As many of the residents of the South Hovses are aware, the hot water system is very inconsistent. Many times people have gone to shower only to be disappointed by lukewarm or cold water temperatures. Recently the problem has been especially concentrated in Dabney Hovse and Fleming Hovse, as well as one shower in Ricketts Hovse. At times it has gotten so bad that people are told to “Go to Hell [alley in Blacker]” to try to find hot water. Housing and plumbing have been trying to fix the issues, but they always seem to resurface, at least in part due to the age of the system.
The water system for the South Hovses is made up of two halves: one providing hot water to Dabney and Fleming, one providing hot water to Blacker. There’s also an extra pump supplying water to Snake alley in Ricketts. There is also a new pipe connecting the two systems that can be turned on if one of the systems goes down to temporarily borrow hot water from the other system. The pumps send out varying amounts of hot water depending on demand, and periods with great demand and tax the system too much.
There are several points of failure in the system owing in part to the age and complexity of the system. The South Hovses were remodeled in around 2004 so much of the plumbing infrastructure is also from this time and is reaching the end of its life. Many of the pipes are made of galvanized steel and are prone to rusting. This has caused problems in the past with water coming out of faucets being red or orange in color, especially after periods of low use such as after breaks. Pasadena city water is also very hard and leaves behind calcium carbonate buildup in certain spots in the system. This can cause the pipe to constrict which prevents the proper circulation of water. This leads to dead legs and showers and other faucets not getting hot enough. The age of the system also causes problems with replacing parts. Many of the parts needed are only manufactured by one company who has been experiencing “supply chain issues”, meaning that it can take months to order new replacement parts.
The water system is very large and contains around 200 valves. For example, if there is a problem with the hot water caused by a valve being bumped by accident, it can be difficult to track down — especially considering the valves are in hyperspace. The system has also had issues with the cold water supply leaking into the hot water. This can happen if both the cold and hot water taps are opened in a sink or a shower for a long period of time. This causes the hot water to cool down and can also be a difficult problem to identify.
Most recently, over spring break, Housing and Plumbing replaced a control valve for steam in the Dabney/Fleming system. These repairs took place on Wednesday March 29th, but hot water was still out for another day and the water was slightly rusty. However in the week since then, there have not been any new complaints so the system, for the time being it’s working.
The hot water system should be capable of 112-118 °F water. If you notice it lower than this, either email Housing or submit a ReAdy request if it’s during business hours. Outside of business hours, please call the Central Plant at 626-395-4717. I do also urge students to be patient with Housing in performing these repairs as the Plumbing Shop is responsible for all the buildings on campus, not just the South Hovses, and they have often been working after-hours to try to fix these issues.
Remember kids, don’t drink the yellow water!