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Flush valves: Need redesign. (Side Jobs).

Electronic products have come to the aid of the facilities manager, helping to promote both better sanitation and perceived cleanliness in public restrooms. Toilets and urinals now flush automatically in response to sensors that detect the presence of a user.

In spite of this welcome improvement to hygiene, the basic flush valve mechanism hasn't changed. One of the more popular valves, the Sloan Flushometer, works by equalizing pressures in the chambers above and below the diaphragm.

The flushing cycle stops when the upper chamber has been filled; that is, unless "the relief valve is not seating properly, or the by-pass orifice is clogged by foreign matter..." -- likely failure causes as cited in valve repair instructions.

To be fair, since January 1998, Sloan has provided an improved dual filtered diaphragm designed to prevent valve run-on. And, other manufacturers have introduced valves with improvements such as stainless steel filters, also in an attempt to prevent run-on due to clogging. Never-the-less, a failed valve can have very expensive consequences.

The company that suggested this month's Side Job's topic recently received a $200 water bill because a restroom valve had not shut off for an entire weekend. Add the cost of a $25 repair kit and a plumber's $50/hr rate, and it's not surprising that a screwdriver and instructions for shutting off the water supply are now located adjacent to the errant valve. The errant valve has regular visits from the local plumber to prevent failure, but the problem occurred in spite of this.

So, having successfully applied electronics to improve hygiene, it's time to provide failsafe valve operation for both the original handle-operated and the electronic version.

A retrofit/redesign of the original flush valve used in restrooms would do much to save our nation's water supply and reduce water bills. Perhaps the screwdriver shutoff could be replaced with a handle or knob shut-off. This would allow a user to quickly shut off the water supply in case the basic flush valve mechanism failed.

What are your thoughts on flush valve failures?

Tom Lecklider

Engineering Editor
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Copyright 2002 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:Apr 1, 2002
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