The average home’s water leaks can account for more than 10,000 gal. wasted each year — the amount of water needed to wash 270 loads of laundry. And 10% of homes have leaks that waste more than90 gal. of water every day. A leaky faucet can be easy to spot, but what about leaks in the walls or under the floor? Leaking water means higher water and energy bills. These statistics from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency illustrate the need for homeowners and building owners to diagnose their water leak problems.
And in states where potable water is in short supply, conserving water is an important issue.
Responding to these needs, the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors — National Association recently developed a training program for those who wish to receive a water auditor certification.
“A water auditor reviews a facility’s existing devices and operations, and rates structures to determine opportunities to save water and energy,” explains Chuck White, PHCC’s vice president of technical and code services. “The auditor evaluates the needs of the client and makes building-science-based recommendations, supported by projected savings in water, energy and money.”
The water auditor then offers service quotations and recommendations to put these savings into effect.
The amount of wasted water and energy is calculated and applied to the rate factors from the local utility in order to calculate possible savings. White explains water savings can be a measured amount or it can be a projected savings based on high-performance fixture applications. Depending on the application and/or evaluator, these predicted savings can be calculated on simple pad and paper or an advanced computer.
White labels leakage as the largest problem promoting water and energy losses. Two main reasons for leaking water are poor faucet conditions and actual leaks from water piping. Other problems could include insufficient pipe insulation, excessive hot water temperature and excess pressure. “Hot water leakage compounds the loss because the energy purchased is directly wasted,” he says.
The economic impact can be great and not just to the homeowner. “While the reduction in water, sewage and energy costs can save money on utility bills, the utility provider benefits as well,” he explains. “Reduced consumption reduces demand on infrastructure and can reduce the need for additional well fields and wastewater treatment, both expensive undertakings for municipalities.”
The water-energy nexus
In response to the increasing pressure on the nation’s water and energy resources, the PHCC’s Water and Energy Conservation Committee recommended a proactive stance to the national board. PHCC believes the supply of potable water needs to be protected and future consumption appropriately reduced, thus the certification training program was started.
The water auditor program is targeted to PHCC member contractors and their technicians. White explains the program is intended for a minimum journeyman-level technician with some experience. It covers fundamentals of science, building applications, physical auditing and assessment, alternate sources, economic applications, advocacy and business relations.
The program touches upon many topics, one of which is the water-energy nexus. “Almost all water used is extracted by pumping and a great amount of this water is heated for some purpose,” White says. “Add to that treatment purification and treatment for wastewater and a great amount of energy is directly connected to the water we use every day. The water-energy nexus is the connection between water and energy related to extraction, purification, heating and waste treatment.”
Another issue the program touches upon is solutions for homeowners. They include fixture upgrades, water re-use and alternate sources of water. Fixture upgrades could range from installing missing aerators on faucets to upgrading faucets and showerheads to installing high-efficiency toilets that flush 1.28 gal. or less.
Lawn irrigation also offers opportunities for savings with sprayer-head maintenance, pressure-regulated spray heads or smart controllers that water when needed. Water re-use and alternate sources of water are emphasized in the course as they offer large savings and the amounts are factored into the final report.
Contractors also learn that advocacy is a large part of being a water auditor. They are encouraged to promote and support the concept wherever possible. This includes financing options and tax credits, where available, that may help defer the higher initial installed costs.
“Adoption of green codes, usually a voluntary extension of the existing code, also would help consumers, contractors and inspection authorities to have consistent products, goals and end results,” White suggests.
The program is taught in two different formats: the seminar and modular format. The seminar format provides training in a traditional lecture room-type format, while the modular form is intended to allow self-study. The modular form allows candidates to train at their own pace and to reinforce any section they feel necessary. Candidates may select the method they feel most comfortable with.
The test itself is offered in both a paper and pencil format to be taken at seminar sessions, as well as an online version that can be taken anywhere. The test was created by a panel of water-auditing experts, individuals from the contracting industry, and manufacturing and education experts following standard certification test-development procedures.
Kohler, Viega and A. O. Smith have been ardent supporters of the project, White says, not just as sponsors but also in a hands-on way. They have been more than willing to share their expertise and resources in crafting the education and examination portions of the program.
“The certification documents the contractor’s knowledge, dedication to training and commitment to responsible conservation,” White explains. “Consumers can rely on the information they are presented as being based in science and not just a guess as to the savings potentials.”
Members can contact PHCC for additional information either through their local chapter, state chapter, the PHCC website or by contacting the national office at 800/533-7694.