Managing large buildings or campuses can be challenging for any facility manager, whether health care, K-12, higher ed, commercial buildings or municipalities. Maintenance staff are often stretched thin, and it can be hard to know how to manage labor shortages, get a high-level view of water usage, and improve overall conservation and sustainability efforts.
However, new and improved smart plumbing technology offers several benefits and solutions that can make everyone’s life easier while also improving the bottom line.
How Do Smart Plumbing Fixtures Work?
Zurn Smart Products are equipped with advanced sensors detecting changes and tracking product performance. The data is then transmitted to a digital dashboard for easy monitoring. Facility managers can use these real-time insights to anticipate and manage maintenance more efficiently, which means better use of maintenance staff time and resources.
Visibility for predictability
Let your equipment do the monitoring for you and your staff. With connected products, you can:
Access your data 24/7 from any location;
View all your smart products through a user-friendly dashboard;
Receive real-time notifications via email or text;
Customize alerts around your operation and set parameters;
Monitor the levels of restroom essentials, such as toilet paper, soap dispensers and paper towels;
Grant access to internal team members and external service providers;
Set permission levels and manage user access privileges by location and product type.
Connected Products for Restrooms
Several smart solutions are available for restrooms, including sensor faucets, flush valves and occupancy lights. These connected features can offer a comprehensive picture of usage and help alert to potential maintenance issues.
1. Preventing the spread of pathogens
Smart sensor faucets and flush valves offer significant safety improvements for facilities. Legionella is a bacterium that can build up in stagnant water and is often found in piping not used on a regular basis. Legionnaire’s Disease can seriously sicken or even kill immunocompromised and older people, and outbreaks have been found in retirement homes and hospitals.
Waterborne pathogens are dangerous to human health and cost hospitals time and money — nearly 99,000 people die from a health-care-acquired infection every year, and these illnesses can cost hundreds of millions of dollars in health-care costs, with longer lengths of stay and a serious impact on facilities’ bottom line.
Prevention is a high priority, and proactive flushing is a significant and simple way to help prevent Legionella and other waterborne pathogens. With smart sensor faucets and flush valves, facilities can schedule automated flushing on a timeline that works for them: regularly, at certain times of the year when restrooms aren’t in high use, or only as needed.
Proactive flushing also saves time and money. Manual flushing programs can be very expensive and are often the responsibility of understaffed and overburdened environmental services or facilities teams (see Figure 2). Consider a 300-room hospital with two outlets per bed:
• If each room is flushed once a week, the hospital will waste an average of 7,800 manhours per year and cost up to $400,000. (This assumes a $50/hour labor rate and 30 minutes allocated per room for flushing.)
• Switching to smart auto-flushing devices would save $4 million over 10 years, as well as 78,000 manhours.
• Automated programs also save water by only flushing fixtures that have not been used in the previous week.
Sensor faucets also help mitigate germ transfer, reduce touchpoints and make it easier for everyone to keep their hands clean while saving water and energy. Smart sensor faucets provide usage patterns to help conserve water, track usage and alert facility staff to low batteries, meaning maintenance can be more proactive and efficient.
2. Smart sensor low battery alerts
College campuses all over the country have turned to smart products to help meet the challenges faced by today’s lean maintenance departments. To prevent restroom downtime and reduce changeout work orders, one central state university had maintenance teams change batteries in every faucet and flush valve twice a year.
With nearly 4,000 fixtures campus-wide, this project required six plumbers working two shifts every six months. Facility managers found a solution to premature battery replacements with Zurn Elkay smart restroom products.
The maintenance team implemented smart sensor low battery alerts and remote voltage monitoring to improve efficiency and reduce costs. Batteries are now changed based on alerts, which signal closer to the battery’s end-of-life cycle. As a result, the university saved 216 hours of labor and the cost of 30,400 premature battery replacements (https://bit.ly/3vjfHe1).
3. Remote monitoring across campus
A southern university campus had success using smart products to better manage its staff’s time. At this 300-plus-acre campus, a team of eight plumbers managed almost 200 buildings. The overworked team was spread thin, trying to keep up with routine and unexpected maintenance tasks. The staff shortage created delays in responding to much-needed work orders.
Zurn Elkay smart remote monitoring provided insights across the entire campus, down to the room level. Maintenance managers were able to check solenoid and diaphragm life without having to leave their offices. They were also able to plan maintenance more efficiently by scheduling preventative work before any issues occurred.
The implementation of Zurn Elkay’s Hydro-X fixtures with smart sensor technology reduced battery changeouts by 1,197 annually, saving the university 4,788 batteries. With these smart restroom products, the lean maintenance team was able to reduce truck rolls and maintenance visits by 50% (https://bit.ly/48ft4KO).
Figure 3 shows how smart restroom solutions can work for colleges of all sizes.
Backflow Prevention and Flood Control
Having smart backflow prevention and flood control is one of those things you may not need often, but when you do, you really need it. Customizable alerts through the Zurn plumbSMART app let users know of relief valve discharge instantly so facilities can react quickly and potentially avoid catastrophic flooding and water damage.
Connected backflow preventers allow you to monitor:
Relief valve discharge tracking;
Automatic water shut-off;
Flow meters and water consumption;
The ability to monitor water consumption is particularly important to universities and hospitals, as this type of tracking makes it easier to establish water conservation plans based on actual data and evaluation of use (see Figure 4).
And, of course, the dangers being prevented are hard to overstate — should backflow or flooding occur, the result can be the loss of potable water and millions in damage.
Restaurants and commercial kitchens need grease interceptors to avoid water supply contamination, and those interceptors need regular pumping, but how often? With a smart interceptor monitor, sensors alert users when it’s getting full, so there’s no need to guess and no need to worry about a costly overflow (see Figure 5).
Zurn’s SmartPro system is the only ultrasonic monitoring system, meaning it avoids clog-prone direct contact alarms and provides real-time data on grease/oil levels, solids and sediments levels, total liquid level, temperature, and battery life. With it, restaurants and contractors can meet regulatory requirements and avoid potential fines.
Pumping only when it’s needed means cost savings, too. One customer in the Maryland area found the business could save up to $720,000 a year by pumping quarterly instead of monthly (https://bit.ly/3NQjxlr).
With smart plumbing features, there’s no need to worry about wasting precious time and money. These products make it easier than ever to track usage, gain real-time insights and help prevent problems before they start — from small fixes such as dead batteries to lowering the risk of waterborne pathogens or major flooding.
With real-time insights into the performance of your smart products, you’ll know exactly when it’s time to replace a part, make a repair, refill a product or schedule cleaning or services (see Figure 6). You’ll also be able to analyze water consumption trends, peak hours and usage, making it easier to manage your water conservation plans and goals.
When it comes to saving time, managing facility workflow and improving efficiency and sustainability, smart plumbing is an easy upgrade.
Melissa Conner and Renita Marjan are copywriters at Zurn Elkay. Water Solutions.