Maintaining New-Generation 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.


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