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Plumbing and Water Conservation

I'm Dan Hounsell, editor of Maintenance Solutions magazine. Today's topic is, plumbing and water conservation.

With the growing need to reduce water use, maintenance and engineering managers might wonder which areas of facilities to focus on first. The first step should be to better understand the water-consuming systems in their buildings. Once that step is complete, the next step is to consider available options to cut water use.

One option is to replace older, high-flow water closets and urinals with models that meet current requirements. This measure especially applies to buildings built before the Energy Policy Act of 1992. In these buildings, water closets typically use 3.5 gallons per flush (gpf) or more. Current standards require 1.6 gpf for water closets. The new fixtures represent a significant opportunity for savings in facilities with older fixtures.

Another option is to replace existing water closets and urinals with high-efficiency models that exceed current requirements. High-efficiency water closets typically use 1.3 gpf or less, and high-efficiency urinals can use as little as 1 pint per flush, which is significantly less than the current standards requiring 1 gpf. Before installing these fixtures, managers should schedule the cleaning of drainage pipes to ensure proper flow.

Waterless urinals offer another water-savings opportunity. Instead of water, certain waterless urinals use a sealing liquid to maintain the trap seal. Managers need to keep in mind that waterless urinals require additional maintenance, such as more frequent cleaning. Not only will this requirement increase maintenance costs, but custodial staff also will need proper training to maintain waterless urinals, or problems will occur with these fixtures.

One caveat: When performing any plumbing retrofit involving a fixture and valve replacement, such as installing a new water closet, it is important to have the fixture and valves matched correctly to achieve proper operation of both components.


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