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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.