Way to Go, ICC

Congratulations are in order for the building officials and Julius Ballanco for his excellent review [October 2008], which was very clear regarding the issues and how local levels will receive and adopt this new requirement in the new International Code Council residential sprinkler code.

In all areas of this country, we are building million-dollar homes with many aspects of current technology and no sprinkler systems. That is wrong and it is commendable that, finally, someone is doing something about it. With the typical open web floor joist systems, sprinklers can be installed with probably just one day labor of two plumbers and minimal cost in materials. It makes no sense to me to not have sprinkler fire protection systems in addition to smoke detectors and CO detectors. All owners/buyers should start to insist on them.

Chief Fire Prevention
Mount Vernon, NY

How Not to Insulate A Pipe

On page 22 of the July 2008 issue (“Designing ‘Green’ Hot Water Distribution Systems”) there is an excellent example of how not to insulate a pipe. The type of tie shown should never be used on a pipe insulation because it reduces the thickness and looks very unprofessional.

I would not specify a sponge-foam-type insulation over a trace pipe. The installers should have used fiberglass.

William A Lotz, P.E.
Consulting Engineer
Acton, ME

Loves Solar Column

Just a quick note for John Siegenthaler, P.E. The columns that you have been writing on solar panels are very informative. We’ve been waiting for some third party evaluations of these products for some time.

John J. Christiano, P.E.
Criterium Engineers
Franklin, NJ

Design Excellence, Delayed Reaction

Recently I came across last year’s “Excellence In Design Awards” issue and cover story (Nov. 2007). The article on the award-winning system at GWCES contained tables that disclosed “before” and “after” energy costs and environmental impact. However, there was no comparison of the source energy used in the two situations. Typically, every BTU of electricity consumed at the building requires approximately 3 BTUs of source energy (typically gas or coal) to be burned at the generating plant. Gas heating equipment requires only 1.25 BTUs of input for every BTU of output (even less with condensing boilers or burners). Eliminating gas and doubling electricity use - even when using very efficient systems - may result in more net energy consumption by the world even though the building’s energy cost may be reduced.

Given the legitimate interest and concern for energy conservation, I suggest that in the future you should include tables of source energy use when featuring the energy benefits of various systems.

Joel M. Levin, Ph.D.
Escotek, Inc.
Wynnewood, PA

He Cares That CA Ignores Feds

I just finished re-reading your column (Feb. 2008) about the State of California ignoring Federal law by signing into CA law AB715 and couldn’t agree with you more. I personally believe that they should be held to task by the Federal Government. On a professional level, I have to deal with the State of California in getting my products listed by NSF and California in order to be sold into California. They make it very difficult to do so, whereas it appears that the criteria is more subjective than concrete or imperically driven.

Nonetheless, I think you missed one point that I, as a consumer and homeowner, have to deal with concerning my low-flow toilets. This issue is the constant clogging of the bowl due to the size of the bowls outlet in relation to either the size or consistency of human waste. The number of flushes that have to occur, along with the trusted plunger, to free a clog completely discounts any water savings created by the low flush attibutes of these newer tiolets. Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge advocate of being environmentally responsible (recycle, reuse, reduce), but what this has caused is a bigger issue than the one it intended to resolve in the first place. 

Mark Laucella
Middletown, CT

How Green is Drinking Toilet Water?

This letter is in reference to an article posted on PMEngineer.com called, “It’s time to Drink Toilet Water.” The article is great, but your headline turns me green, as in sea sick. Your headline reads, “Going Green Can Mean Drinking Toilet Water.”  The article is not about “going green.”  It’s about an expensive and energy-intensive process to reclaim some of our very limited and very precious water supply so that we can continue to waste and spoil unabated. Please reserve “green” for items that have a significant environmental benefit, such as saving energy or preventing pollution, as their main characteristic.

Zack Turner
Alameda, CA