Plumbing: Going With the Flow

  April 30, 2012

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.


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