SPR 2017

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B Y K I M B L I S S W hile modern plumbing instal- lations have not changed much over the past several decades, the advent of new technolo- gies is changing standard plumbing systems to create opportunities for faster installations, better performance and greater longevity. Innovations in plumbing piping products, connection methods and system design prove there is a better way to plumb. Take PEX pipe, for ex- ample. PEX, an acronym for crosslinked polyethylene, has been around for more than 40 years as a piping product for plumbing, fire safety and radiant floor heating and cooling systems. This flexible plastic piping product is now installed in more new-home construction for plumbing systems than copper and CPVC combined. And that trend is extending to commercial ap- plications as well. With better durability, compared with copper and CPVC, and pipe sizes available up to 3 inches for potable- plumbing applications and 4 inches for hydronic heating and cooling systems, the product is an attractive solution for system designers, installers and build- ing owners looking for a better alterna- tive for their piping choice. MORE FLEXIBLE THINKING Transitioning to a new product means a change to the status quo. For contrac- tors who have been installing with cop- per and CPVC (and designers who have been designing with them), switching to a flexible piping product like PEX requires a shift in thinking. For example, in a copper or CPVC system, any change in direction requires a fitting. This is not the case with PEX. A simple bend of the pipe eliminates many of the connections that would be required in a rigid piping system. In fact, in some systems, it can eliminate almost half the required connections. So how does this affect commercial flush banks? In a traditional copper flush bank, the header height is low near the fixture-termination point to save on piping materials. But in a PEX system, it works better to keep the header higher and allow the plumbing lines from the header to the fixture to gradually bend, eliminating the need for a fitting. The minimal addition of pipe in this design concept saves hundreds of labor hours and eliminates unnecessary connec- tions behind the wall. Think about it: In a commercial ap- plication with hundreds of toilets in a building, this could eliminate hundreds of connections. And fewer connections behind a wall are always better. Plus, eliminating these additional fittings can also help prevent annoying water ham- mer noise. In addition, using this design con- cept helps when value-engineering a project. By eliminating these fittings, it reduces the total installed cost from both a product and a labor perspective. NEW FITTING OPTIONS There are also fitting options that can help eliminate unnecessary, added connections as well. Take, for example, a multiport tee. A 2-inch multiport tee with three 1-inch outlets does the same job as three reducing tees — but with 45 percent fewer connections. Using this type of multiport tee also reduces the total length required for the pipe and tees by 63 percent. Multiport tees are seeing an increase in use for both residential and commer- cial construction, due to the durability of the engineered polymer materials, as well as the installation efficiencies of installing one fitting instead of multiple. Again, this concept requires a change of thinking from the old way of designing and installing. Now, some may question the durabil- ity of "plastic" fittings. However, today's engineered polymers are manufactured from a high-performing, thermoplastic material that has superior mechanical, chemical and thermal properties that provide dimensional stability in de- manding applications, including areas of high stress, heat and moisture. In fact, long before they hit the plumbing market about 15 years ago, engineered polymers had been used for decades in the areas of biomedical and aerospace. BEWARE OF DIMENSIONAL DIFFERENCES There are dimensional differences with PEX compared to other piping prod- ucts. While PEX has the same outside diameter as copper tube size pipe, it does have a smaller inside diameter due to the thicker wall of the pipe. Some manufacturers offer design assistance or pipe-sizing calculators to help accommodate the slight differences when designing with PEX compared to copper or CPVC. There are also various plastic piping websites, such as plas- ticpipe.org or ppfahome.org that will educate designers and installers on the important aspects to know about PEX. So while it is true that change can be a challenge for some profession- als, it can also deliver better ways to do things. When it comes to designing and installing with PEX, remember the rules are changing (for the better) with this flexible pipe. Use the flexibility of the pipe and the ingenuity of products, like multiport tees, to create advantages beneficial to the system, the structure and the build- ing owner — and change will become easier. Kim Bliss is the technical communications manager at Uponor. She can be reached at kim.bliss@uponor.com. Think differently when installing commercial flush banks with PEX In a PEX system, it works better to keep the header higher and allow the plumbing lines from the header to the fi xture to gradually bend, eliminating the need for a fi tting. MULTIPORT TEE VERSUS STANDARD TEES A multiport tee reduces the total length required for the pipe and tees by 63 percent. MODERN PLUMBING HVACPproducts.com HVAC & Plumbing Product News \ Spring 2017 14

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