Tara Reynaud, LEED, AP, CGBP 0000-00-00 00:00:00
Water Audits GreenPlumbers USA gives the lowdown on the critical nature of water audits In this fourth feature for Reeves Journal’s “Sustainable Plumbing” Supplement for 2010, I will be giving an overview of the INSPECTION REPORT SERVICE section of the GreenPlumbers curriculum. The Inspection Report Service class is often referred to as the “IRS Audit Class”—which doesn’t sound pleasant.In fact, this class is perhaps the most interesting and important class in the series because we focus on conducting a water audit and elucidate the connections to all of the prior material presented in the series. My own personal, informal survey says this is the No. 1 favorite class for the plumbers. To set the stage and highlight the relevance of this course’s material, we look at the recent pilot program run by Denver Water. Denver Water, a public agency, targeted customers whose residences were consuming more than the average amount of water and offered to provide each with a new high-efficiency toilet, a water-saving showerhead and conservation aerators for every faucet in the house. Denver Water then contacted local Licensed GreenPlumbers to install these devices in the 120 participating homes. The pilot results were calculated and showed a 50 percent reduction in the homeowners’ water costs. Stacy Smith, a Denver Water conservation specialist and director of the “Plumb Green, Save Blue” project said, “We were enormously surprised.Those are huge savings.” The success of this program, and what will drive the success of future water conservation projects, will be the water audit format. The only way to gauge measureable results is to begin with a benchmark—to identify conservation opportunities and to implement water use efficiency changes. The vehicle for this is the water audit. The GreenPlumber Inspection Report Service class specifies the skills required to prepare, execute, analyze and report on a domestic plumbing inspection/water audit. A comprehensive audit kit is set forth and a complete review of the tools and supplies, well-suited to the inspection, is provided and discussed. The plumber learns how to develop a checklist reflective of the scope and objectives of the inspection to guide him/her through the process with the homeowner. The checklist and list of questions guide the plumber through the audit and facilitate the fact-finding necessary to set the benchmarks and to eventually make water efficient suggestions. There are some basic tips that make the audit run smoothly: • Schedule a time when the customer is available—this will give the water auditor a window into the behaviors and values with regard to water use on-site; • Be familiar with the rates charged in the area for water, sewer and energy (gas and/or electric); • Be well-versed on applicable rebates offered for plumbing products and systems; • Demonstrate knowledge of water efficient plumbing products and systems. Some review of topics introduced in previous sessions, along with more new, in-depth topics are covered in this class. A complete study of plant evaportranspiration, irrigation practices and future innovations in outdoor water use is undertaken. The plumber, who typically stays inside the house to take care of the plumbing, is now being asked to venture into the great out-of-doors to study up on outdoor irrigation, ensuring he’ll be able to provide feedback to the customer regarding the types of landscaping, water needs and efficient systems to replace existing, water-wasting versions that might be currently installed. Occasionally the plumbers in the class will voice their concern about being asked to inspect irrigation systems. They claim that, as plumbers, they usually say irrigation systems are out of their area of expertise. However, those who decide to pursue the water audit as an additional niche to add to their current business model typically see the obvious need to understand the use of water in the residence as a whole.In any case, it is necessary to assess the outdoor water use in order to get an accurate picture of total residential water use, so the IRS class covers this material in full detail. GreenPlumbers presents the licensed GreenPlumber 50-point Residential Audit checklist and a sample audit is completed as part of the course work. I have mentioned the dynamic nature of the GreenPlumbers classes before, and I will say that the Inspection Report Service segment of the class is a fun and informative segment that provides for lively exchange of ideas and situational learning. After the sample residential audit is complete we do a simplified version of a commercial audit, too. The reason for the simplicity is simple; a water audit is the study of the use of water at the site—a single-family home, multi-family housing, manufacturing facility, retail store, restaurant, theme park, health care facility and the list goes on. If we imagine the various ways each of the mentioned market segments Uses water, we can understand that there are possibly hundreds of specialized water audits to be performed. The commercial audit, therefore, is a very specific audit for that particular industry and because of this, GreenPlumbers only takes the students through an elemental commercial application in order to see the opportunities for conservation. The students understand that any commercial water audit will require some amount of research and customization depending on the industry of the property inspected. After completing the brief commercial “convenience store” water audit, the class resumes the residential audit and begins to analyze the information gathered. Probably the most important skill to be developed is observation: to collect information and turn it into savvy suggestions for water efficient, conservation measures using potential water and money savings as incentives. Upon completion of the physical inspection, the Water Auditor prepares a report to present to the homeowner that clearly shows the current water use factored into gallons per year and the energy expenditure associated with the current water use. There is embedded energy in all water that we use in terms of direct and indirect costs. The indirect costs include: the pumping, treating and distribution of the potable water as well as the energy intensive treatment of the wastewater. We then directly add energy to our water on-site whenever we heat it and move it around in our own plumbing systems. GreenPlumbers instructs the student on all pertinent calculations using local and specific information to assess the residence.Once the calculations are noted, the plumber makes suggestions for more efficient plumbing products to replace those currently installed. The inspection report guides him to perhaps suggest additional systems for increased efficiency, such as solar thermal systems to heat potable water; rainwater catchment systems to supplement the potable water supply, and gray water systems to provide an alternate source of water for household use. In his book called “Dry Run—Preventing the Next Urban Water Crisis” Jerry Yudelson, a leading authority on green building, clean water and sustainable development, discusses his 10-Step Program to preventing a crisis. He writes: “Perhaps the most important measure that a home or business owner can take is to have a water audit performed. Before you can take corrective measures to reduce water consumption, you need to know how much water is being used, how much is being wasted and specifically by which fixtures, processes or appliances.That information allows you to set realistic goals for water conservation and to prepare a management and investment plan to reduce water use to meet your goals.” He goes on to recount his experience with a GreenPlumbers 50-point audit: “In January 2010, I had a water audit done for my home by a company called The Arizona GreenPlumbers, trained and licensed by the GreenPlumbers USA organization. The results were enlightening. First, there was a 50-question survey to analyze water use and develop some quantitative information.Then, the auditors surveyed plumbing equipment, measured flow rates and installed a recirculating hot water system for immediate savings. In many homes, they would change out toilets and install faucet aerators. The audit looked in detail at water use in the following areas: • Outdoor water use, including any use of sprinklers or drip irrigation • Behavioral water use such as swimming pool or car washing • Interior water use, including kitchen, dishwashers, laundry and bathrooms A short time later, they presented the audit results with a recommended set of measures that would result in an overall 12.5 percent savings or $110 per year. These included: installing a front-loading Energy Star washing machine, a gray water system for laundry wastewater and an Energy Star dishwasher and replacing shower heads and faucet aerators. A key recommendation was to install a second meter at the street so I could separate irrigation water use from household consumption. In this way, I wouldn’t be paying sewer charges (150 percent of the water costs) for irrigation water use, about two-thirds of my overall use in the southern Arizona desert.” The true key to water conservation is the savings gained by making efficient changes in existing buildings. The only way to make smart choices about changes, the benchmark must be set during a comprehensive water audit. GreenPlumbers invites you to join the innovators in water and energy savings—take the GreenPlumbers Accreditation Series and add ‘Water Audit’ to your list of available services.Your customers will be grateful for the water, sewer and energy savings and the money savings that will accompany the water efficiency measures taken. You will also be doing your part to mitigate wasteful water and energy use practices and to help conserve the precious water resource. For more information on GreenPlumbers classes please visit www.GreenPlumbers usa.com. Tara Reynaud, LEED, AP, CGBP, is the Southern California regional manager of GreenPlumbersUSA, a Sacramento- based group with the aim of providing contractors with the practical knowledge they need to implement “green” products, services and techniques. Visit the group on the Web at www.greenplumbersusa.com.
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