates and, where detected, to replace leaking fixtures, faucet aerators, shower heads, and toilet valves with the newer products that use less water. Replacing high-flow restrictors with low-flow restrictors can reduce water consumption at each faucet by 50 percent.
2. Plumbing Retrofits
I'm Dan Hounsell, editor of Maintenance Solutions magazine. Today's topic is plumbing retrofits.
Nothing makes an organization focus on water conservation like a 100-year drought. Just ask Mark Duclos, director of maintenance and operations with the University of Georgia. The university is the largest water user in Athens-Clarke County in Georgia, and Duclos and his department were responsible for monitoring water use on campus and identifying ways to conserve amidst a 100-year drought that peaked in fall 2007. The first step in their efforts was putting together a task force.
"The task force was in direct response to the drought we were going through at the time," Duclos says. "The task force was put together not only to meet the governor's 10 percent mandate, but also to look at the university, as a whole to see what we could do to be better stewards."
The task force determined a significant percentage of campus water use stems from plumbing fixtures - sinks, urinals, toilets, and showers. Duclos and his department already had begun analyzing water use on campus a few years before the drought hit, but the arid conditions created by the drought expedited fixture retrofits designed to save water and reduce the frequency of inspection and maintenance.
As maintenance and engineering managers inside and outside water-stricken regions of the country focus on water conservation and undertake large-scale retrofits to comply with sustainability plans, programs to monitor water use, along with advances in plumbing-fixture technology, are playing central roles in many organizations' efforts to curtail water waste.
3. Plumbing-system specification
I'm Dan Hounsell, editor of Maintenance Solutions magazine. Today's topic is plumbing-system specification.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released a new WaterSense final specification for flushing urinals. Flushing urinals that meet this final specification will use no more than 0.5 gallons per flush (gpf), which is one-half of the 1-gpf federal standard for urinals set by the Energy Policy Act of 1992.
Of the 12 million urinals in use in the United States, up to 65 percent are inefficient units with flush volumes exceeding the 1.0 gpf federal standard, some by as much as 3.0 gpf, according to the EPA. On average, users flush a urinal about 20 times a day, so an organization will save 4,000 gallons or more annually for every WaterSense-labeled urinal it installs. Eligible models include the urinal fixture, which can be made of ceramic — vitreous china — plastic, or stainless steel, along with the pressurized — flushometer valve — or gravity tank-type flushing device.
The scope of this specification does not include non-water urinals, composting urinals, and retrofit devices or other aftermarket-retrofit systems, so they cannot earn the WaterSense label at this time.
Manufacturers that produce urinal fixtures and flushing devices meeting EPA's efficiency and performance criteria can apply to have their products earn the WaterSense label. For more information, visit www.epa.gov/watersense/.
4. Plumbing & Piping Systems
I'm Dan Hounsell, editor of Maintenance Solutions magazine. Today's topic is plumbing and piping systems.
The technology behind drain-cleaning equipment has come a long way in recent years. Now, front-line maintenance technicians have even greater diagnostic power when confronted with clogged or slow piping systems.
Drain-cleaning cameras and inspection systems offer technicians three important opportunities to inspect and assess the situation:
• Before cleaning, to determine the extent of the problem, its location, and required actions
• During cleaning, to determine progress
• After cleaning, to determine if the technician performed the cleaning properly and to ensure the free-flowing condition of the pipeline.
Inspection cameras have several key components — the cable reel, the pushrod, and the camera chip in a pickup head with a light source to illuminate the object to be inspected. These components connect to a monitor by video cable, or wirelessly to complete the basic package. These components form a system technicians can move to and around jobsites. Early-generation cameras rotated in the drain, causing the display to show the water at the bottom, side or top of the picture. Now, manufacturers have released self-leveling cameras that always show the water at the bottom in the correct orientation as it sits in the drain line. Finally, users can add accessories, such as DVD or CD recorders, sewer-inspection software to help capture and report data, and locator devices to help identify elusive underground blockages in pipelines.