4  FM quick reads on plumbing

1. Plumbing Systems: Looking for Trouble


The least understood of step in keeping plumbing and piping systems flowing — as well as the most difficult to carry out — is troubleshooting. Much of this process is done with blinders on, since piping systems are often hidden from view or difficult to access, technicians need to visualize the whole infrastructure.

The first requirement for this phase is a good set of as-built prints showing drain layout, pipe diameters and materials, and lengths of laterals, risers, and collectors. Unreliable or out of date prints often hamper technicians trying to visualize the size and direction of piping, offsets, and fittings. Yet understanding the layout is essential to predicting the likely location of clogs.

Technicians can remedy this problem with a drain cleaning unit featuring a video camera, in addition to appropriate cable reel, cable length, video pickup, monitor screen, and data backup capability. This inspection equipment can save a great deal of money in the long run, and it can reveal the blockage more quickly, shortening repair time. If the piping system is complicated and hidden within walls and above ceilings, an inspection camera and accessories can shift easily from the nice-to-have category to must-have.

To save both time and money in cleaning drains, technicians often use must-have rodding and jetting units, possibly followed by running water through the plumbing to see if it is clear. Generally, this shortcut precedes numerous occurrences of the same or similar clogs in several locations, each of which has to be cleared, and costs mount.

But skipping the troubleshooting step leads to misunderstanding the causes and locations of clogs, as well as the conditions that create them. As a result, it sets up the conditions that result in simply moving blockages between locations, repeated blockages, and higher costs, as well as operational disruption and flooding that damages equipment and facilities.


2.  Creating Healthy Plumbing Systems

Typical plumbing concerns for all facilities include repairing toilet, sink and shower; maintaining piping systems throughout the facility for air, water, and gas; keeping drain systems and waste-water lines open and operating properly; and maintaining sprinkler systems, heads, valves, and other fire-safety equipment. Keeping up with new regulatory requirements, such as updates to the Americans with Disabilities Act is also a concern.

Health care and non-health care facilities alike must address measures to conserve water. From both environmental and economic perspectives, it makes good sense to keep an eye on water consumption. An up-to-date and efficient plumbing system can help make conservation a reality.

On the other hand, it is well known that the sanitary requirements for hospital environments are much more demanding than those of most non-hospital environments. What is not as well known is that some hospital bacteria strains tend to be more resistant in both level and spectra to antibiotics and bacteriostatic and bactericidal concentrations of antiseptics and disinfectants.

Tests revealed in one instance that a hospital bacterial strain had a marked resistance to 3-5 drugs, while a form of the same bacteria found in non-hospital environments was resistant to only one or two drugs. In such cases, hospitals are challenged to specify and effectively use a range of more concentrated organic and non-organic cleaning chemicals, antiseptics and disinfectants than non-hospital environments, and they must use them more often.

3.  Water Conservation: An Audit You'll Like

An operational audit and submetering are two very effective strategies for conserving water in plumbing systems and restrooms. Maintenance and engineering managers can undertake operational audits by examining asset records and by checking all fixture specifications. Asset records will reveal which pumps, heaters, and fixtures are the oldest and have experienced the most frequent repairs.

A check of their ages and specifications also can identify the biggest water users by design. Aside from wear and disrepair, some fixtures, simply by their age, are large water consumers. Generally, fixtures that were produced before 1992, when new conservation regulations went into effect, use far more water than those made after 1992.

Submetering is an effective way to determine the combined effect on plumbing systems and components of both age and condition. Most facilities have meters in service entrance lines to measure consumption and calculate the water bill.

More facilities are installing separate meters, called submeters, on major segments of the water-distribution system to measure the consumption of each area, process or user. In this way, managers can uncover water waste, such as leaks and constantly running water, along with major consumers, and they can identify loss sources that otherwise would go undetected.

Beyond comprehensive maintenance and system upgrades, managers have a number of strategies at their disposal to control energy and water use related to plumbing systems.

These strategies include lowering the water temperature — which costs nothing to implement — insulating the hot-water tank so it keeps standing water hot, and replacing a hot-water tank with a tankless instantaneous heater. While higher in first cost than a tank-type water heater, tankless heaters operate only when water is called for. They use electricity or gas only for short periods, so they save all the water and energy that usually goes to waste keeping water hot, even when occupants are not calling for it.

4.  Submetering: Gathering Data, Uncovering Savings

Water conservation remains a high priority for most maintenance and engineering managers seeking to control utility costs and improve sustainability for institutional and commercial facilities. But to maximize their efforts in this area, managers also might want to look at the connection between water conservation and energy savings, which are related to the need to pump and heat much of the water facilities use.

By looking more closely at water-conservation strategies and energy use related to water distribution and heating, managers develop practical, complementary strategies that will curtail the use of both water and energy.

An operational audit and submetering are two very effective strategies for conserving water. Managers can undertake operational audits by examining asset records and by checking all fixture specifications. Asset records will reveal which pumps, heaters, and fixtures are the oldest and have experienced the most frequent repairs.

A check of their ages and specifications also can identify the biggest water users by design. Aside from wear and disrepair, some fixtures, simply by their age, are large water consumers. Generally, fixtures that were produced before 1992, when new conservation regulations went into effect, use far more water than those made after 1992.

Submetering is an effective way to determine the combined effect on plumbing systems and components of both age and condition. Most facilities have meters in service entrance lines to measure consumption and calculate the water bill.

More facilities are installing separate meters, called submeters, on major segments of the water-distribution system to measure the consumption of each area, process or user. In this way, managers can uncover water waste, such as leaks and constantly running water, along with major consumers, and they can identify loss sources that otherwise would go undetected.


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plumbing , drain cleaning

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