Eliminate fixture leaks.
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Check fixtures for leaks, repair them where possible, and replace equipment if necessary. Repairing leaks will not only reduce potable water consumption, but also save money and improve the overall performance of plumbing systems.
Project Talking Points
- Leaks waste water, energy, and dollars. Most leaks are easy to find but require some knowledge of what to look for.
- Drips can waste thousands of gallons of water a year. If hot water is dripping, you are also paying for wasted energy.
- Unintended collection of water and/or moisture from leaks can lead to growth of bacteria and mold if leaks are not addressed.
- Progressing from a passive “break-and-fix” approach to proactive leak management can save money in both the short and long term.
Triple Bottom Line Benefits
- Cost benefits: Simply fixing leaks can reduce water, sewer, and energy bills as a result of reduced water consumption and water heating.
- Environmental benefits: Reducing water consumption decreases strain on the municipal water supply and the total amount of water withdrawn from natural water bodies and protects the natural water cycle. Reduced energy use associated with treating, supplying, and heating potable water also reduces energy-related emissions. Most importantly, reducing risks from the growth of moisture-related bacteria and mold is a primary benefit of a leak detection program.
- Health and safety benefits: Saving money on wasteful and unnecessary tasks saves resources that can be used to accomplish the real mission of the hospital. Water conservation contributes to environmental stewardship and healthy communities.
Quality and outcomes - Metrics are in development. If you have suggestions, please contact us or participate in the discussion below.
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- For leak detection, simply start with a facility-wide search for leaks. Maintenance personnel should routinely perform visual checks of fixtures as part of a preventive maintenance program.
- Toilets: Listen for toilets that “run,” or seem to be filling with water longer than other fixtures (for tank-style toilets). A leaky seal in a flush-valve toilet may also produce a “running” effect. Check for moisture around the base of the toilet. Leaks typically occur when the toilet seal is worn.
- Faucets: Check for dripping faucets and faucets that collect moisture around the base of the fixture when running. Gaskets are often a source of leaks and can easily be replaced.
- Keep a log of all leaks. Repeated leaks in the same location may require additional maintenance.
- If possible, document the cause of the leak, the amount of water lost, and the savings from fixing the leak. Tracking the value of your leak prevention program can be important for ongoing resource support.
- Start a “Spot a Leak” program. In bathrooms, utility closets, soiled utility rooms, staff lounges, and any location where a leaky sink, toilet, pipe in the ceiling, etc. can be found, place a small sign that says, “Report leaky faucets, running toilets, or any signs of unintended water use to the Facility Department at xxxx.” Educate staff to be your ambassadors for water conservation. Environmental services staff can be particularly good allies as they usually visit every location in the hospital at least once a day. Track calls that come in through this program.
- Leak detection can also be conducted as part of a major water audit, but an audit is not necessary. Audits can be done with in-house maintenance staff or through a professional water consultant.
- The local water utility may also be able to assist in tracking leaks. Many utilities have leak detection devices available for lease or loan, including acoustic flow measurement and data-logging equipment.
- As part of leak detection analysis, confirm system water pressures are not above required levels. Elevated water pressures can cause wear and damage, creating new leaks.
- Key Point
- A leak detection and repair program undertaken in 2006 saved 179 million gallons of water annually, valued at more than $330,000, and achieved a 1.75-year payback.
- Key Point
- Site water demand was reduced by a factor of 10 after detection and repair of a 4m3-per-hour leak (see Appendix 5 in the British Department of Health document).
- Key Point
Regulations, Codes and Standards, Policies
- Check with your local water authority as many local and regional districts have regulations that require prevention and elimination of leaks. For example, Massachusetts has a specific set of standards outlined in their Water Conservation Standards that includes mandatory leak detection programs.
- The Uniform Plumbing Code and the International Plumbing Code form the basis for most local building codes related to plumbing system design. The applicability of local building codes often depends on the scale of a retrofit.
- California provides several excellent reference documents, including the Water Conservation Act of 2009 and the 20x2020 Water Conservation Plan.
Cross References: LEED
Neither LEED for Existing Buildings nor LEED for Healthcare has specific credits addressing leak detection and prevention.
Cross References: GGHC
- Operations: Integrated Operations & Education Credit 1 Education: Staff, Patient and Community Environmental Sustainability Education
- Operations: Facilities Management Credit FM 2.1-2.5 Potable Water Use Reduction: Total Building Reduction
- Operations: Facilities Management Credit FM 4.1 Building Operations & Maintenance: Staff Education
- Operations: Facilities Management Credit FM 4.2 Building Operations & Maintenance: Building Systems Maintenance
If you have any information or resources to contribute, please contact us or participate in the discussion below.
- American Water Works Association, Water Audits and Loss Control Program: A guidance manual for water audits, leak detection, and water loss control programs.
- Jahrling, Peter. Healthcare Plumbing: Providing Maximum Hygiene and Water Efficiency. FacilityManagement.com (December 2007).
- National Drinking Water Clearing House, Leak Detection and Water Loss Control Tech Brief
- Saving Water Partnership, Water Leak Fact Sheet
- U.S. Department of Energy, Federal Energy Management Program
- Water Efficiency Best Management Practices, BMP #3: Distribution Systems Audits, Leak Detection, and Repair
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
- WaterSense program for commercial buildings, including hospitals
- Mechanical Equipment
- Plumbing Fixtures
- Repair or Optimize Existing Systems (fix what you have)
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