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Completing a water audit in restrooms is one of the first steps in effective water conservation. Commercial flushometers are rated for at least 250,000 cycles, so depending on restroom use levels, they can last up to 20 years. Maintenance practices are typically reactive for these fixtures, but regularly scheduled preventive maintenance can increase their performance life and save water.
New-technology flushometers combine a long-life lithium battery, capacitor and optimized electronics to deliver up to 875,000 cycles, or about 30 years of uninterrupted power based on average use, decreasing parts entering the waste stream. These can be installed with manual or infrared touchless flushometers along with wave technology that only activates when a hand is waved across the top of the unit to prevent accidental flushing.
If water audits do not uncover signs of water waste, such as increased water bills or constantly flushing toilets and urinals, managers should look to schedule inspections of each restroom at least once a year. Most commercial restrooms do not use tank-type toilets because they can require more routine maintenance and are prone to clogs compared to the pressure-assisted fixtures.
Listening for constantly flowing fixtures, incorporating dye tests in fixtures to identify leaks, and performing general inspections all should be parts of an annual water audit. During this inspection, technicians also need to evaluate the location and condition of shutoff valves to ensure their proper operation during an emergency.
Water-saving faucets and aerators limit the amount of water used by hand washing sinks. Products with the EPA’s Water Sense designation have been tested and certified for lifecycle and operational performance to ensure flow rates are maintained in low-water-pressure installations. Their use can reduce overall maintenance and extend the performance life of these fixtures.
Managers implementing water-conservation measures need to keep in mind that instant hot water heaters might require a certain water flow to engage the flow switch. In more than one instance, instantaneous hot water heaters have required a minimum of 0.5 gallons per minute to activate the switch, and when installed with a mixing valve of hot and cold water, they do not allow enough flow to engage the heater, and occupants assumed the water did not run long enough to get warm.
New-generation Bluetooth-enabled faucets and flushometers support troubleshooting and reduce maintenance by giving technicians a dashboard of the system’s operations, along with customized settings and routine flush downs. Some existing systems also can be retrofitted with adapters, depending on the age and compatibility. These can save time on maintenance by reducing the need to physically check restrooms.
For new construction, managers should consider single-use occupancy restrooms and full-height partition walls when allowable in order to promote social distancing and compartmentalization. In existing restrooms, adding partitions between urinals also supports social distancing. During times of increased transmission rates of airborne viruses, it also might be prudent to limit bathroom occupancies when possible.
In addition to soap dispensers, many facilities are installing hand-sanitizing dispensers. Installing these products outside restrooms allows individuals to use them after they have left the restroom. Automated dispensers are convenient, but their use can result in unintended operation as people walk by, resulting in the alcohol-based hand sanitizer dispensing and pooling on the floor, causing a slip-and-fall hazard and damaging floor finishes.
Antonio Delise is a senior project engineer with FST Technical Services’ commissioning division. He has experience providing commissioning services for facilities throughout the New York City area.
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