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Plumbing: Looking for Trouble


I'm Dan Hounsell, editor of Maintenance Solutions magazine. Today's topic is plumbing systems:
Efficiency improvements to plumbing systems can deliver big benefits to organizations in the form of savings from both lower water use and fewer repair problems. The challenge for managers is determining the scope of these improvements.
Areas of plumbing systems to which managers should pay the closest attention in planning renovations and retrofits are sprinkler-system runs, piping runs, restrooms, mechanical rooms and systems, boiler rooms, pump rooms, and air-compressor rooms. In trying to determine the scope of plumbing-system retrofits, managers should keep a close eye on these components:
Water piping. The appearance of corrosion on water-piping joints might indicate a pH below 7 or that dissimilar metals have been joined improperly. Rust stains on steel pipes or blue-green, copper oxide corrosion stains on copper pipes might be the only indication of a problem if the leak is very small.
Fixtures. Blockages in plumbing fixtures such as sinks and toilets are relatively common. But in most cases, technicians can remove them quickly without causing further problems. Discolored fixtures - an indication of rust or other waterborne minerals - might mean there is a need for a water-treatment or -filtration program. Drains that are noisy or slow to empty might indicate that fixture traps need to be emptied or replaced.
Water-heating equipment. Such components as boiler piping, condensate-return lines, and hot-water equipment also are potential trouble spots. A decline in water quality, such as discoloration or the presence of sediment, often indicates a problem with the water-supply source.
Pipe valves. Ball valves, gate valves and check valves improperly installed or subject to prolonged low pH will show corrosion and, in many cases, they can fail completely.
Assessing these areas will help managers allocate workers' time and the organization's funds more efficiently.

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