4  FM quick reads on plumbing

1. Plumbing: Drain-Cleaning Strategies

I'm Dan Hounsell, editor of Maintenance Solutions magazine. Today's topic is, drain-cleaning strategies.

Keeping plumbing systems flowing is essential for safe, smooth operations in institutional and commercial facilities. Essential for success in achieving this goal are drain-cleaning strategies that involve the right equipment for the job.

For light drain cleaning, such as sinks clogged with hair, a technician can aim a flashlight down the drain to see if inserting a wire hook will remove the hair. But for sinks, toilets, and small floor drains with traps blocked by solid objects, mechanical cleaning is the first line of defense.

The technician's first step is to check if the trap is in good condition. If not, the technician should place a bucket under the trap, disassemble it, and replace it with a new trap, taking care not to damage the tailpipe from the sink to the trap or the drainpipe extension in the lateral. If the trap is in good condition but blocked, the most appropriate tools are manual plungers, snakes, and air rams.

Managers also can specify a range of power drain cleaners sized for three categories of drains: sink lines, floor and secondary drains, and laterals and mains. Considerable overlap exists among pipe diameters, so depending on the range of diameters in a drain system, one tool might cover everything.

The options for drain-cleaning equipment include sectional machines — with separate coils of 10- or 15-foot cables — and drum machines with longer cables for long lines. Augers, cutters, and chain-knocker accessories attach to the end of cable, which is fed into the drain first. Depending on configuration, technicians can use these attachments for initial clearing, exploratory inspection, and removing heavy blockages. Technicians also can use the same cable sequentially to do all three tasks on the same job.

Besides drain-cleaning equipment, managers can specify video cameras with monitors and recorders, as well as 325 feet of cable to inspect 2- to 12-inch drain lines and locate blockages.

Plumbing: Going With the Flow

I'm Dan Hounsell, editor of Maintenance Solutions magazine. Today's topic is, keeping plumbing systems flowing.

To minimize and even prevent plumbing crises in institutional and commercial facilities, maintenance and engineering managers need to develop, implement and carefully manage a preventive maintenance (PM) program for drain cleaning. By understanding the locations of common blockages in plumbing systems, managers can more effectively coordinate equipment, staff time and facility activities.

Traps, turns and constrictions are most likely places for pipe blockages to start. A building's as-built drawings show the drain system, all the way from the fixture to the municipal sewer system. These drawings provide an overview of the entire drainage-system piping runs.

Front-line technicians also need to locate inspection and cleanout plugs. They can remove the plugs to check the condition of a pipe's inside walls or to insert inspection equipment and drain-cleaning tools.

The most frequent blockage problems in buildings involve toilet and sink traps. These traps serve two purposes: to hold a quantity of water between the drain opening and the sewer and prevent sewer gases from backing up into the environment, and to stop objects from becoming lodged farther into the drain line, where they are very difficult to locate and remove.

Sinks, toilets, and floor drains all have traps. Commercial kitchens have grease traps to keep large quantities of grease out of the drains. If not collected and removed periodically, the grease eventually will solidify in large enough amounts to totally block the flow through the pipe.

Newer low-flow toilet fixtures also can be a source of blockages, especially if the flush valves were added to the system as part of a water-conservation upgrade and if bowls do not match the valve's flow rate. Some older toilet bowls were not designed for lower water flow. If installation of low-flow valves did not include replacement of the old bowl design, a clogging problem might result from an insufficient water flow.

Plumbing: The Rise of Water Metering

I'm Dan Hounsell, editor of Maintenance Solutions magazine. Today's topic is, plumbing systems and the rise of water metering.

As concerns over water conservation grow, more institutional and commercial facilities are investing in — and benefitting from — water-metering technology.

For example, to support large-scale plumbing retrofit for the University of Georgia, the university's maintenance department remains focused on additional water-conservation initiatives. The university is using advanced water-metering capabilities to better analyze water use.

Says Mark Duclos, the university's director of maintenance and operations, "Prior to the drought, we had numerous metering points on campus, but not individual buildings. During the drought, we elected to install meters everywhere. We wanted to be able to look at each building and try to isolate which ones are our higher usage and look from week to week or day to day and see if we see spikes so we know if we may have some issues."

Each building has a dedicated Web site that shows technicians a facility's water use over the last year. This comprehensive information also can help technicians more easily troubleshoot potential fixture issues.

"We're trying to get that information out there so as managers we can better determine what's going on,” Duclos says. "Also, it's troubleshooting. If we saw a spike in water usage, it may alert us to a problem that we can catch earlier by use of the meters."

Restroom Renovations: Quantifying Benefits

I'm Dan Hounsell, editor of Maintenance Solutions magazine. Today's topic is, restroom renovations.

Restroom renovations in institutional and commercial facilities are among the most complex projects maintenance and engineering managers can undertake. At the same time, such projects can create cost-saving opportunities.

For example, installing products such as waterless urinals, low-flush commodes, automatic flush valves, faucets, soap and paper-towel dispensers, and automatic cleaning-chemical dispensers for commodes and urinals can produce tangible cost savings.

Many of these products require electrical power to function, either in the form of batteries or direct wiring. But direct wiring can pose concerns, as many older restrooms only have power for lights and exhaust fans. Adding equipment might require bringing in more power.

Renovations also allow for the installation of ceiling-mounted partitions and wall-mounted stools, which removes these obstacles from floors and can result in easier, faster, and better floor cleaning. But managers must remember that in older facilities, such products also might require additional structural reinforcement and plumbing, which means higher costs.

Installing a grouted, ceramic tile floor is another popular renovation option. Grouted tile provides better slip resistance, lower cleaning costs, and greater life-cycle benefits.

Epoxy grout is nonporous and provides better hygienic benefits and color stability. But managers must make sure to measure hydrostatic pressure on slab installations. Epoxy grout does not breathe, and if the pressure readings exceed 3 pounds per square inch, installers should use cementitious grout or prepare the floor to seal the slab. Cementitious grout will breathe, allowing slab moisture to evaporate and preventing pressure damage to the floor installation.


plumbing , drain cleaning

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