Enterprising South African property developers are increasingly exploring ways of using water more efficiently. This trend has seen an increase in demand for qualified plumbers as they have the necessary skills and experience to help property developers and their professional teams implement water-efficient designs. This understanding transcends only the installation of water efficient taps and appliances, as well as ensuring that plumbing systems are installed, maintained and repaired correctly so that they do not waste water. The skills and experiences of qualified plumbers are also being harnessed in the next step of the water-management hierarchy which entails reusing available water on a property as part of a more holistic “green” plumbing solution.
“Many of our members have been appointed to work on innovative greywater and rainwater harvesting projects alongside consulting and wet services engineers. This is considering the extensive knowledge that Institute of Plumbing South Africa (IOPSA) members bring to these projects. It spans the correct installation of these systems through to the selection of appropriate materials that have been approved by standards authorities, as well as ensuring compliance with municipal bylaws. A further benefit of working with our members is that they are held accountable by IOPSA and, thus, provide follow-up should any problems arise with the installation of these systems,” Brendan Reynolds, Executive Director of IOPSA, says.
There are many examples of how these systems are helping property owners to conserve water and reduce their utility bills. A large industrial premises in the East Rand, for instance, only uses municipal water in the dry winter months. This is to top up rainwater supplies that it harvests and purifies to a drinking quality. Meanwhile, two commercial developments in Sandton have reduced potable water consumption by as much as 90% by harnessing rainwater harvesting technology and other efficient systems, such as air-cooled chillers.
There has also been growing interest in rainwater harvesting in the residential property market. In response to this demand, a large property developer intends implementing rainwater and greywater harvesting systems at all its lifestyle centres. The company has already achieved significant savings in water through effective demand-side management practices, and this development will enable it to further reduce reliance on municipal supplies. This focus on water efficiency is also demonstrated by the many International Excellence in Design for Greater Efficiency EDGE Advanced certifications that the company has received for its developments. EDGE Advanced certified developments reduce energy and water consumption by at least 40%.
Meanwhile, many private homeowners are also working with qualified plumbers to help them design and install rainwater-harvesting systems, with the rising cost of water also a major motivator for them pursuing “green” plumbing.
Qualified plumbers know how to correctly install downpipes from roofs to rainwater-storage tanks. This is in addition to the proper way in which to connect the tank overflow to a stormwater system and a pressure pump. Moreover, their knowledge has helped to avoid typical mistakes in the installation of rainwater tanks. These include locating tanks on a base that can erode in the rain or wind; using piping material that reacts with acidity in the rainwater; and specifying the incorrect-sized pump and pipes for an application. Another common mistake is installing pumps at a low outlet because they draw in sediment from the bottom of tanks into the system. Tanks also need to be of water-tight construction; covered with materials that are weather, insect and vermin proof; ventilated; and provide access for regular inspection and cleaning.
Certainly, significant strides have also been made in the country in the field of greywater reuse systems. A case in point is an automated greywater system at one the country’s universities. It collects shower water at campus residences, treats it and sends it back into the system for flushing toilets. This is a significant saving considering that flushing of toilets accounts for about 30% of all indoor water use.
It is often incorrectly assumed that these systems are simple to install. Meanwhile, substandard installations can also sometimes be a legal liability placing homeowners at risk.
Qualified plumbers will know how to correctly isolate the shower and bath greywater in the system for recycling and then route it to bathrooms to flush toilets. The installation will include a plumbed portion of the pipe from the unit as a riser branching off to the toilets. This is in addition to an overflow line that leads from the inflow pipe to the main building drain as a bypass in case the system is overloaded. Moreover, the installation will include a vent pipe overflow outlet that connects to the same drainage line to also prevent excess greywater from backing up into the system. A qualified plumber will also be required to install a vent line and, as this water is non-potable, all lines also need to be marked accordingly. Preventing backflow into the potable water system is also a crucial legal requirement that must be considered to prevent contamination. Certainly, correct maintenance of the system by a qualified plumber is also an important consideration.
“It is encouraging to see the growing interest in ‘green’ plumbing in a country where water is a very scarce resource. However, to realise the full benefits of these systems, which includes a smaller water footprint and savings in utility bills, it is imperative that qualified plumbers are involved in their installation, repair and maintenance,” Reynolds concludes.
Solar water heaters or geysers are becoming a much more popular method of heating water in South Africa. Over the past few years, the cost of installing these units has come down and with electricity prices continuing to increase at a rapid pace, they have become more financially viable. With Eskom once again implementing loadshedding, more homeowners are turning to solar as an alternative. The growing movement towards more sustainable living has also impacted the industry positively. With this growing demand, the need for suitably qualified installers is becoming urgent.
As most qualified plumbers will know, the installation of solar water heaters does not form part of the curriculum for a plumber. The knowledge needed to install solar water heaters correctly would significantly increase the requirements to complete a plumber qualification and it is not commonly seen as a requirement but rather a specialisation. With this in mind, a qualification was developed to meet the need. Initially a skills program was developed as an elective subject as part of the plumber qualification. This program, 244499, was 10 credits at NQF level 4. However, with the move away from the old learnerships with the unit standards education method this skills programme fell away.
A new qualification was developed and registered with the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA). SAQA 94619 is a stand-alone qualification, in other words, there is no requirement for a person to be a qualified plumber in order to enter the program, something which IOPSA has great reservations about. The qualification is a NQF level 4 with 67 credits, which would typically take 6-8 months to complete. The cost of attending this qualification is estimated at around R25 000. It is not hard to see why qualified plumbers have not taken up the challenge; it is expensive and would require them to take a lot of time off work, something that most plumbers cannot afford to do. A few training providers have registered for accreditation in the qualification, but IOPSA was not able to find a single person who has qualified through this route.
With a desperate need for solar installers and no uptake from industry, it seemed that a crisis was unfolding. Fortunately, in the interim, CETA applied for the old skills program (244499) to be revived and this request was granted by QCTO (Quality Control for Trade Occupations) until 30 June 2023. This created space for industry to put in place an interim solution. But there was a stumbling block; the skills program requires practical on the job installations to take place. The conundrum is that plumbers cannot legally install solar water heaters without a qualification, but they cannot get the qualification without doing installations. All good and well for an apprentice working under a qualified plumber but what about the already qualified plumber, especially if they already own their own business.
This is where IOPSA and PIRB stepped in to come up with a temporary solution. An already qualified plumber can do the skills program with any accredited training provider. For quality control purposes, the training provider would need to additionally register for accreditation with IOPSA. The candidates then apply for an assessment by IOPSA. On successfully completing the assessment they receive an IOPSA certificate. This certificate is accepted by the PIRB, the professional body for plumbers, and the individual is granted the designation of Solar Installer. This allows them to install solar geysers and issue the certificate of compliance (CoC) as required by SANS 10106. Thereby allowing the solar installer to put together a portfolio of evidence to submit to CETA in order to complete the practical portion of the qualification.
The fact that these solar installers are already qualified plumbers means that the testing of hand skills is not really necessary. The assessment is therefore based on theory and specifically, the requirements in the SANS Standards. Newly accepted solar installers are subjected to additional audits from PIRB. This ensures that any mistakes are picked up and rectified as soon as possible. Continuous failures and refusal to correct errors could lead to disciplinary action which may include the removal of the designation. In this manner, the quality of installations is ensured, and the public is protected.
Sadly, there are many unqualified individuals in the industry who continue to undertake solar installations without the required skills to the great frustration of everyone, especially homeowners. In many instances, this leads to distrust of the industry and false rumours that solar water heating is not effective. In fact, if solar water heaters are installed correctly, they can be far more effective than electric water heaters, but done incorrectly they can be ineffective and even downright dangerous. There is a lack of knowledge on solar water heaters amongst most Building Inspectors and municipal officials which is allowing this state of affairs to continue. IOPSA has made free training available to any municipality which requests it to assist in this regard. IOPSA encourages municipalities to make use of this service.
The window of opportunity is closing, and the skills program will only be available for one more year. IOPSA urges all qualified plumbers who are interested in solar water heating or those already involved in the industry to take the opportunity while it is still available. In future it could be very costly and time consuming to get qualified. Property owners and the public are urged to check the qualifications of plumbers before having a solar geyser installed or repaired to avoid disaster. The easiest way to do this is to check the individual’s registration with www.pirb.co.za
On Tap Plumbing and Bathrooms has recently taken up residence at the Waterfall Ridge Shopping Centre in Midrand. The store has a beautiful and upmarket showroom and will be able to cater for the vast plumbing, bathroom & kitchen development happening in the area.
The Waterfall Ridge Store will also be able to service far outlying areas through eCommerce Purchases or Customised Quotes at www.ontap.co.za for a very marginal delivery fee.
“The thinking behind moving the On Tap Plumbing and Bathrooms Brand into the Waterfall Ridge Precinct was to position our Fast, Friendly & Efficient ethos within an area, that due to its rapid development, is in high demand of high-end, quality products and service,” said Johan Van Wyk, the Managing Director of On Tap Plumbing and Bathrooms.
Get in touch with our On Tap Waterfall Ridge Store on 011 027 5445 or email, firstname.lastname@example.org
It is estimated that about 5-billion litres of raw sewage enter our freshwater resources on a daily basis. While a large portion of this sewage is from dysfunctional wastewater-treatment plants (WWTPs) with only 2% of these facilities operating at optimal levels, illegal plumbing installations are exacerbating the situation, which can be described as a national crisis.
“As plumbers, we still see many property owners, including homeowners, businesses and industrial operations, discharging rainwater into sewers. This is despite it being illegal to do so. The National Building Regulations clearly state that no person will allow sewage, effluent or any other objectionable materials to enter the watercourse. Most of the municipal bylaws also prohibit the practice of discharging rainwater into sewer systems so there is no ambiguity around the illegality of this practice,” Brendan Reynolds, Executive Director of the Institute of Plumbing South Africa (IOPSA), says. IOPSA is the official mouthpiece of the professional plumbing industry with a strong membership consisting of many qualified plumbers.
As part of ongoing research, IOPSA inspected about 140 houses in an undisclosed Gauteng suburb to determine the extent of illegal discharging of rainwater into sewer systems in the country. Worryingly, between 30% and 40% of the houses examined by IOPSA directed rainwater into the sewer system, with many of the property owners unaware that they were on the wrong side of the law. It is a practice that is especially prevalent in new townhouse complexes where property developers, architects, or contractors lead downpipes into the sewer to remove rainwater from courtyards. This is a lot of rainwater that is being discharged into sewer systems, especially during the recent heavy rains that the country has been experiencing. Gauteng lately received between 50 mm and 100 mm of rain. Under these conditions, a house with a 10m x 10m roof structure will discharge 5 000l to 10 000l of rainwater from its downpipes. Complexes, factories and commercial premises discharge significantly more rainwater. A large building with a 50m x 50m roof structure, for example, is capable of discharging as much as 25 000l of rainwater when there is 10mm of rainfall. This is enough water to fill five 5 000l water tanks in a matter of minutes.
Considering the findings of IOPSA’s research on the percentage of houses that comply with the law, one suburb consisting of about 1 000 houses can potentially discharge more than a million litres of rainwater into our sewer systems.
Raw sewage flowing out of open manholes are a common occurrence in many suburbs of the country during storms. This is because the sewer pipes have been filled to the maximum capacity for extended periods. Never designed to handle these types of loads, they are being placed under extraordinary pressure. This potentially damages the municipal infrastructure, including the manhole covers when they burst open. There have also been many instances where raw sewage has flowed onto properties and into houses causing severe harm.
However, the biggest risk posed by this raw sewage is when it drains into natural watercourses and eventually finds its way into the country’s rivers, dams, WWTPs and oceans. The Hennops and Jukskei Rivers, as well as the Vaal Dam, for example, have been heavily polluted with sewage as a result of the situation. Meanwhile, beaches in KwaZulu-Natal have had to close for extended periods during peak holiday seasons on several occasions due to high levels of E. coli in the oceans. Posing a severe health risk, E. coli is always a strong indication of sewage or animal waste contamination. Having to close the beaches to the public due to high levels of E. coli also has a large negative impact on the province’s tourism industry, in addition to its potential impact on the health of communities that reside within the vicinity of the contaminated water body.
According to a study undertaken in 2013, 18 of the country’s 25 major rivers and one in five dams had undergone a process of eutrophication. This is when freshwater resources are enriched with effluent in the same way that agricultural dams do when they are exposed to nutrients. It can be expected that the situation has worsened over the past decade as most of our freshwater resources are vulnerable to this type of degradation under the current scenario. The Hartbeespoort Dam, which is used as both an irrigation source by farmers in the region and water activities by holidaymakers, is one of the country’s freshwater sources that has undergone eutrophication. With the water being rich in nutrients but low in oxygen, a heavy deep blue and green coloured algae has spread throughout the dam and generating cyanobacterial toxins. They can poison domestic and wild animals that drink the polluted water. Among those who have been impacted the most by the contamination of our freshwater resources in this manner are the many poor and vulnerable South African citizens. They are very reliant on our rivers and dams to sustain themselves. These freshwater sources supply fish, irrigation water for subsistence crops and drinking water for livestock, among other needs. Meanwhile, they are also potentially coming into contact with very harmful toxins.
Cleaning these contaminated freshwater sources is also an expensive and onerous undertaking. These resources could rather be spent surmounting many of the pressing socio-economic challenges that the country is currently facing.
Leading to a significant loss in biodiversity, eutrophication also has a significant negative impact on the environment. “According to the findings of an earlier study undertaken by environmental scientists, a 3km long section of the Hennops River between Irene and
Centurion is devoid of any lifeform because it is contaminated by effluent. However, this degradation is not confined to the water body, alone. It starts to spread from the river system into the surrounding ecology. For example, many trees have died along the banks of the contaminated Vaal River. It also leads to water-borne diseases, such as diarrhoea and cholera, threatening entire communities and resulting in a significant decline in the value of properties located close to the contaminated freshwater systems,” Reynolds says.
Major strain is also placed on the country’s WWTPs, which require additional resources to treat the water to a drinkable standard. At the same time, this contaminated water causes significant harm to the infrastructure and interrupts the entire treatment system. For example, it damages valves and kills natural bacteria that helps to treat the water. South Africa’s service delivery infrastructure is already in a worrying state, and this is only compounding the problem. It is estimated that it will cost R900-billion to repair the country’s ailing critical infrastructure assets, including WWTPs.
Another significant risk is the increased spread of “super bugs”, which are bacteria, viruses, parasites and fungi that are resistant to most antibiotics and other medications that are commonly used to treat infections. WWTPs are unable to treat all waste in the water that they receive. While chlorine eliminates the weaker bacteria, viruses, parasites and fungi, the stronger variety survive and strengthen. They are usually spread in hospitals and clinics. At present, partially metabolised medications, chemicals and detergents, among others, are being flushed down toilets and then mixing with human sewage and industrial effluent to create deadly cocktails. Leading scientists have expressed concern about the yet unknown risk of pathogens mixing with many different types of chemicals, industrial waste and other elements that are supposed to be contained in the sewer system, but are now ending up in rivers, streams and dams.
“Professional plumbers can help arrest the situation. This is by ensuring that we are always complying with laws and regulations on all of our projects to safeguard against raw sewage entering the country’s natural water courses. When we see downpipes being directed into sewers on premises, we should have the strength and conviction to speak up and propose alternatives, such as rainwater harvesting and subsoil drainage, to property owners. As professionals, we need to be willing to do the right thing for the community, ourselves and our families. We strongly encourage all homeowners to use the services of a properly qualified plumber to ensure that you stay on the right side of the law and help protect our vulnerable fresh water resources.” Reynolds concludes.
A vital component of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), plumbing systems have helped to curtail outbreaks of, among other diseases, dysentery, cholera and typhoid in communities. Outbreaks of these diseases are still a common occurrence in areas where there is insufficient sanitation and hygiene facilities, including plumbing systems.
Considering the important role that the plumbing profession continues to fulfil in South African society, it is governed by many laws, regulations, by-laws and national standards. Moreover, the profession is adequately represented by robust industry bodies, such as the Institute of Plumbing South Africa (IOPSA). One of IOPSA’s mandates is to uphold very high standards in the profession to help safeguard against substandard workmanship in the industry. Its strong membership comprises of qualified plumbers who have completed a minimum of three years of theoretical and practical training, before registering with the Plumbing Industry Registration Board to ply their trade.
“Despite the potential health risks involved, many property owners still entrust the installation and maintenance of their plumbing systems with individuals who are not trained in the field. They are lured by the very low rates that these so-called ‘plumbers’ charge for their services, which are especially enticing in this very challenging economic climate. These individuals are able to supply their services at cut-throat rates because they take short cuts – either deliberately or due to a lack of understanding of standard protocol as they have not been trained in the field. They will also often use inferior components that do not comply with quality standards when installing, maintaining and repairing plumbing systems, further driving down the costs of their services,” Brendan Reynolds, Executive Director of IOPSA, says.
A correctly installed and maintained drainage system distances humans from waste, over-and-above the role it plays in protecting property, including the structure of a building, from damage. It also protects the environment from the serious hazards present in raw sewage.
Diseases associated with sewage can be spread directly or indirectly by people who have come into contact with them. For example, individuals may inadvertently step into waste that is leaking out of poorly manufactured, installed or maintained pipes. Germs and bacteria associated with sewage are also transferred to people and objects by insects, vermin and small animals which have come into contact with the waste.
Another significant risk is that broken sewerage pipes leak into damaged water mains and, in doing so, contaminating drinking water. Contaminated water is estimated to cause more than 400 000 diarrhoeal deaths every year.
One of the many diseases associated with a leaking drainage system is Campylobacteriosis. Children and people with weaker immune systems are especially vulnerable to this disease which causes, cramps, nausea, vomiting, headaches and fever.
Typhoid fever is another disease that is transferred in this manner. Its symptoms include headache, weakness, abdominal pain and rashes. The media has widely reported on recent Typhoid cases in South Africa.
Hepatitis A is commonly spread when leaking drainage systems are left unattended for protracted periods. More frequent among adults, this disease stays in the body for up to nine months causing fevers, nausea, diarrhoea, body pain and jaundice.
Qualified plumbers are very aware of the health risks posed by the poor maintenance and installation of drainage systems. This is in addition to the use of inferior components that have not been certified by relevant standards authorities for use on properties.
They will also ensure that drainage systems are adequately sized and can be cleaned easily via manholes that have been appropriately spaced. This ensures that these systems are able to convey wastewater quickly from the building without fouling, depositing solids or blocking .
Each fixture or group thereof that is connected to the drainage system will also feature a liquid seal trap of a sufficient depth so as to prevent the emission of gasses. Importantly, this also prevents rodents and insects from accessing the premises via the sewer and spreading disease.
Drainage systems must also be designed and constructed in a manner that allows air to circulate through all of the pipes to ensure effective functioning and protect the seal of the traps from syphoning. The uppermost portion will be connected to an adequately sized ventilating pipe that discharges above roof level and is positioned in such a way that foul air cannot return to a building.
IOPSA’s members also know that they need to take precautions to ensure that the drainage system is free of any substance that may corrode and block pipes. Some substances may even produce explosive mixtures, as well as damage pipes or their joints. In extenuating circumstances, they may even interfere with the effective functioning of sewage treatment plants or cannot be removed by these facilities, contaminating receiving water.
Backflow from public sewers is another important consideration when designing drainage systems. A correctly designed system will ensure that sewage cannot enter buildings that are connected to it when there are floods and blockages in public sewers.
“We have made immense strides in professionalising the plumbing industry over many years, and this is helping to keep communities safe. While some may take plumbing for granted, it is important to remember that there are still many South African citizens who do not have access to proper sanitation services – one of the most basic human rights, together with drinking water. This places many lives at risk and deprives citizens of their dignity,” Reynolds concludes.
When Malcolm Harris from Harscan recently decided to upgrade their showroom in Randburg, he realised that there was a lot of sanitaryware and plumbing fittings in perfectly good order that could still be used. Being passionate about plumber development Harris contacted IOPSA to find out if there were any colleges which might need assistance. According to Harris “I was rebuilding my showroom and had some old display stock which I mentioned to IOPSA. Gerrie Botha put me in touch with Flavius Mareka College. They arranged collection of the display stock and then I added a selection of new products; bottle traps, shower drains, channels and a 110mm check valve. All items that I think they will encounter in the industry. Our intention in the next few months is to go and demonstrate Hep2o piping systems, HDPE welding and roof drains to the apprentices. Items that they will be unlikely to be exposed to in the normal curriculum as learner plumbers but products that are needed and popular in the industry.”
Harscan Distributors was founded in 2007 and started out as being distributors of Hep2O pipe and fittings in Southern Africa. Since then the company has gone from strength to strength and has an impressive product offering being imported from various regions in Europe. They are proud IOPSA members and Harris serves as Treasurer on the IOPSA Gauteng committee.
Flavius Mareka TVET College in Kroonstad was formed when Sasolburg Technical College, Kroonstad Technical College and Mphohadi College of Education merged in 2000 to form Flavius Mareka TVET College. The College was named after a prominent figure in educational, cultural and political circles i.e. Mr. Flavius Mareka. He lived in Kroonstad and passed away in 1965. The college is active in training plumbers and is IOPSA accredited. The materials will be put to good use in training the next generation of professional plumbers.
The public will always take for granted a little the important work that plumbers do. Don’t do the same, and take a moment to reflect on the vital role you play for society.
The public sometimes has a hard time understanding what we do for a living.
People will wake up in a warm house, take a shower, shave, use the toilet, make some coffee, commute to work, eat lunch, gossip with co-workers, go home, water the garden, give the kids a bath, and repeat. We all do some variation of that for the most part, day in and day out.
Eventually, something happens to their plumbing system — maybe a drain clog or a water leak of some kind. You give them the bill and the cost is surprising to them. They complain about how you are committing highway robbery — $200 for a one-hour repair?
I once heard a news anchor say, “There is no profession which gets less credit for what they do than the CIA. They do so much to keep us safe, and when one dies, they get an un-named star on the headquarters’ wall.” I thought to myself, “We are the first and foremost line of defense for humanity as a whole, and when we die, nothing happens at all!”
There is no question that the public has decreased understanding of what we do for a living. But many newcomers to our industry also don’t fully understand the value of what we provide. They show up to work, do their jobs well, earn a great living for their family, and flow on with life as it comes. Let’s take a step back for a second and reflect.
The plumber is a cog in the system that provides clean, safe drinking water, as well as the treatment of sewage, returning it to the environment in the most responsible manner possible. Without water, life cannot exist on this planet. Nature, in itself, has its system of recycling water throughout its ecosystems, and if humans didn’t exist, the world would not need plumbers. Humanity is what ruins Mother Nature’s perfect system because we desire things like big industry to feed our infrastructure and way of life. Since humans are interrupting and corrupting Mother Nature’s cycle, we must fix the problem that we’ve created, and that’s where plumbers come in. We are, whether we want to be or not, the purest and most authentic environmentalists. We take what humankind is doing to the Earth and its water systems and make it right.
If you are relatively new to the plumbing trade, you should stop and think for a moment about the lineage and proud tradition you are a part of. Without people like you, there would be no morning shower, morning coffee, heat in the house, drinking water, toilet that conveniently makes waste disappear, hot water, water for the garden when it hasn’t rained in a few weeks, clean water to feed the chickens or the cows, water to brew the beer you have after work. Honestly, life simply wouldn’t exist at all.
Plumbers have prevented a considerable amount of illness and disease. Humanity left alone without plumbers has proven disastrous too many times throughout history; do the research. It wasn’t that long ago when people would defecate in chamber pots and throw it out of the window of their home. Streets became lined with urine and waste, people dying from things like infectious disease and waterborne pathogens.
Does the public have a lack of understanding about our profession? Absolutely. But sometimes we do, too. We forget how important what we do is. Keep your head down and do the “work of the just” as I call it. Do the right things, not the easy things. Next time you run into that iffy situation where you brought a roll of 3/4-inch but you know the house should get a 1-inch line, make the extra trip and do it right. When your instructor is watching, do the right things. When co-workers or a foreman is watching, do the right thing. But when you are all alone, and you have to decide to put in what you have on the truck or make a trip and do it the right way, that is the true test of a real plumber. Our recognition comes from within. If you don’t take pride in the details, find another job.
Anthony Pacilla is a registered master plumber for McVehil Plumbing in Washington, Pennsylvania. He has 23 years' experience in the plumbing and HVAC trades, and has a bachelor’s in business and economics from Thiel College.
Original article: https://www.plumbermag.com/how-to-articles/industry-involvement-plumbing/respect-the-value-you-provide-as-a-plumber
Heat pumps have become extremely popular considering the significant savings in electricity that they provide property owners – whether for industrial, commercial or residential applications. However, there are many important factors that need to be considered when installing and maintaining this equipment to ensure that it continues to provide maximum benefit over its between 15- and 20-year life span. High quality heat pumps that have been correctly installed and maintained have even significantly exceeded their design life, with property owners usually seeing a return on their investment within three to 10 years. This pay-back period is becoming shorter when considering the rising cost of electricity.
“This technology can heat the same amount of water as a conventional electric water-heating system using just a third or a quarter of the electricity required by the latter, saving property owners between 30% and 70% on their monthly utility bill. The technology is also 50% more cost-effective than gas and oil boilers to operate. Unlike solar water heaters, they also operate efficiently at any time of day as they are only slightly affected by variations in temperature. Moreover, heat pumps can be easier to install and because they only require minor servicing, they are very cost-effective to own. However, when they have not been installed and maintained correctly, they can actually cost the property owner a lot of money, undoing their intended benefits, which is to reduce electricity bills and the carbon footprint of a premises. It is, therefore, imperative to always use a professional plumber to install and service this equipment,” Brendan Reynolds, Executive Director of the Institute of Plumbing South Africa (IOPSA), says. IOPSA is the official voice of the local professional plumbing industry and comprises a strong membership of plumbers who are committed to quality workmanship. Many of these members also specialise in the installation of heat pumps for a variety of applications. They have installed and are maintaining heat pumps for hotels, hostels, hospitals, schools, office blocks and universities, as well as for a host of industrial applications, including change houses and laundromats. This is in addition to the many systems that have been installed and are being serviced for homeowners. Bear in mind that it is a legal requirement for a Certificate of Compliance to be issued by a Licensed plumber for any heat pump installed.
The majority of heat pumps work on the same principle as a domestic refrigerator. They use a vapour compression cycle that transfers heat from a low temperature to a high temperature body. Refrigerant is used as a transfer medium. Heat is moved from the outside air to the refrigerant in the evaporator at a low temperature and pressure. A compressor compresses the fluid and heat is transferred from the refrigerant at a high temperature and pressure to the water in the condenser. The fluid then flows through the
expansion valve where the temperature and pressure drop before it enters the evaporator again and, in doing so, repeating the cycle.
Well-maintained heat pumps consume between 10% and 20% less energy than those units that have not been correctly maintained. In fact, an important sign that a heat pump is faulty can be a sudden rise in electricity costs. This may be because the heat pump is overworking and, therefore, drawing more energy as important components and parts have worn out.
Poor maintenance can even lead to major repairs having to be undertaken to the heat pump. Compressors, reversing valves and coils, for example, can become damaged, and their replacement an expensive and an extensive process. In severe circumstances, worn out components can also cause the heat pump to break prematurely resulting in major unwanted repair and even replacement costs. Many heat pump manufacturers recommend that their products be maintained at least once a year by the owner to validate their warranties. Bear in mind that this equipment works round the clock and is, therefore, subject to wear and tear.
When servicing a heat pump, professional plumbers will verify the correct thermostat communication, as well as controls and safety switches; inspect belts; and lubricate motors. Among others, they will also check refrigerant levels, as well as the electrical terminals, in addition to cleaning and tightening them if necessary.
Meanwhile, there are many problems that can occur with heat pumps if they have been installed incorrectly.
A common mistake made during the installation of heat pumps is insufficient refrigerant use. If refrigerant levels are too low, performance issues may arise, and the heat pump may become damaged.
Leaking ductwork is also another outcome of poor workmanship. Experts usually seal or rebuild the ductwork system to ensure an airtight fit.
Incorrectly sized heat pumps can also eventually cause problems for owners. Heat pumps that are too large for an application will short cycle and, if too small, they will work overtime to reach the desired temperature. In both instances, more energy will be required to operate the heat pump, and this will reflect on owners’ monthly energy bills.
“Savings on utility bills aside, heat pumps help reduce our carbon footprint. This technology, therefore, has a critical role to play in helping South Africa to achieve its carbon emission reduction targets. The fact that there continues to be a marked uptake of this technology in
the country means that South Africans are opting for ‘greener” living. However, it is important that they deal with specialists who are trained in the correct installation and maintenance of heat pumps to avoid buyers’ remorse,” Reynolds concludes.
89% of the 3955 enrolments on IOPSA’s e-learning platform were free CPD accredited courses. The top 10 CPD accredited courses offered are for free.
“CPD stands for Continuing Professional Development. It refers to the process of tracking and documenting the skills, knowledge and experience that you gain both formally and informally as you work, beyond any initial training. It’s a record of what you experience, learn and then apply”. (https://career-advice.jobs.ac.uk/career-development/what-is-continuing-professional-development-cpd/). In other words, CPD is the continuing life-long learning that you do after your qualification.
But why is it necessary? In the modern world, the only constant is change. New technology, methods and products emerge on an almost daily basis. Likewise, new or revised laws, regulations and standards are introduced regularly. This all means that, more than ever before, it is important for plumbers to stay abreast of the changes. CPD is a method to do this and more importantly, a method to prove to the market that you are up to date. CPD is fairly new to the South African plumbing industry but for many other industries it has been a normal requirement for many years.
We often hear comments like “CPD is just a money-making racket” from certain sectors of the industry. The Institute of Plumbing, IOPSA (www.iopsa.org) has provided an e-learning platform to the industry. Having completed its first full year of operation (Feb 2021-Jan 2022) we decided to take a close look at the facts and you may be interested to see what we found;
Admittedly, some plumbers may spend thousands of Rands on CPD courses, but this is their choice, there are plenty of opportunities available to achieve all the CPD points needed at absolutely no cost. Plumbers who leave their CPD to the last minute, often end up scrambling to participate in any course available to make up their points, with some planning, that is completely unnecessary. It is interesting to note that of all the industries we have looked at, the plumbing industry is the only one which has such options available. Most industries require a minimum spend of around R20 000 per year in order to achieve their points. The plumber does need to invest some time and for small businesses that can be a challenge but in the end, they are gaining valuable knowledge which will ultimately benefit them massively.
I have heard people say that “they are making millions on CPD” and “its just a money-making scheme” and various other similar comments. The truth is vastly different, there is NO other industry which makes its CPD more affordable or accessible to its stakeholders. CPD is by no means a cash cow for any of those involved. What it is, is an opportunity for plumbers to uplift and improve themselves. Knowledge is the one thing that can never be taken away from you, embrace it!!
A week’s work for a team of Nelson Mandela Bay plumbers helped restore dignity and basic sanitary conditions to a destitute community living on a plot of land on the outskirts of Gqeberha.
Now, the dozens of residents at Place of Hope in Greenbushes do not have to worry about raw sewage running down their streets, and their children’s health will improve along with their cleaner living conditions. Each year, the Eastern Cape branch of the Institute of Plumbers of SA identifies a project where its members band together to help the less f o r t u n at e. The initiative usually coincides with World Plumbing Day on March 11, but the institute’s regional chair, Adriaan Myburgh, said Covid-19 had forced them to delay their project last year, to the benefit of Place of Hope residents.
The team is now looking for a new project to tackle on March 11. “We couldn’t do our project in March , but we refused to skip a year and started asking among our members if they had any suggestions where we could help the less f o r t u n at e. “Pieter Rademeyer [of Pieter Rademeyer Plumbers] took us to Place of Hope and within days we knew what had to be done and work began.” The owner of Place of Hope, who asked not to be named, started the shelter decades ago with her husband on a piece of land adjacent to Cape Road. They opened their gates to a handful of destitute people looking for a safe place to start over, and when they sold their land in 2007 they provided shelter for five families. They relocated the shelter to the piece of land it now occupies, and the community has grown to 26 families, comprising about 90 people.
Myburgh said when the plumbing team arrived at the property early last month, raw sewage was running down the streets between the makeshift houses on the smallholding. Children were playing in the dirty water, not realising the dangers and possible health risks involved. It turned out that the existing French drain system on the plot was inadequate for the number of people using it, and it was not emptied and treated as regularly as it should have been. Within days, more than 15 companies, consisting of members and non-members of the plumbers’ institute, volunteered materials and services to alleviate the problems at Place of Hope and contributed to building a longer-lasting solution for the community.
“We often underestimate people’s willingness to become involved in a worthy cause and we were blown away by the support this project received from the local business community,” Myb u r g h said. “Some people gave equipment, others brought materials, and then there were teams giving their time to oversee the project.” Within a week, the plumbers had cleaned out the existing drainage systems, increased their capacity and installed plumbing that would allow the shelter’s residents to expand their homes.
Myburgh said there was still a lot of work to be done to improve the community’s conditions and that it would be an ongoing project. However, the residents’ quality of life had already improved immeasurably. Rademeyer said he came across Place of Hope 10 years ago and had assisted with smaller projects at the property from time to time, but when he heard the institute was looking for a bigger project to tackle, he immediately knew the plumbers could make a real difference. “What the landowners have created here is a chance for people to start over and improve their lives, and that needs to be applauded and supported . “I am happy we could make an impact on these people’s lives , ” Rademeyer said. Resident and community leader Judith Benzies said they were grateful and humbled by the generosity.
“We would like to thank everyone involved in co-ordinating the project, including the managers, supervisors, workers and suppliers, for their selfless act to improve the lives of those in need. “We do not have the words to fully express our gratitude,” she said. Myburgh said the regional branch of the institute wanted to challenge its counterparts in other regions, as well as the broader business community, to identify projects where they could make a difference in people’s lives. “We don’t do this for the publicity, ” he said. “We do it to make a difference. “Why can’t others do the same?
* Please note that all articles are dated and content was valid at the time of publication.
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