How To Perform A Water Audit
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If your apartment, apartment building or condominium complex is master metered for water, make note of any fluctuations in occupancy rates. Compare your occupancy rates to your water bills and to the season. If you have had a lot of vacancies, your water usage should significantly decrease. If it doesn’t, you know you have a leak.
Graph the monthly or bi-monthly usage for the last two years. You don’t need to do anything fancy, a simple bar graph will suffice. You should begin to see a pattern. Tenants tend to shower more during the summer. Landscaping may require more water during warmer months as well.
If you suspect a leak, check the water meter. It is best to check the meter when the water is off, so you will most likely need to serve notice to your tenants that you are shutting the water off for a short period of time, about 30-60 minutes.
At the water meter, check to see if the meter is moving or take a reading, come back in 60 minutes and take another reading. If the meter has moved and the water has been shut off, then you have confirmation of a leak.
Data logging is another means of identifying leaks. A flow recorder is attached to the meter and the data is logged at regular intervals throughout the day over the course of a week. Water flow rates will vary during the day, but usually fall drastically during the wee hours of the morning.
Check all toilet flappers and diaphragms. Use dye tablets to test for leaks. Remember chlorine tablets destroy toilet flappers. This should also be on your annual inspection list along with checking the units’ smoke detectors. Homeowners Associations may wish to initiate a pro-active preventative maintenance program.
Check for leaks among the irrigation heads of your sprinkler system. Are there boggy spots in your landscaping?
If all else fails, contact a professional who offers ultrasonic leak detection.
Remember, if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it. Get that data!
Get Control of Your Water Usage
Taking control of the flow of water in your units puts you in control of your apartment building’s expenses and increases your net operating income. For homeowners associations the task is more difficult, but educating your board and resident members is the first step on the road to success in reducing association expenses. Using less water also means being more energy efficient because the more water you use, the more energy is required to transport, pump and heat that water.
Keep in mind that many local water utilities are willing to perform a free water audit on your apartment building or condominium complex and some even provide free faucet aerators and showerheads. If you must do it yourself, read ‘How To Perform a Water Audit‘.
Install aerators that allow no more than 1 – 1.5 gallons per minute (gpm). WaterSense labeled faucets and faucet accessories (aka aerators) are widely available and some water districts do provide rebates.
Another option we are testing here at GreenLandlady is a device called a Smart Faucet. The Smart Faucet touchless kitchen faucet is a 1.5gpm aerator with a handle. Water flows only when someone pushes the handle. See our Product Review for more information.
According to the EPA showering makes up 17% of residential water use. Install low flow WaterSense approved showerheads that use less than 2.0 gallons per minute. If your building is a high rise, be sure to check the pressure flows above the fourth floor. There are plenty of low flow showerheads on the market, but one we particularly recommend is the 1.75gpm Niagra Earth Massage Showerhead.
If your toilets use more than 1.6 gallons per flush (gpf), your money is literally going down the drain. 1.6gpf is the new federal standard for toilets, but more water-efficient toilets are available and should be your first choice. Be aware that using too much toilet paper with these types of fixtures can clog pipes, particularly old pipes that may already have build up inside them. On going resident education should emphasize minimal use of toilet paper to ensure proper functioning. Check for rebates in your area and purchase only WaterSense labeled fixtures.
High efficiency toilets (HETs) use 1.28gpf or 20% less than the federal standard of 1.6gpf. Remember to look for the Water Sense label and check for rebates.
Dual flush toilets use 0.8 and 1.6gpf, depending on which button is depressed and are also considered HETs under the EPAs WaterSense program. Though these types of fixtures may seem strange, they have been the standard in Australia and New Zealand for years. I have installed these in two of my units and have been very happy with them.
Why use water at all? Waterless urinals are becoming standard in commercial buildings due to updated code requirements and improved performance and acceptance. “Waterless urinals have been around for over 10 years and many of the initial fears about them have subsided as users and maintenance staff have become accustomed to them,” says NJ remodel. Typical waterless urinals cannot be cleaned with standard cleaning products as they use chemical cartridges to neutralize odors, so it is often maintenance staff that require the most education when these urinals are installed.
Admittedly, waterless urinals have their drawbacks, however, urinals that use as little as one pint of water have proved quite effective and may bear a closer look.
Check for rebates: http://www.epa.gov/watersense/pp/find_rebate.htm