Saving Water: Going with the (Low) Flow

  September 14, 2011

I'm Dan Hounsell, editor of Maintenance Solutions magazine. Today's topic is, low-flow plumbing fixtures.

Water conservation has become the standard consideration in restrooms in institutional and commercial facilities, whether it is required by local code, to obtain LEED points, to cut operating costs, or to appeal to environmentally conscious customers. Plumbing fixture manufacturers have introduced many new products to meet these demands.

But once the products are installed, if facility managers do not perform due diligence on the way products interact and whether particular products are the right fit for particular applications, managers are in for some surprises. While the manufacturer might have rigorously tested a water-efficient fixture, the customer might have installed it in a space for which it was not designed. For that reason, it is necessary to examine the way the restroom as a whole affects fixture performance.

Consider low-flush options for urinals. Product options have improved, but managers still need to carefully consider several issues. A urinal that uses 0.125 gallons of water per flush, or gpf, is a great water-saver. But in some models, such as a stall type, it might be necessary to prove to a local inspector that it delivers enough water to wash down the fixture, as required by most codes. It might be necessary to check with the manufacturer to determine if the product has been approved for use in a municipality or state. Another issue might be a buildup of minerals in the trap due to less water dilution of the urine.

Finally, water-free urinals are another option. While increasingly popular, they still are not accepted by all jurisdictions. Concerns among housekeeping staffs also have kept them from becoming mainstream options.


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