Maintaining New-Generation Plumbing

Plumbing

There’s a new generation of water-efficient plumbing fixtures — including flush valves, urinals, and faucets — being installed in commercial and institutional facilities at an ever-increasing rate. These fixtures curtail water use by plumbing systems, reduce utility costs and improve the organization’s overall sustainability.

Maintenance and engineering managers who are making product selections need to carefully consider the maintenance impact these products are likely to have, to make sure that these products deliver the desired benefits to the organization and the environment.

Understanding the key maintenance needs for each product is critical. With that understanding, managers will be better able to incorporate these considerations into technicians’ regular inspections and repair routines.  Technicians will be more efficient in troubleshooting potential problems, and in stopping small issues before they can become costly and cumbersome.

Common Problems

As maintenance and water costs rise, managers are increasingly tasked to monitor water flow. That means installing pressure gauges and flow meters at strategic locations in their buildings’ plumbing systems. Once managers are certain that these readings are at normal levels, the next step is to look at individual fixtures and assess their condition.

A manual toilet flush valve contains about 25 parts. The maintenance problems associated with the valves can include:

  • The valve does not operate.
  • Too much or too little water is delivered.
  • The flush time is too long or short.
  • The handle or inlet connection leaks.
  • The valve makes chattering noises.
  • The battery is low, or the valve inadvertently cycles on and off.

Disassembling and cleaning the flush handle can solve all sorts of minor problems. Other solutions might involve using repair kits to replace the control portions of the valve, or simply replacing O rings that have hardened and no longer provide a good seal.

Chattering noises could indicate wear, abuse or a diaphragm in the wrong position. The low flow of water could result from a low-flow urinal kit installed in a higher-flow toilet valve.

It’s essential that technicians match the repair kit with the valve to ensure its proper operation. Newer toilet flush valves are rated at or below 1.6 gallons per flush (gpf); older ones still in service might be rated at 4.5 gpf or higher.

Urinal flush valves manufactured after 1992 must meet the maximum flow limit of 1 gpf. But many valves that deliver higher rates are still in use. Rates as high as 3 gpf and as low as 0.5 gpf are available.

The most typical designs for manual urinal flush valves are similar to those of toilet flush valves, with about the same number of parts, functionality, and maintenance requirements. The big difference is in the lower flow rate. Since urinals flush only liquids, they need less water.

A version of this article originally appeared on Facilities Net.

 

How Proactive Contracting Saved A Major Restaurant Chain $33,000

How Proactive Contracting Saved A Major Restaurant Chain $33,000

A chain restaurant had been experiencing something distinctly unappetizing: constant main line backups. They were told that their sewer lateral leading up to the city main about 30 feet away had collapsed.  And the city main was under a busy major highway.

Another vendor had given the restaurant a quote of $60,000, which would include digging through the complex parking lot and connecting to a different sewer system main approximately 100 feet away.  Worse, the vendors pitching for the restaurant’s business told them the Department of Transportation would take six months to approve any repairs under the highway, and that those associated costs would be astronomical.

Those vendors sat and waited. SLM was called, and immediately stepped up. SLM contacted the agencies, and was able to work with the city and the DOT to expedite this process.  SLM had approval and permits pulled within 3 weeks, and was able to get the work done, not for $60,000, but for $26,811.11…almost $33,000 less. This price included all equipment, labor, materials, and the DOT permit assistance and allowances.

During the 3 weeks of the approval process, SLM set up a recurring (2x per week) service with a sewer machine to prevent backups, and kept the busy restaurant location open for business.  Happy customers, happy owners.

MORAL: Never be afraid to pick up the phone.

The Case of the Banging Fan

HVAC/PM

The Problem:

“We can barely hear ourselves eating over here.”

“What is that BANGING?”

“We didn’t come here for the noise.”

But noise was the dominant theme in one restaurant.  Customers described it as like eating in a metal shop, on a submarine or in a very old Pontiac.

The Restaurant’s store manager called SLM and reported that the HVAC was making such loud noises that the customers were complaining. She requested a technician be sent out, stat.

A certified HVAC technician was dispatched by SLM to inspect the HVAC unit.  As reported, the unit was making loud clanking and buzzing noises. To the tech, this was a sure sign of an unbalanced part.

The tech investigated further and discovered that the compressor had loosened over time. It also turned out that the restaurant had never done any scheduled preventive maintenance on their HVAC unit. Over time, the compressor and the fan blades worked themselves loose and shifted out of balance.

As the tech dug deeper, they discovered that the HVAC’s air filters were old and encrusted with dirt, dust, and other debris which hindered the filter for performing its job. An old filter can affect the quality of the air you breathe and should be changed quite frequently.  A/C units are designed to work with a certain amount of internal airflow. If that minimum isn’t met, the A/C could malfunction and ultimately fail as well as affect your energy bills, which could rise sharply as your system struggles to take in the air.

The Solution:

If the restaurant had been on an HVAC preventive maintenance program, the compressor and blades would have been tightened and the filters would have been changed during a scheduled maintenance visit. With an HVAC preventive maintenance program in place, there would have no rattling or banging, no upset customers, a lower monthly energy bill, and above all, there would have been no need for an emergency technician to be dispatched.

This example service call encapsulates the importance of implementing and keeping current with an HVAC preventive maintenance schedule.

Calling out an HVAC tech can cost around $85 per hour, plus possible travel charges. If parts must be replaced due to lack of maintenance, those costs can quickly skyrocket. Maintaining your HVAC system once each quarter is more cost effective than waiting for something to break down. Many companies make a large investment in an HVAC system, yet fail to properly maintain that system to guarantee peak efficiency and head off malfunctions before they begin.

A properly functioning HVAC system is one that will keep your location comfortable, cool and quiet for years to come. Most HVAC units may need emergency repairs from time to time, however, well-kept units are less likely to fail during the months of hard use. Keeping a unit up-to-date on all inspections and maintenance checks means less hassle and fewer unnecessary expenses.

BOTTOM LINE: Scheduled HVAC Preventive Maintenance results in:

    • Lower Utility Bills
    • Cleaner Air
    • Longer System Life
    • Increased Efficiency
    • Fewer Emergency Repairs

Identify Landscape Challenges in Advance

Landscaping

The exterior appearance of your facilities is vital in communicating the image of your business. Well-designed and properly maintained grounds can greet both visitors and occupants with a pleasing appearance, minimize the time and resources needed to keep your landscapes looking their best, and contribute to your organization’s sustainability efforts.

The role of facility managers in achieving these goals starts well before maintenance begins. Getting managers involved early in the design process can ensure the efficient and cost-effective maintenance of landscaped areas.

As a facility manager, you should get involved in the landscape design and planning process to avoid landscapes that are costly and difficult to maintain. Any landscape undergoing extensive rework typically involves designers with a promising idea of what looks good.  They might not consider long-term maintenance needs, which is where you can come in with practical advice. Involving maintenance early in the process to guide decisions helps ensure problems are minimal.

Several problems often arise because landscape construction is, seemingly, the lowest priority of subcontractors when it comes to conflicts and engineering.

By getting involved in the planning, facility managers can be proactive – in many cases, landscape architects make decisions that sometimes puts facility managers in a reactive role. The renovation of an existing building is a wonderful opportunity for the facility manager to get involved. Your common objective is to understand the cost to maintain the property and determine the right resources needed for the job. The design phase presents an ideal opportunity for managers to emphasize the project’s total cost of ownership, which includes the ongoing cost and the resources required to properly maintain the landscape. Ideally, managers want to minimize inputs such as water, fertilizer, and fuel that powers pruning equipment and trucks.

Another way that you, as a facility manager, can contribute to the design process is helping make the landscape more sustainable.  Planting at the right density is big way to make your landscape more sustainable.  Property owners want lush-looking plants, but facility managers want to plant smaller quantities at the right density to minimize future maintenance requirements and water needs, as well as the inevitable costs to prune more or to remove overcrowded plants. It’s all about putting the water where it is needed. Facility managers need to review the amount of water the landscape requires, and the way the irrigation system is designed. Large areas with high-volume, high-output spray heads for watering turf areas, shrubs and ornamentals require a drip or bubbler system to control water application.

The frequent problem of weeds interfering with the establishment of new plants is likely caused, for example, by poor planning of the watering of the plants and the landscape.  A critical solution to minimizing weed problems is getting the water right. New landscapes often feature a mixture of large plants, trees, and small specimen plants that all are trying to get established. Managers often feel as soon as they turn on the irrigation system, everything will be watered perfectly. But, trees with large root balls might not get enough water if the irrigation system is set to deliver water for plants with shallower root systems. The reverse also is true, where systems can overwater smaller plants, an unintended result of ensuring trees are well irrigated.

For example, regional differences are important in considering landscape needs. Irrigation is often the major concern in terms of management and the expense of repairs and upgrades. In markets with expensive land, not enough room for trees is an important consideration.

Facility managers might want to ask about design changes that will reduce the amount of water needed. They also want to avoid specifying plants prone to insects or disease, minimize the amount of debris generated, and rethink the use of fertilizers.

Prevent Introduction of FOG through Regular Maintenance

online fog certification program

To prevent the introduction of fats, oils and grease (FOG) into the local sewer and water systems, it’s imperative that you follow recommended maintenance practices for your grease traps and interceptors.

The grease traps and interceptor systems must be inspected to insure proper functionality during each pump out occurrence. For an interceptor, (750 gallons or over), you should perform an inspection every 90 days, or more if the grease and solid levels reach 25 percent of the tank volume.  For intermediate or 50 to 750 gallons, the maintenance frequency should be every 30 days, and for a trap (less than 50 gallons), every 15 days.

In the kitchen, you should strictly control the disposal of grease and solids to the interceptor. By reducing the amount of these substances disposed of, a food service establishment may be able to reduce the cost associated with a greater than quarterly pump out frequency. This will also lead to decreased plumbing maintenance cost.

For example, fryer oil (yellow grease) must not be disposed of through the sanitary sewer. Yellow grease has re-use value and should be placed in a secured tank.   You should contract with a rendering service to haul the grease offsite for beneficial re-use.   You should also monitor and reduce the amount of food particles washed down the drain. Food particles take up volume in the grease interceptor, resulting in increased pump out frequency. Typically, it is not in an establishment’s best interest to use grinders or garbage disposal units.

A great way to begin reducing volume is using rubber scrapers and paper towels to wipe off grease from pots, pans and cookware directly into trash cans before washing.  You can also clean up all grease spills with paper towels and dispose of them in the trash. Don’t let your washers allow drinking straws, disposable gloves, paper, towels, or any other inappropriate materials down into the drain.

It’s also a best practice to skim and/or filter fryer grease daily, and change oil when necessary.   You should use a test kit provided by your grocery distributor to determine when to change the oil in fryers. This extends the life of both the fryer and the oil. Build-up of carbon deposits on the bottom of the fryer acts as an insulator that forces the fryer to heat longer, thus causing the oil to break down sooner. If there are multiple fryers in use, you should develop a rotation system.  For example, designate a single fryer for products that are particularly high in deposits, and change more often.

Every time your chosen vendor perform a grease trap or grease interceptor pump out, you should keep a record – obtain a report within seven days of the service. This way, you will have documentation on file for every intervention that affects your FOG efforts, for use by local inspectors or regulators.

You can train your kitchen staff in these types of best management practices, and keep them informed of the environmental impacts of grease in your local sewer system.    Great ways to keep the staff informed include signage in kitchens and near sinks – you can ask your preferred vendor to help you find the posters and notices that work best for you.

Another idea is to place yellow grease re-use bins in easy access areas for the staff, and regularly follow-up with them to ensure that the staff properly disposes of grease.  With this knowledge, you can provide constant, positive re-enforcement on proper disposal of fats, oils, and grease with your staff as well.

Improve Your Trash & Recycling Practices

Trash & Recycling

We are all concerned about waste removal, but have you considered implementing waste prevention and recycling programs?    You can work with the employees at your facility by actively engaging and educating them, and get their help identifying markets for your recovered materials.

The most effective way to reduce your organization’s waste is to generate less in the first place. Waste prevention offers the greatest environmental benefits and cost savings.  You can modify current practices to reduce the amounts of waste generated by changing the design, manufacture, purchase, or use of materials or products. For example, your organization could encourage employees to only print what they need and ensure that printer settings are defaulted to print double-sided to save paper. Where paper cannot be saved, be sure that it is properly disposed of in a recycling bin when its purpose is completed.

The reuse of products and packaging prolongs the useful life of these materials, thus delaying final disposal or recycling. Reuse is the repair, refurbishing, washing, or just simple recovery of worn or used products, appliances, furniture and building materials. For example, by encouraging occupants to use reusable coffee mugs rather than single-use, disposable cups, you don’t have to manage the disposal of a plethora of coffee cups.

Of course, we’re all aware of the value of recycling.  Recycling saves energy, helps keep materials out of landfills and incinerators, and provides raw materials to produce new products. When waste cannot be prevented, recycling is the next best option. Recycling is more than extending the life of landfills. It is about making the best use of the resources we have available and conserving those resources for future generations. It is about conserving water, energy, land and raw materials for generations to come.

For food waste and landscape trimmings, the recycling of organics, also known as composting, is the answer. Composting converts organic materials into a valuable soil amendment that contributes to soil health and keeps organic wastes out of landfills.

Once the option to recycle or compost is available, then it’s important to engage and educate tenants and employees. Recycling is an easy, visible way people engage in an organization’s sustainability efforts. Whether you’re starting a new recycling program or reinvigorating an existing one, make an announcement and host a program kick-off. Have a senior leader in the organization announce the goals, why this effort is important and how it will be implemented.  Use challenges, zero waste lunches, recognition and more to highlight people’s role in helping the organization meet its waste reduction goals.

Make sure you have clear signage on recycling, composting, and trash bins that include pictures of what goes in which bin. When it comes to trash and recycling bins it’s best to keep them next to each other so people have both options in one place. It should be as easy to recycle as it is to throw something away. Make sure that all waste bins and recycling bins are clearly marked to avoid misuse. If your recycling bins are blue, composting is green, and trash is black, keep the colors consistent throughout your program and building.

Why You Need a Handyman

Handyman

At any large facility or group of facilities, ongoing maintenance can quickly become overwhelming.  Without regular maintenance, your facility can quickly fall into a state of disrepair. Likewise, when you have ongoing maintenance issues from light electrical, to plumbing, to patching and painting, or even installing fixtures, your day can quickly become filled with appointments, site visits, estimates and follow-up. Not only is conducting ongoing maintenance this way time-consuming, it is also significantly more expensive than contracting with a commercial Handyman service.

Having a qualified maintenance technician is not difficult – with the right maintenance company, you get a team, including the right “Handyman” for the job at hand.  Commercial handymen come highly qualified with experience in plumbing, HVAC, electrical and more. A solid commercial maintenance company will have a team of professional maintenance technicians that can handle nearly all your facility’s issues as quickly as they arise. Not only can these commercial Handymen tackle most of the repairs and issues that come up, they can be a valuable source of information for larger more involved projects.

When you contract with the right commercial Handyman service and professional maintenance technicians, you partner with a company dedicated to your individual facilities. There is no waiting for service, hoping someone shows up and coordinating the work. Your work is always the number one priority and as you develop a relationship, your Handyman or team of maintenance technicians will become like another appendage, doing the things you cannot get to with just a little direction from you, the Facilities Manager.

As a facilities manager, it can be challenging to manage ongoing maintenance and get to all the little and not so little fixes that can diminish a building’s value over time. One of the many benefits of working with a commercial Handyman service is you can develop a maintenance schedule that keeps your facility running smoothly.

With repairs, fixes and installations planned throughout the maintenance schedule, you can budget and forecast with ease and stay within those budgets while keeping your facility in good running order. The right commercial Handyman service will get the job done right in a professional efficient manner and attend to those day-to-day issues before they snowball or reduce the value and efficiency of your building.

Some facility managers wonder if having a commercial handyman service might be the right solution for their facilities’ issues. They might wonder what if there’s too much work. Or what if I don’t have enough to keep a commercial maintenance service busy? One of the many benefits of the commercial handyman service is you can fine-tune the work to precisely what you and your facility needs. Commercial maintenance companies often have the flexibility to bring in extra people for larger jobs allowing you to staff up and down as needed.

When it comes to finding a commercial handyman for your facilities what you don’t want is a one-man and a van kind of operation. While these guys are okay for a home or smaller business, they typically do not have the experience that will help them tackle the different issues that come up in larger facilities. Rather, you want a commercial maintenance company that has a team of professional maintenance technicians. Even if you end up with one technician assigned to your facility, maintenance technicians at these firms have essentially exchanged all of their professional skills and assisted each other in such a way that they end up very skilled in a number of specific areas. And if they have specific questions about lighting, electrical, plumbing, or HVAC, they have each other to troubleshoot issues that may arise in your facility.

There is no shortage of commercial handyman services and yet, finding the right one to care for your facilities can be daunting. If you really want to know if the maintenance company is up to the job of caring for your facilities, you need to dive a little deeper. The reality is in this service business, you are only as good as the people you employ. So ask a prospective maintenance company about their people. How long have they worked there? What is their background? Is your maintenance company doing everything they need to find the very best people for your facility including background checks and drug screening?

Ask a prospective commercial maintenance company what they do when problems arise. Do they have systems in place to manage issues? Do they have a formal process for getting back to customers who need help? Likewise, the best commercial maintenance companies will have transparent pricing that allows you to compare their services to other companies and determine precisely what you are getting compared to what you are paying for. The right commercial Handyman service understands the limits of your budget and will work closely with you to get the most for your facility within your budget.

You can shorten your to-do list and know that you have a maintenance technician or team of technicians on your side ready to help with whatever you need. Whether it’s light electrical, plumbing, installing bookshelves, hanging pictures or televisions, installing fixtures, or patching and painting, the right commercial Handyman can get the job done and keep your facilities in tiptop shape.

Identify Landscape Challenges in Advance

Landscape

The exterior appearance of your facilities is vital in communicating the image of your business. Well-designed and properly maintained grounds can greet both visitors and occupants with a pleasing appearance, minimize the time and resources needed to keep your landscapes looking their best, and contribute to your organization’s sustainability efforts.

The role of facility managers in achieving these goals starts well before maintenance begins. Getting managers involved early in the design process can ensure the efficient and cost-effective maintenance of landscaped areas.

For example, regional differences are important in considering landscape needs. Irrigation is often the major concern in terms of management and the expense of repairs and upgrades. In markets with expensive land, not enough room for trees is an important consideration.

As a facility manager, you should get involved in the landscape design and planning process to avoid landscapes that are costly and difficult to maintain. Any landscape undergoing extensive rework typically involves designers with a promising idea of what looks good.  They might not consider long-term maintenance needs, which is where you can come in with practical advice. Involving maintenance early in the process to guide decisions helps ensure problems are minimal.

Several problems often arise because landscape construction is, seemingly, the lowest priority of subcontractors when it comes to conflicts and engineering.

The frequent problem of weeds interfering with the establishment of new plants is likely caused, for example, by poor planning of the watering of the plants and the landscape.  A critical solution to minimizing weed problems is getting the water right. New landscapes often feature a mixture of large plants, trees, and small specimen plants that all are trying to get established. Managers often feel as soon as they turn on the irrigation system, everything will be watered perfectly. But, trees with large root balls might not get enough water if the irrigation system is set to deliver water for plants with shallower root systems. The reverse also is true, where systems can overwater smaller plants, an unintended result of ensuring trees are well irrigated.

By getting involved in the planning, facility managers can be proactive – in many cases, landscape architects make decisions that sometimes puts facility managers in a reactive role. The renovation of an existing building is a wonderful opportunity for the facility manager to get involved. Your common objective is to understand the cost to maintain the property and determine the right resources needed for the job. The design phase presents an ideal opportunity for managers to emphasize the project’s total cost of ownership, which includes the ongoing cost and the resources required to properly maintain the landscape. Ideally, managers want to minimize inputs such as water, fertilizer, and fuel that powers pruning equipment and trucks.

Another way that you, as a facility manager, can contribute to the design process is helping make the landscape more sustainable.  Planting at the right density is big way to make your landscape more sustainable.  Property owners want lush-looking plants, but facility managers want to plant smaller quantities at the right density to minimize future maintenance requirements and water needs, as well as the inevitable costs to prune more or to remove overcrowded plants. It’s all about putting the water where it is needed. Facility managers need to review the amount of water the landscape requires, and the way the irrigation system is designed. Large areas with high-volume, high-output spray heads for watering turf areas, shrubs and ornamentals require a drip or bubbler system to control water application.

Facility managers might want to ask about design changes that will reduce the amount of water needed. They also want to avoid specifying plants prone to insects or disease, minimize the amount of debris generated, and rethink the use of fertilizers.

Controlling Dumpster Odors

Dumpster wash

Odor control isn’t limited to indoor spaces like offices, rest rooms and kitchens.  Facility managers also need to concentrate some of their efforts outside the building in and around dumpsters.

You know dumpsters.  That terrible name, that unsightly but necessary container, the smell that your customers and visitors — well, they can just see it coming.  So do you.  What are some effective ways to eliminate that problem?

Start by clearing out the interior. When you fill a dumpster with debris, lingering odors can become trapped on the interior. To ensure that there are not any items that are causing an unpleasant smell, you should schedule a dumpster pick up service with your local waste disposal vendor. Once your dumpster has been cleared, you will be ready to start cleaning the interior. To ensure that the interior of your rental dumpster is completely clean, wash the interior well – we recommend Super Citrus Dumpster Wash over basic bleach and water.

Super Citrus Dumpster Wash controls odors, helps deter bees and flies around your dumpsters, trash cans and loading dock areas, and allows you to clean grease and odor causing residue, and deodorizes dumpsters as well as trash chutes.  It’s a product that is specially formulated with cleaners and odor counteraction to clean, cut grease and neutralize foul odors.  It works great on not only dumpsters but trash chutes/walls, compactors and dock floors as well.

Once you have cleaned and rinsed the interior of your dumpster, the next step is to allow the interior of the dumpster to dry completely. By drying out the interior of the dumpster you will prevent the formation of bacteria and mold.

To help keep the dumpster clean and cut down on odors, your cleaning crews should always bag the trash before placing it in the dumpsters.

There will always be odors associated with waste, but starting out with a clean dumpster is a terrific way to cut down on the worst offenders.  Keeping up with the problem, or staying ahead of it, is also possible, with products like “Dumpster Deodorizer.”  Sprinkle it in and around dumpsters, compactors, trash receptacles, and other problem areas to eliminate odors for approximately seven days.  This product also contains citronella, to help deter flying insects and pests.  Both the Dumpster Wash and Deodorizer products are bio-degradable, making them user-safe and environmentally friendly, contributing to your sustainability goals.

Pro-active steps like these can help you overcome your outdoor odor challenges – especially that dumpster.

Super Citrus Dumpster Wash can be purchased here.

“Life is easier having SLM handle the major scheduled services…”

Roy Young, of Smokey Bones, tells us why he chooses SLM.

We maintain our client’s business properties 24/7/365 and provide them with a comprehensive, proactive way of managing their facilities. And many customer’s comment on the outstanding customer service they receive. It’s no wonder more than 95% of our customers renew their SLM contracts. We do it all & manage it all, so you don’t have to!

Interested in learning more?
Give us a call at 888-847-4449, email us at info@slmfacilities.com, or fill out the form below for a Free Assessment! 🙂

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