As the Arizona economy begins to stir, we have been monitoring the investments being made in multihousing capital improvements in plumbing and air conditioning systems. We don't claim to know what the signs are for a good or bad economy but we can report that multifamily properties are investing in more improvements in 2012 than they did in 2008-2011.
We can report that many properties are doing more overall for typical maintenance but some are making notable capital improvements.
Changing Gate Valves to Ball Valves
A few communities have changed their old gate valves to ball valves throughout the entire property. Gate valves are notorious for failure as they become stuck open, shut or somewhere in between. This is a dangerous situation when there is a leak and the water has to be turned off in the case where the valve is stuck in the open position. Conversely, it becomes a matter of serious inconvenience to residents when a repair is made then the gate valve won't open again, leaving people without water even longer.
|Rainforest Plumbing & Air replaces gate valves with the faster and more reliable ball valve.|
Cages for Backflow Preventers
In an age of copper and brass theft, thieves are taking materials from anywhere they can get it. There has been a rash of thefts of backflow preventers so property owners are investing in backflow cages that offer an additional level of security. The construction of a backflow cage incudes a concrete pad and a strong metal mesh cage that locks to the pad.
|Backflow preventers are made of heavy metal that is attractive to thieves and recyclers.|
|Rainforest Plumbing & Air makes backflow cages that secure metal from theft.|
Code requires a sewer cleanout at least every 100 feet. Many properties have been having us locate pipes and buried cleanouts. Some have been adding cleanouts throughout the property to give better access and make clearing stoppages more thorough. Rooter machines and high-pressure hydro-jetters do a better job when the distance shorter.
|Sewer cleanouts are needed every 100 feet.|
Since sewer stoppages can be cleared faster with strategically located cleanouts, the inconvenience to residents is lessened. Sometimes cleanouts exist but have become hidden under the landscape and must be located with electronic leak locating equipment. Several properties have had us locate lost cleanouts and install new ones.
Replacement of Antiquated Air Conditioning Equipment
Last year, here in Arizona, we replaced several hundred AC units that were damaged from the hail storm in 2010. Most of that work was covered by insurance claims. It was a windfall for many properties because old equipment was replaced with new, high-efficiency units. Most of that work has passed but many properties continue to do whole-property change-outs of their antiquated air conditioning and heating equipment for several reasons.
|Rainforest Plumbing & Air recommends replacing air conditioning and heating equipment that is more than 8-10 years old.|
Aging air conditioning equipment is a problem for every property eventually. Equipment that is more than 8-10 years old uses old technology and may be using more electricity than necessary. This is a good investment since new equipment lasts longer, uses less energy and provides better comfort for residents. New equipment also solves the problem of new refrigerant regulations.
Other General Maintenance Trends
Here are some other general maintenance items that we've seen:
- Preventative hydro-jetting of sewer pipes (quarterly)
- Boiler and water heater preventative maintenance
- Chiller maintenance
- Close loop water treatment
- Coil cleaning of AC condensers and indoor coils
- Angle stop and faucet supply line replacements
- Additional hose bibs near AC units for flushing access
- Pressure testing (annually)
- Installation of mixing valves for domestic hot water
- Installation of shower valves with integral stop to help with shutdowns
- Installation of shower mixing valves
- Backflow testing anually
Ike Tippetts is the founder and President of Rainforest Plumbing & Air. To read this and other articles like it, go to www.askrain.com.
As published in Apartment News, a publication of the Arizona Multihousing Association.