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Plumbing and Water Conservation

plumbing, green, retrofits

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

Among the biggest challenges facing maintenance and engineering managers overseeing plumbing retrofits is product compatibility. For example, older toilets can have flows as high as 6 gallons per flush, or gpf. And the bowls on these toilets were designed for that flow. But if a retrofit calls for an upgrade to fixtures that use 1.6 gpf or 1.28 gpf, the manager will need to check with the bowl's manufacturer to ensure its design operates with the new, lower flow.

If not, it might be necessary to replace the bowl as part of the retrofit to prevent back-ups and overflows. Even so, the savings of 4.4 gpf or 4.72 gpf — multiplied by the number of flushes per year and again by the number of toilets, plus trouble-free operation and lower maintenance costs — are worth the upgrade cost.

Other product options for managers to consider incorporating into retrofits are dual-flush, auto-flush, and waterless urinals.

With dual-flush valves, moving the handle in one direction allows a lower flow for flushing liquid waste. Moving it in the opposite direction allows a higher flow for flushing solid waste.

Auto-flush valves flush when the user moves away from the fixture. This design uses only the amount of water needed to keep the fixture clear, as opposed to a periodic, scheduled flush, whether a visitor uses the fixture or not. Managers also can specify auto-flush valves that operate on solar energy, using only the lighting in the restroom to maintain sufficient energy to operate the valve.

Waterless urinals do not require valve upgrades, just the addition of the liquid seal and an insert to hold it in the existing urinal drain. While waterless urinals eliminate water use and generate savings, managers need to consider their maintenance requirements before specifying them for retrofits, as they might demand more specialized maintenance compared to their more traditional, water-using counterparts.

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