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Four ways to reduce restroom operating costs

March 2013

Advance planning and thoughtful specification of plumbing fixtures can help shrink maintenance and other costs in commercial restrooms.

By Jeffrey Lee

For facilities managers interested in reducing the operating costs of their buildings, it's important to not overlook savings opportunities in the restroom. Factors ranging from energy use to maintenance hours can put an unexpected strain on a building's operating budget. Facilities managers and designers both can play a role in reducing restroom operating costs with smart decisions about product specification and design. Whether you're designing a new building or devising a way to save costs in an existing facility, consider the strategic steps you can take to reduce these four potential budget burdens.

M•PRESS Heavy Duty Metering Faucet
By reducing the need for maintenance and repairs and offering consistent water savings, the M•PRESS Heavy Duty Metering Faucet can help reduce operating costs.
Water costs. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 40 percent of the water used in hospitals and schools comes from restrooms and domestic (potable) usage. As our water systems continue to age, the costs for water and wastewater services will continue to rise. Choosing the right, efficient plumbing fixtures is an important step to minimize that expense. “WaterSense-labeled plumbing products are independently certified to use at least 20 percent less water and perform as well as or better than standard models,” the EPA notes in its Best Management Practices for Commercial and Institutional Facilities.

In addition to considering water-efficient toilets, urinals, and showerheads, selecting a reliable metering faucet can also increase water savings. Moen's M•PRESS™ Heavy Duty Metering Faucets have a pressure-independent design that ensures consistent water flow and proper shut-off timing, even if water pressure varies throughout the building. They're factory tested to ensure facilities will see dependable water savings throughout the life of the faucet.

Maintenance man-hours. Improving the ease of maintenance, cleaning, and repairs in your building's restrooms may seem like a small step, but it can add up to substantial labor savings for technicians and cleaning crews. In an article for Building Operating Management, engineer James Piper identified several design decisions that can reduce maintenance time. For instance, including a custodial closet within or near the restroom will eliminate time hauling cleaning equipment and maintenance supplies, not to mention cleaning up accidental spills en route.

Reducing maintenance is another area where specifying a reliable metering faucet can offer lasting savings. The M•PRESS faucet has several features that minimize the time technicians must spend replacing or repairing it. It's built of the highest-quality materials, including a solid cast brass body with a chrome finish that resists even harsh industrial cleaners. A sealed silicone timing mechanism is completely separated from the water source, protected from impurities and clogs, to ensure consistent timing and less maintenance. And the anti-rotation handle uses an interlocking design that secures the cartridge to the handle hub, so it won't come loose or rotate.

Supply costs. To conserve supplies such as hand soap and paper towels, an upfront investment can provide ongoing savings. While the typical folded towel dispenser might be the cheapest option in terms of initial cost, for example, automatic paper towel dispensers can reduce waste by providing a properly sized towel that is less likely to be dropped on the floor. Specifying vandal-resistant plumbing fixtures can also keep costs down by reducing the need for replacement parts such as handles and aerators.

Energy use. Automatic lighting controls such as occupancy sensors can help reduce the energy used for lighting throughout commercial buildings, but their impact may be greatest in the restroom, according to a study by researchers at the Energy Star Buildings Program and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. The study found that sensors could save 47 to 60 percent of lighting energy in restrooms, where lights are often left on overnight or during the weekend.

Don't forget that saving water saves energy, too, since buildings use gas or electricity to heat water. Using low-flow faucets and showerheads, as well as fixtures that shut off automatically, can reduce the load on your water heating equipment — and help make sure your restrooms don't bust your operating budget.