By Rob McRaney
From the December 2022 Issue
A facility manager’s primary concern is to keep buildings full of happy tenants and occupants. To do so, they must effectively maintain their facilities, which can be a daunting task with multiple properties. This is why having a standard operating procedure or a Best Practices guide for utilities is critical.
Of course, a standard operating procedure for utilities can include water, gas, and electricity. Out of these utilities, water is the highest priority— a building might be able to operate without power, but it absolutely cannot operate without water.
Creating a standard operating procedure for a plumbing system is the key to maintaining a facility easily and consistently. If FMs are not well versed in plumbing, it can be hard to find somewhere to start, especially when a facility’s plumbing system can vary from a simple bathroom to a full irrigation system.
Conduct A Water Audit
To best understand what’s needed to maintain plumbing systems, facility managers need to know how their buildings use water and how much water is used. Common places are:
- Outdoor landscaping
- Indoor landscaping (if plants or any water features are in the building)
Once FMs have identified where they use water in facilities, they can pinpoint the fixtures that distribute it: showerheads, aerators, toilets, irrigation systems, etc. These fixtures will vary in their water use, but the toilets and irrigation systems use the most water. Each of these fixtures have different maintenance needs, so FMs should note who the manufacturers are and keep a living record of that information. A Google sheet is an efficient tool for cataloging the types of fixtures, their manufacturers, and their flow rates. This will also provide an easy way for maintenance teams to access this information on their phones or tablets while they’re working.
It also doesn’t hurt to have one or two extra fixtures on site for quick replacements. Additionally, some manufacturers provide warranties on their fixtures; knowing who the manufacturer is may end up saving money if more than one fixture has to be replaced.
During a water audit, facility managers see how much water their building uses, and can discover any potential leaks in the building’s plumbing system.
Identifying Leaks In Plumbing Systems
Leaks are one of the biggest money wasters at a property, especially silent leaks like running toilets or cracked pipes. Leaks can account for 13% of water usage at a property. Depending on the fixture, these leaks could be a simple fix and easy to identify.
Toilets: This is one of the worst leak offenders, with nearly 6% of water usage coming from a leaky toilet. If a building has a flushometer or a wall-mounted toilet, then the likelihood of a toilet leaking is very slim. However, if toilets have a tank, there may be a problem. Toilets leak in three common places: the fill valve, the supply line, or the flapper.
One way to check if a toilet is leaking from the flapper is to drop a blue dye tablet in the tank of the toilet. Wait five minutes and if the water in the toilet bowl stays clear, then the toilet is not leaking.
This works because if a flapper is sealed tight to the flush valve, then no water is escaping into the bowl unless it’s being flushed. Once a toilet is flushed, blue water should run into the bowl and down the trapway.
Checking the supply line is also an easy thing to do—simply look at where the toilet connects to the wall and see if there’s any water pooling on the floor or if the supply line itself is wet.