The concept of green plumbing is still relatively unknown in South Africa. This is changing however as South African plumbers and water related stakeholders are fast realising the importance of conserving water. But what does green plumbing mean? The concept is actually very simple. Green plumbing refers to these stakeholders actively applying methods and products aimed at conserving water.
This can be done in many ways, and with this article we will explore your options of doing the right thing and becoming more green.
The most important issue of sustainability around plumbing is water conservation.
Process of Plumbing from Installation, to Materials and Choices
Once again, a qualified plumber must be used and preferably a member of the Institute as this offers follow up should there be problems with the installation. Materials selection will depend on the application. However, material, whatever is used, must hold the SABS mark. The green choices are the materials that offer the longest lifespan together with the correct fittings (the fittings are crucial as the leak will start at the fitting point not the pipe length) and also offers the greatest efficiency in delivering potable water. For example, with geysers, the green issue is not how many times the geyser is switched on and off or how many blankets one uses to cover it but the consumption/usage of hot water. So the consumer needs to be educated on usage as well as the correct installation code of practice.
The questions architects and property owners should ask in reference to green plumbing should range around efficiency, materials that are SABS, where can one achieve the maximum benefit from hot water distribution and the heat generated by an HVAC system for instance. There are certain synergies that can be gained here between air-conditioning and plumbing. Water storage, including rain water harvesting, which is a requirement in commercial buildings, etc must be stored in a manner that allows for usage cost effectively. Regarding piping this should be done in the most cost effective manner and the property owner would need to state this. Here he/she would use the services of a Consulting Engineer/ Wet Services Engineer as the design of plumbing is an engineering function. The architect in most cases would not get involved in the plumbing details. The owner should also ensure his building is utilising electronic systems, water saving, rather than the hand operated taps, mixers and urinals, as in public places water from taps are just left running. Geysers and the setting of them should be at a 55 degree level which is controllable by a Building Management System. Capital costs are high but it pays back over a relatively short space of time. The selection of taps/mixers/showers and cisterns will be “green” orientated e.g. dual flushing systems and electronic systems as mentioned earlier. Both have to insist that installations are done in accordance with SANS 10252, 1 & 2 and SANS 10254.
As stated earlier the insulation of geysers is not the main issue, it helps, but not to any major extent. It is the usage that counts. The geyser is a highly technical piece of machinery and has developed well over the years to ensure electricity and therefore water savings. Lagging the pipes is hugely beneficial as heat is lost as the hot water is carried from the geyser to the tap/mixer. The positioning of the geyser is important as well. If the geyser is to supply the kitchen and is placed far away from the kitchen the water has far to travel and if the pipes are not lagged (insulated) this is where greater losses occur. Solar energy and plumbing are complementary. Solar energy is using the sun as an energy source whereas the geyser uses electricity. As far as the plumber is concerned the installation techniques are the same, i.e. pipe fitting and the movement of water. We see the installation of solar energy systems being the function of the plumber and the decision to use geysers or solar energy or both needs to come from the property owner or designed into the system by the engineer.
Future of Sustainability
The plumber’s role is critical in ensuring sustainability of water. A qualified plumber understands risk assessment which will indicate that he/she will ensure that water travels in the most effective route giving the greatest efficiency. The plumber will ensure that the engineers design is installed to the letter. Should the plumber feel that improvements can be made this will be discussed with the engineer and owner, if need be, and implemented. The plumber is well versed with the applicable laws pertaining to water/plumbing and can advise accordingly. For example, with Dept of Water Affairs looking at introducing a Water Efficient Labelling System for plumbing components it makes sense that the plumber will have the direct knowledge of what constitutes an efficient product and can advise accordingly. It is accepted that everyone must play a part in ensuring sustainability from Government to the consumer and everything in between. The plumber will install according to the law and encourage the consumer to use water carefully and intelligently. The plumber therefore is critical and vital in the bigger picture.
Water recycling is currently enjoying the most attention on the international green plumbing scene. Australia once again leads the charge with an innovative programme in this regard, with a focus on recycling water by South East Water, the water authority in the state of Victoria. The system they currently have in place utilises a separate water supply from a treatment plant. This recycled water can be used for watering the garden, flushing toilets, washing cars etc, fire fighting and even used in ornamental ponds etc. The recycling process is very closely monitored and the water has even been deemed safe for animal consumption.
There are already many green plumbing products available on the market, this include, among others:
Source: Tiandi Eco Estate
‘Green plumbing’ is what Water Rhapsody and Yes Solar are all about. Water and energy are linked; therefore solar energy and water conservation share many synergies. Water Rhapsody Mpumalanga has incorporated Yes Solar Solar Energy so we can offer holistic sustainable living solutions. The components used in our water systems are SABS-approved and our solar water heating systems made by Solsquare are also SABS-approved. Water conservation is made easy when you install our WWF Award-winning rainwater harvesting systems and grey water recycling systems. Other Water Rhapsody water conservation systems include water-saving toilet flushing devices (that simply replace most existing flushing mechanisms) and an ingenious swimming pool backwash water recycling system (don’t let chlorinated water into the environment!). Our environmentally friendly water systems are ideal for eco estates where water conservation- and water pollution issues are high priority but are also equally suited to the average urban home. Our water systems are adaptable and can be fitted to the smallest house to large office blocks, game lodges, hotels and schools. All our water systems can be retrofitted to older, existing homes or built into new houses. It is more cost effective to build our systems into to new constructions where positioning is planned together with the architect’s and plumber’s input. Our Solsquare solar geysers are installed by professional solar installers and qualify for Eskom renewable energy rebates. Wherever possible, solar geysers should be installed in stead of conventional geysers, especially in sunny South Africa. Solar water heaters cost more initially but, at current Eskom tariffs, they typically amortize this cost within 36 months. Remember to incorporate climate sensitive design in your buildings so that you maximize the benefits of your green plumbing installations.
Go green, save water, save energy, save money and save the environment!
Contact us for a free quote on a solar geyser, water system or JoJo water tank (we are authorized JoJo Tanks dealers and can supply and install the full range of JoJo water tanks and JoJo tank stands).