Q: What are the main challenges that today’s plumbing sector is faced with? A: The skill levels of tradesmen and, thereafter, maintaining those skills levels. Attracting and keeping people in the plumbing industry, be it supplying the industry or performing the actual installation, is also an annually escalating problem. Plumbing is not seen as a ‘sexy’ industry especially for the youth, who are inclined to pursue academic degrees over technical qualifications.
Proof of this came out of a meeting I recently attended that highlighted the average age of a plumber is a little more than 40 years. Not being able to attract new people into the industry will obviously lead to declining standards of installations.
My advice is that the industry needs to encourage the public and contractors to use registered and qualified plumbers for whatever installation needs to be undertaken.
Q: How are technological advances influencing the profession? A: Technology is coming to the fore in the industry, possibly not in any visible way when looking at a faucet or a piece of ceramic sanitaryware, but rather through advances made in the way the products are manufactured. This results in the provision of a better-quality product – in many cases, at a price point that is far more competitive.
The wide variety in choice of product is attributable to technological advances in the manufacturers’ factories, where new and cosmetically enhanced products are easier to roll out in a far shorter period of time.
Q: How has the introduction of ‘smart’ impacted on society? A: Our market has experienced the introduction of smart and prepaid water meters, leak detection and a number of water-heating products. Such new and technical products make water management and controlled consumption incredibly more efficient for the public and, more importantly, for the organisations that supply water, be it bulk or at domestic level.
It’s a given that water heating and leaks have huge negative impacts. Wastewater and heating of water result in cost implications for individuals and the country, and the economy can ill afford this. I emphasise that smart and standard installations require technical skills that only a qualified, recognised and registered plumber should undertake. A product is only as good as the accuracy of the installation.
Q: What’s the best way to detect water leaks, and what can be done to deal with them? A: In a domestic environment, a very easy test to determine if there is a leak is to simply turn off all the faucets. Ensure these are not switched back on – nor any toilets flushed – during a two/three-minute physical examination of the water meter (usually found outside a house perimeter). If the meter is moving – even very slowly – this can indicate a leak, usually underground.
The most common cause of water wastage, other than excessive use by the consumer, is a toilet seal that is old and damaged. Water seeps through a damaged seal, which is situated in the cistern, and into the toilet pan itself. Another simple test to detect cistern leaks is by dropping a small amount of food colouring around the back of the inside of the toilet; any leaking water will create a small clear water line through the food colouring.
While the replacement of toilet cistern washers can be undertaken by those adept at DIY, registered plumbers are the preferred choice given they can also undertake maintenance on the tap washer seals of all the property’s faucets, which should be a standard, periodic practice.
Q: Please explain the relationship between water volume and pressure? A: Water pressure is the amount of force ejected by an outlet, and volume is how much water is allowed through that device. Today we have pressure-compensating technology that allows, for example, the water volume to be reduced by large amounts, but the pressure is unaffected, allowing the user to still have a comfortable experience in the shower.
Shower heads, for example, can also be retro-fitted with an in-line flow controller, which reduces water volume from 15 litres per minute to 6 litres per minute. This can make a huge difference to water consumption. Five seven-minute showers a day, saving 9 litres per minute, can save a household 315 litres of water daily, 2 205 litres a week, and 115 000 litres a year – all this from a single, DIY device that costs around R60.00.
Q: What do we need to understand about technology that restricts water flow? A: Water is a precious resource and each citizen has a right to water. Looking at the simple facts, however, often water isn’t given the importance or value it deserves.
The water crisis in the Cape has certainly highlighted the importance of conserving and taking care of this irreplaceable resource. There are some really clever, simple and relatively inexpensive water-saving devices that should be considered for installation in our homes, offices, schools and clubs.