What will Jan. 1 plumbing code change mean for property owners?
By now, you’ve likely heard about the plumbing code change taking effect Jan. 1, 2019.
Basically, if your apartment building was built before 1993 — and some of the original toilets, showerheads and aerators are still in place — chances are good that your property will fall out of code compliance come New Year’s Day.
The code change taking effect comes from Senate Bill 407, a water-conservation measure that was passed in 2009. The bill’s water-efficiency mandates have rolled out slowly over the past decade, and the mandate for water-efficient plumbing fixtures in multifamily housing is the final piece to be enforced.
So if those pre-1993 fixtures are still there come Jan. 1, the “toilet police” will be knocking on your door, and you may face hefty fines and even jail time! Well, maybe there won’t be toilet police or jail time. But inspectors, either from the city or other local agencies, may cite properties not in compliance or suspend any other work until the site gets there. Owners of all sites will want to replace these fixtures, and frankly, this year would be better than next.
If you have old plumbing fixtures, your first question is likely: How can I determine whether in compliance? Well, compliance flows for these devices is as follows:
- Showerheads: The flow rate must be 2.5 gallons per minute or less.
- Aerators: 2 gallons per minute or less.
- Toilets: They must use 1.6 gallons or less.
So these are the numbers to “hit,” but how do you confirm that your plumbing devices are compliant?
With showerheads and aerators, the flow rate is sometimes listed on the devices themselves. But after so many years, you’d likely have an easier time reading ancient Egyptian than these faded numbers. A simple way is to use a “flow bag.” You hold the bag under the aerator or showerhead, turn the water on full and wait five seconds. After five seconds of run, it shows the gallons flowed. So, here you have a great low-tech way to know if you are compliant. The bags are often available from local water utilities or online.
For toilets, it can be more difficult to know whether it uses 1.6 gallons or less, meaning compliant, or 3.5 or 5 gallons, which is not in compliance. Toilets generally have a date stamped inside the tank that can be removed and checked, but it’s often kinda icky. I mean, these are toilets that have been place for more than 25 years!
But the use of a ruler or tape measure is the “Mr. Science” way of confirming the gallons used. After opening the tank lid, still kinda icky, measure from the bottom of the tank to the water line, then flush, and measure again from the bottom of the tank to the full flush water line. The difference between the pre-flush water line and the full flush water line will be a number of inches. If the drop is four inches or more, you have an older 3.5 or 5-gallon toilet. If its 3 inches or less, then it’s a 1.6 gallon or less toilet. Simple yes?
By now you may have confirmed that you have toilets or other devices not in compliance with water-efficiency requirements under SB 407. Replacing a large number of fixtures in a short time and with minimal effect on your staff and residents is important. CAA members listed in the plumbing section of its Industry Directory can assist you in this process.
Also, many water and gas utility programs offer rebates that can offset some — or even all — of the cost of this work. In fact, in most of Orange County, Los Angeles and the Inland Empire, showerheads and aerators can be replaced at no cost through the Southern California Gas Co. Toilets can be replaced at no cost in Los Angeles Department of Water and Power areas, and other areas have rebates to help offset your out-of-pocket costs. So, with rebates available, meeting SB407’s requirements can be a less painful process. Your residents will also love their new thrones.