Toilet Talk: How Your Property Could be Losing Money
Is Your Property Flushing Money Away?
While we’ve all heard that leaky toilets costs can add up, even functioning toilets have historically been big water users. Nearly 27 percent of water used inside homes goes through toilets, much more than in showers, washing machines or faucets. A leaky toilet cost one New York City resident $26 a day. Paul Rhodes, National Maintenance and Safety Instructor for the National Apartment Association Education Institute (NAAEI), stresses that maintenance teams should take their toilet repairs seriously, and that property managers should encourage residents to report leaks.
Toilets are precisely engineered devices that need the right touch
What we don’t always hear about is that flush toilets are precisely engineered devices built for one purpose, and, if not maintained properly, will waste water even if everything is working fine. Toilets function on the siphon theory, a method in which water and waste from the bowl is pulled into the sewer system. When the handle is used, water empties into the bowl and is replaced when the fill valve opens because of the decreased water level in the tank. As this water level drops, it rises in the bowl and goes down the drain.
In the tank are a few simple-looking parts that let the water evacuate and shut off flow when the appropriate water level is reached. The entire inner workings of a toilet tank, including the flapper, fit in a small box in the plumbing aisle of your local home improvement store. But each component to a toilet synchs with the other. If mixed and matched or not properly tweaked, a good flush can cause more maintenance headaches.
“If you change parts in a way that stops the siphon, then the toilet clogs,” Rhodes said. “Also, you have adjustable flappers and fill valves. Maintenance technicians don’t realize they have to adjust these.”
Using the right parts and calibrate ensure the right operation
Earlier this year, Rhodes spent an afternoon at the NAA’s Education Conference & Exposition explaining to technicians why it’s important for toilet parts to work harmoniously. He showed how they should be calibrated and how to ensure correct parts are installed so residents don’t have to hold down the handle or flush twice. In a morning session, he and attendees took apart some of the most popular fill valves to get a better understanding of how toilets can leak or use too much water.
He stressed again that using the right parts is critical to toilet maintenance and functionality because they have changed over the years. Most properties built before 1992 installed 3- to 5-gallon toilets. Later, many commodes featured 1.6-gallon flushing by use of a water-saving flapper. However, installing that flapper into a 3- to 5-gallon toilet will clog because not enough water can be released from the tank to siphon out the bowl.
“That’s when the resident has to hold the handle up or the toilet gets flushed twice,” Rhodes said. And the water savings literally go down the drain.
In the last two decades, water-saving toilets have flooded the market. Low-flow toilets are common in new properties and have been installed as retrofits in older ones.
Technicians, front office should be proactive about toilet leaks
A resident who is not responsible for a water bill may put up with a relentless whisper long before calling maintenance, Rhodes says. All the while, it costs the apartment operator plenty on the water bill. Many times, noisy toilets only gets fixed when a technician is in the apartment for another reason.
“The tech will often walk towards a bathroom and hear the resident say, ‘It’s about time someone made that toilet shut up! It’s been making that sound for over a month.’ ” Rhodes said.
Bottom line: property managers should be aware of potential costs of poor toilet maintenance. It is more than snapping in any flapper. For your toilets, be sure to adjust the working parts to their correct specifications.
Furthermore, know your toilets. You and your residents will enjoy the quiet.