Plumbing Manufacturers International (PMI) has been one of the industry’s advocates that has been vocal about water shortage issues, specifically the drought situation in California. The organization and its members continue to work with the State of California, providing input on standards being developed by the California Energy Commission and educating everyone from the engineer to the end user on existing and developing products that manufacturers can and will offer as solutions.
Most recently, PMI urged California Governor Jerry Brown to implement a statewide rebate program providing monetary incentives for the purchase of water-efficient toilets, showerheads, bathroom faucets, and other plumbing products. It is PMI’s position that consumers and businesses have been slow to purchase and install efficient products, as determined by WaterSense standards.
Plumbing Engineer reached out to one of PMI’s members, Sloan, to see what solutions they could offer relating to the drought discussion. John Wilson, development engineer at Sloan, and Daniel Gleiberman, manager of Product Compliance and Government Affairs at Sloan, provided insight. Both spoke about the company’s partnership with WaterSense and how that is shaping the work it is doing to improve not just its water-efficient products but also awareness among the industry on the importance of efficient water delivery systems.
PE: Can you talk about Sloan’s role as an EPA WaterSense Partner?
DG: Sloan was one of the first manufacturers to become an EPA WaterSense partner and proudly promotes that fact in our marketing efforts. We recognize the importance of the WaterSense program in increasing awareness and availability of water efficient products.
PE: Earlier this year, the EPA and WaterSense released a draft for specification of flush valve water closets. How do such actions affect the manufacturing world as it relates to product development, innovation, etc.?
JW: The draft specification proposed by the EPA and WaterSense reduces the gpf from the Low Consumption (LC) to High Efficiency (HE) systems, which reduces water consumption by at least 20 percent. This proposal also includes more challenging performance tests, such as tougher waste extraction criteria.
During the same time period that the draft was released, the ASME codes also increased their performance requirements, reducing gpf variance and increasing flush valve life cycle from 150,000 cycles to 250,000 cycles.
The EPA and WaterSense proposed draft recognizes that the flushometers used in public restrooms is one component in the total water delivery system. This system starts with the water source where water municipalities collect and treat the water to be delivered through an infrastructure to a flushometer. A user initiates a flushometer cycle (manual or via a sensor) to deliver a known amount of water in a predefined manner to fully evacuate a sanitary fixture. This process of delivering water requires energy.
The challenge to Sloan was to refine the flush valve design to do an equal or better job with a fraction of the water required 20 years ago; 3.5 gpf in the 1990s is now 1.28 gpf, > 60 percent reduction. We have to design products that are more efficient. This is a continuous process of improvement, as seen by the timeline of high efficient products offered by Sloan. The exterior of the valve may look the same, but there has been lots of engineering activity inside of the flush valve.
Characteristics of the flush valve design tolerated in the past must now be improved to meet the reduced water volume and increased performance that are expected. Each component within the flush valve has been reviewed to streamline the water flow path, held to much tighter tolerances, and fabricated from engineered materials to ensure the complete flush valve meets the higher performance standards.
PE: As the drought discussion has surfaced this year, what stance has Sloan taken on water conversation?
DG: The drought in California, while unfortunate because it affects people negatively in many ways, also highlights the need for water efficient products that companies like Sloan offer. Sloan strives to educate all of our customers and users about the need to use water efficiently.
JW: Sloan offers several water efficient products that reduce the customer’s water footprint while still maintaining a hygienic environment. Dual flush flushometers, introduced 10 years ago, started our water conservation effort. The flushometers allow the user to choose a reduced volume of water to clean the fixture.
During the last few years, we have also introduced 1.28 gpf and 1.1 gpf closet flushometers. For urinal applications, the gallons per cycle have decreased from 1.0 gpf down to 0.125 gpf. The hybrid urinal continues to reduce the water footprint by combining the efficiency of water-free urinals with the function of conventional urinals.
To further expand the water conservation effort, this year we have engineered a flushometer to be compatible with reclaim water systems, where the water quality is more aggressive than potable water.
PE: One industry debate when it comes to efficiency is manual versus automatic products. Has Sloan elected to take a side on this discussion?
JW: Sloan is proud of the water efficiency its manual and sensor flushometers deliver. Our customers require that Sloan products function all the time. Incorporating two activation methods to initiate a flush cycle gives the user options. Redundant activation does not imply that either manual or automatic methods are prone to issues. Instead, this should be considered as the water delivery system that works at all times, under any circumstances. One example is a hardwire sensor does not work when there is no electricity, but with a redundant activation system it does.
The other concern with high efficient fixtures is drain line carry. The system still needs to deliver the black water to the sewer treatment system with the lower water volume used. In 2012, the Plumbing Efficiency Research Coalition (PERC) studied the effects of reduced amounts of water consumed per cycle and the affect on drain line carry. This research was shared with the EPA, WaterSense, plumbing engineers, and manufacturers to guide them in their portion of developing a more efficient water delivery system.
PE: Where do you see the industry’s conversation on efficiency going in the near future?
JW: The pace of improving water efficiency, consuming less water with equal or better hygienic results, has been accelerating over the last several years, making our industry very dynamic. The challenge to plumbing and product engineers is to achieve these goals by doing more with less.
The flushometer controls not only the amount of water per cycle delivered to the fixture, but we must also improve the combined efficiency of the flushometer/fixture system.
The users of public restrooms, and the people providing this service require Sloan’s products to improve performance and efficiency. Together we can achieve the demanding goals of the EPA and WaterSense.