Schools Save On Water Costs With New Plumbing Products

By John Aykroyd

Schools Save On Water Costs With New Plumbing ProductsCommercial, industrial and institutional facilities are facing dual pressures: the need to go green and to reduce operating costs. New water-efficient plumbing products and systems do both, and schools across the U.S. are proving it.

Purdue Proves Dual-Flush Water Savings

Michael Carson, Senior Mechanical Engineer at Purdue University, was skeptical about whether Sloan Valve Company’s UPPERCUT® dual-flush Flushometers would affect the university’s water bills, but he was willing to test the product at Purdue’s main campus in West Lafayette, Ind.


The UPPERCUT dual-flush technology is available as part of a complete Flushometer or in-handle retrofit kits for converting existing manual Flushometers to water-efficient dual-flush capability. The dual-flush handle offers users two flush options: Tilt the handle up to flush liquid waste and paper with 1.1 gallons of water, or push it down for a standard 1.6-gallon flush.

Electronic dual-flush Flushometers and retrofit handle kits are also available. The battery-powered Sloan ECOS® and the solar-powered Sloan SOLIS® dual-flush Flushometers offer two water-saving flush options just like the UPPERCUT. The difference, however, is that the electronic models can operate automatically. If a restroom visitor walks away without pushing a regular or reduced flush button, the Flushometer intelligently selects the appropriate flush volume based on how long the visitor remains in sensor range.

Purdue decided initially to retrofit the women’s restrooms in two of its administrative buildings with a total of 12 UPPERCUT dual-flush handles. Carson and his team closely examined the monthly water-use data from the buildings’ water meters. In the printing services building, water use dropped from an average of 10,228 gallons a month during the 12-month period prior to the UPPERCUT installation to 5,803 gallons a month in the year following installation. That equates to about a 43% decrease in water usage.

In the telecommunications building, water use dropped from about 12,229 gallons a month in the year before installation to 8,622 gallons afterward, for a total median decrease of nearly 30%. Some single month-to-month comparisons dropped by more than 50%.

“The numbers are straight water meter readings,” says Carson. The installation of the UPPERCUT handles was the only change in plumbing fixtures or water usage made during the studied period.

Based on Purdue’s water cost of 91.7 cents per 1,000 gallons and its wastewater cost of $5.34/1,000 gallons, the reduction in utility costs from the water savings means that the dual-flush handles paid for themselves in less than a year.

Northland Pines High School Achieved LEED® Gold

Going for Gold wasn’t part of the plan during the early stages of building Northland Pines High School in Eagle River, Wisconsin. It soon became apparent, though, that becoming LEED® Gold certified was easily within reach with design plans thatalready incorporated many sustainability features.

“The school district was interested in a practical design, but also in a design that was environmentally responsible,” says Mark Hanson, LEED AP and Director of Sustainable Services for Hoffman LLC in Appleton, Wisconsin, the design/build firm for Northland Pines.

Sustainable components such as water-efficient plumbing were part of the plan from the start. Northland Pines installed 22 Waterfree Urinals from Sloan Valve Company, and more than 40 of Sloan’s manual UPPERCUT dual-flush Flushometers. Restrooms also use Sloan Optima® sensor-operated faucets running at an efficient flow rate of 0.5 gallons per minute as opposed to the EPAct maximum of 2.2 gpm.

Northland Pines certainly wasn’t mandated to take the efficiency measures that it chose to make; these decisions just made sense. The focus on efficiency at Northland Pines aligned with personal values of responsible, common sense behavior that local residents appreciate. “In a rural Wisconsin community, that speaks to people,” says Hanson.

The monetary savings from using less water compared to a like-sized school are very healthy. “When you actually calculate your cost to buy water from the municipality, it’s an annual appreciation of $15,000 per year. We thought we should be able to cut that by 40% or better and save $7,000 a year.” In any case, Hanson says, “It was the responsible thing to do.”

In so doing, Hanson says, “We’re realizing an appreciable water savings.” Plus, now that Northland Pines has proven that products such as Waterfree Urinals are worthwhile, other area schools are starting to do their own share of low-consumption plumbing upgrades, extending the reach of responsible behavior even further.

California Schools Go Waterfree

The Corona-Norco Unified School District, Corona, Calif., is the fastest-growing school district in southern California. When district administrators learned about their local water district’s rebate for installing no-flush restroom fixtures, it wanted to take advantage of the program.

Existing schools began switching over to Sloan Waterfree Urinals as their respective restrooms underwent renovations or schools expanded facilities. District officials now mandate that Waterfree Urinals be installed in all new schools. The district’s 45 elementary, middle and high schools now collectively have more than 600 Waterfree Urinals, which save thousands of gallons of water every day.

Custodians at the district were concerned about how much maintenance would be required for the new urinals, which have cartridges that filter sediment from urine before sending the remaining liquid down the drain. The cartridges only need to be changed every three to four months in high-traffic areas and every six months in areas with less traffic, which actually can end up saving custodians time in the long run. Students can’t easily clog the fixtures with large objects, gum and other novelties. Garbage can be scooped out of the base, so there is less chance of damaging the fixture from intentional misuse.

While the rebate may have lured the district into trying Waterfree Urinals, the long-term savings on utility costs will help offset the purchase and installation costs.

Article courtesy of Sloan Valve Company.

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