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For Watts CEO, President and board chair Bob Pagano and Chief Sustainability Officer Kenneth Lepage — and thousands of other staff and employees at Watts — promoting sustainable living as stewards of the earth’s resources is a way of life.
“At Watts, our reputation as respectful environmental stewards starts with our business practices,” Pagano says. “These practices reflect our values and advance our efforts to promote an economically, socially and environmentally sustainable future. We’re committed to minimizing the impact of our global operations and supply chain on the environment, protecting the communities where we operate, and innovating products and services that support our customers.”
North Andover, Mass.-based Watts Water Technologies is a supplier of products and solutions that conserve water and manage the flow of fluids and energy into, through and out of buildings in the commercial, industrial and residential markets in the Americas, Europe, Asia-Pacific, the Middle East and Africa.
For nearly 150 years, Watts has designed and produced systems that safeguard and deliver water, energy-efficient heating and hot water systems, drainage systems, and water filtration and conditioning technology that helps treat and conserve water. So now, in this — Plumbing Engineer’s 50th anniversary issue — we celebrate sustainability in many ways.
According to Lepage, Watts is taking on the challenge of reducing the company’s water, energy, carbon and waste footprints across all operations. “We seek to sustainably contribute to global efforts to combat climate change by reducing our impact on the environment while working to prevent water-related hazards such as water scarcity and flooding,” he adds.
Lepage points to several facets of the company’s environmental stewardship:
• Development of innovative products and smart and connected solutions to protect, control and conserve critical resources, helping customers to reduce their environmental impact.
• Enhancing social value by contributing to safe, healthy and strong communities.
• Providing access to clean water is a fundamental human right.
• Committing to reducing the water it uses and discharges to manufacture its products.
Commitments like this force the magnifying glass closer to company operations, even — for instance — to packaging sustainability. The company has forced an 80% reduction in plastics and chemicals for protective packaging since 2017.
Watts also points to a wide variety of other sustainability successes:
• Watts’ pressure-reducing valves have helped to avoid using more than 19 billion gallons of water globally per year.
• AERCO, a Watts brand of high-efficiency gas-fired boilers and water heaters, helped its customers avoid an estimated 104,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide during 2022.
• The Watts Big Bubba BB-S101 whole home filtration system filters out PFOA/PFAS, certain metal contaminants, chlorine and cysts from water at its point of entry into a home.
• More than 1 million repair kits have been sold, which extend the useful life of Watts products.
According to Pagano, Watts is focused on understanding the environmental impacts of its product portfolio from the cradle to the grave so it can work to reduce any negative impacts and amplify positive ones. To help do this, it has begun to develop and build life-cycle assessment (LCA) capabilities. An LCA is a scientific method of quantifying the environmental impacts of a product throughout its life cycle.
“We’ve developed a Watts LCA methodology in accordance with ISO 14040 and ISO 14044 guidelines,” Lepage explains. “Recently, we performed an LCA on our pressure-reducing valve product family. Two products were chosen to represent the direct-acting PRV line to get the most coverage from this LCA.”
Watts has committed to significantly expanding its LCA capabilities over the next year.
“This was a defining moment for us, one that has helped to build the foundation for further environmental improvements within Watts,” he adds. “As the ESG landscape continues to evolve, we’re committed to continuing to adapt and improve. Sustainable business practices and products are essential to creating value for our stakeholders. I’m very proud of the progress we’ve made and excited for where we’re headed.”
Safety and Regulation Products
• Sentry 2.5 Backflow Performance Monitoring System
Challenge: Backflow preventers save water and mitigate disease by ensuring water does not reenter the potable water supply. Each backflow device is tested and, if necessary, serviced a minimum of once per year by a certified backflow tester to ensure that the device is operating as intended.
Currently, there is no means of detecting if a backflow device is not operating as desired in between testing cycles, leading to a risk of contaminated water reentering the potable water supply.
Solution: Watts Sentry 2.5 backflow performance monitoring system is designed to continuously monitor backflow preventer performance. The system connects directly to a backflow device and streams data directly to a customer’s building management system, enabling alerts to be issued if critical limits are exceeded.
• Lead-Free Under Sink Guardian, Hot Water Purge
Challenge: Managing the supply and temperature of hot water is a year-round struggle for facility managers of high-occupancy facilities such as hospitals, colleges, hotels and office buildings, or ones with vulnerable occupants (hospitals, nursing homes, clinics). Temperature changes in plumbing systems are common as a result of seasonality, system pressure fluctuations and water heater malfunctions.
Temperature changes can give rise to waterborne bacteria, including Legionella, and lead to scalding at points of use.
Solution: Watts LFUSG-HWP ensures that users have consistent temperature at the faucets to avoid hot water scalding. With its override lever, facilities can conduct a full building sanitization, override mixing valves and then turn back on. At regular intervals, facility managers can individually sanitize the faucets or the entire building loop (when paired with Powers IntelliStation) and mitigate waterborne pathogen growth.
• Big Bubba BB-S101
Challenge: Many service lines, including pipe, solder and parts that supply homes with water, also may contain lead. Conventional wisdom holds that running the tap for 10 to 15 seconds can reduce lead content in drinking water; however, that approach wastes water and does not completely eliminate contaminants. Additionally, perfluorooctane sulfonate and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOS and PFOA) contamination from local wells and consumer products is an increasing concern for homeowners.
Solution: NSF Certified Big Bubba BB-S101 whole home filtration systems filter lead, PFOA/PFAS, chlorine and cysts from water at its point of entry into a home. The system filters up to 84,000 gallons of water in a home or business, avoiding the need for single-use plastic water bottles. The system comes standard with a water quality monitor that proactively notifies users via email/SMS alerts when filter replacement is due, helping to ensure that clean, filtered water is always available.
• Pressure-Reducing Valves
Challenge: Excess water supply pressure into a user’s home or business poses not only a risk to appliances but also needlessly wastes water (up to 30% more). This subsequently causes higher energy bills to heat the wasted hot water (the EPA estimates 30% of household water usage is heated water), as well as additional sewer surcharge bills to remove that excess wasted water.
Water at higher pressure can also limit the lifespan of appliances, causing undue wear and tear and the need for premature maintenance.
Solution: According to EPA estimates, the average home can save more than 11,000 gallons of water a year by reducing incoming water pressure from 80 psi to 50 psi through the installation of a pressure-reducing valve. This lower pressure will save homeowners the energy used on heating the extra hot water, decrease their sewer bill and extend the life of their appliances.
• Hygienic Pro
Challenge: Drainage systems on factory floors often waste water because insufficient flow capacity to remove water leads to pooling on floors. Additionally, waste and humidity collect on factory floors, creating hygiene and food safety challenges. In the absence of a hygienically designed, efficient drainage system, the contaminated sewer system and the clean production area may come into contact.
Traditional systems also frequently lack the capacity to collect waste from processing activities and offer limited access to clean the inside of the drainage system.
Solution: BLÜCHER HygienicPro drains are high-capacity drains that provide efficient flow, are easy to clean and help mitigate bacterial growth while limiting water volumes and production downtime needed to operate and clean the drainage system. Flow comparison tests have found that HygienicPro drains use 96.5% less water than traditional channels. In 2022, that equated to customers avoiding the use of 23,150 liters of water.
• Watts Leak Defense System
Challenge: Sola Salons in greater San Diego includes 17 hair salons that are part of a growing national chain. Over the years, several of the salons have suffered water damage overnight when the building is unattended. Four separate incidents totaled hundreds of thousands of dollars in water damage. The salons wanted a better way to protect against water leaks and prevent damage.
Solution: The Leak Defense team created a system that could be adapted to the unique hours and plumbing systems at each facility. They installed the Watts Leak Defense System, a water-flow monitoring and alarm system that detects leaking water in a plumbing system.
During off hours when a salon is closed, the Leak Defense System is in “unoccupied” mode. Water may flow for a pre-determined time, e.g., a minute, without alerts being triggered. However, if excess water flow occurs, the Leak Defense System valve, positioned on the main water line, will shut the water off and the Leak Defense System through its Control Panel will send a text or email alert to a pre-determined list of responders.
The system has prevented any further catastrophic leaks at the 17 Sola Salon locations where it was installed, and is being installed at additional locations of the 600-location chain.
• Aegis Heat Pump
Challenge: Domestic water heat pumps traditionally use refrigerants, including propane and ammonia, to move heat from one set of coils to another. Propane and ammonia create chemical byproducts that are hazardous to the environment, have high global-warming potential (GWP) and are flammable.
Solution: The Aegis heat pump is a highly efficient heat pump water heater using electricity and natural CO2 refrigerant to produce domestic hot water. Its CO2 refrigerant, R744, is nontoxic, nonflammable, has an ozone depletion potential of zero and a low GWP. The heat pump saves an estimated 3,435 tons of CO2 annually.