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Liquid assets

Neil Weston looks at the issues surrounding water storage for schools when demand is lower during holidays and weekends

Posted by Dave Higgitt | April 19, 2015 | Facilities management

Every school will have at least one cold water storage tank which is used to feed hot water systems, WCs and drinking water. Cold water enters the building via a rising main and is stored in the tank before being fed to taps or the calorifier where it is heated. The tank ensures an uninterrupted source of water to the property wherever the mains supply is insufficient to keep up with usage or where water pressure isn’t high enough to meet demand. In line with water company terms and conditions, there must be enough water stored within the tank to cover 24 hours’ use in the event of a mains failure.

Schools have a particular challenge when it comes to storing water onsite. Their occupancy and use varies across the academic year, which means that during holidays their tanks hold a lot more water than they need. Leaving stored water for any length of time may cause it to stagnate and can trigger bacterial infections which cause diseases such as legionella and pseudomonas.

For schools, controlling the ebb and flow of the water supply and avoiding situations where water does not turn over well can be very challenging. Switching the water off and emptying the tank isn’t a practical option because school staff will have no water during the holidays (for cleaning, auto-flushing urinals etc) and may lead to air getting into the system, impairing the pumping of water around the building.

One of the great advances in tank technology in recent years has been the development of electronic tank management systems. These constantly monitor water levels and temperature, providing staff with remote management as well as the option of a built-in holiday function, such that the system can be programmed to manage and control tank-filling automatically in tune with the school’s academic timetable and at weekends, without the need for the maintenance team to enter the tank.

Furthermore, the systems can be fitted with an alarm which can be set to alert maintenance to high or low water levels as well as changes in water temperature. If the system also has a third-party dump/solenoid valve fitted and should the water temperature get too high, then the valve will automatically drain water out of the tank. It is then refilled with cold, fresh water effectively bringing the temperature down.

Buying an all-in-one system can be far cheaper than buying separate sensors and alarms, and they are typically very easy to install.

The risk of the water stagnating can also be reduced by fitting a cold water float valve which modifies the level of water within the tank, matching its capacity with the building usage. If, for instance, part of a school or boarding house is partially closed for refurbishment, then float valves can be used to drop the level of water in the tank in accordance with the lower demand. This feature is particularly useful anywhere there is seasonal use and a potential for periods of peak usage. The benefits of such valves are that they enable virtually unlimited opening and closing levels and they are specifically designed to meet WRAS guidance on air gaps.

Neil Weston is technical sales manager for Keraflo

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