Modern Plumbing Fixtures Designed to Curtail Water Use
Recent generations of plumbing fixtures and components feature technology designed to reduce water use, extend performance life, and minimize system maintenance. Managers looking to specify products that address water-use issues have several strategies to consider to stay abreast of important technology advances related to plumbing products that meet their organizations' need to minimize water use, and improve life-cycle costs:
- Low-flow, aerator-equipped faucets are designed to reduce water use. Urinal and toilet flush valves also are designed for low-flow operation. Adjustable-flow showerheads also offer a method of lowering water use.
- Water filters can extend piping and fixture life by removing many of the minerals that cause corrosion and leaks and shorten product life, as well as eliminate the fouling that causes buildup in the pipe and fitting walls and, in turn, reduces capacity.
- No-chemical ultraviolet water treatment products eliminate the use and handling of hazardous chemicals while lowering costs. Technicians need to change the bulbs in these units annually.
- Water chillers and drinking-water coolers are designed to use 134A CFC-free refrigerant, and all leaded parts have been removed. The piping is soldered with lead-free silver solder.
- Barrier-free fixtures are available in new designs to ensure compliance with ADA requirements for access. Operating pressures on the fixtures are at or below 5 pounds. Hands-free operation and dual level fixtures for sinks, drinking fountains, toilets and showers eliminate barriers to access.
- Water-softening products reduce scale and enable water heaters, washers, fountains and other fittings and piping to continue operating properly over a longer useful life, while reducing consumption of soap and other cleaning products.
- New fixture-surface coatings provide longer, more trouble-free operation, even on brass fittings.
- Flow-rate and totalizer submetering enable technicians to compare water use by zone in buildings, by building, or by area in a building. Submetering highlights high-use areas and reduction opportunities where plumbing products require upgrades. It also provides information to identify leaks and peaks as managers compare use from one month to another and prioritize replacement plans.
Additional water-saving fixture innovations include auto-flush valves, designed to replace time-actuated valves and dual-flush valves, that operate in one direction for flushing liquids and the opposite direction for flushing solids. Also, new sensor-operated sink fixtures can be wired, battery-operated, or photovoltaic cell-operated. Integrated into the lavatory top, photovoltaic cells gather energy from restroom lighting. They provide no-touch operation activated by motion sensors, require no battery or maintenance, and reduce water use.
Thomas A. Westerkamp is a maintenance and engineering management consultant and president of the work management division of Westerkamp Group LLC.