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Slowing the Flow: Plumbing Systems and Water Conservation


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

Facility managers in most institutional and commercial buildings understand the amount of energy systems use. Not so with water, and it is hard to address the challenge of water conservation without understanding its magnitude. Combine this lack of knowledge with the low cost of water in many areas, and it is easy to see why water efficiency has not been a priority in some facilities.

But now, managers are faced with a combination of rising rates and use restrictions. If they are to meet these challenges without interfering with facility operations, water efficiency must be a higher priority.

Building mechanical systems are large users of water, particularly central heating and cooling systems. To keep heat-transfer surfaces clean and operating efficiencies high, boilers and cooling towers require large quantities of fresh water, which keep concentrations of contaminants within acceptable levels.

Even when automatic controls that maintain the amount of water introduced into and bled from systems operate properly, the required volume of water can be large. When controls malfunction, large quantities of water can enter the systems, increasing water use and chemical-treatment costs. Unless operators monitor these systems closely, losses can mount quickly.

Regular inspections and maintenance can reduce the likelihood of such problems. Also, installing water meters on the make-up water piping and monitoring water use regularly can help operators quickly detect deviations from normal use levels.

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