In today’s competitive market, it’s important to choose products that improve productivity and profitability. PEX isn’t a new pipe material, but more plumbers are choosing it as their preferred pipe type — and for good reason too. Explore the key reasons PEX is the best tubing to use for your next plumbing installation. 1. It’s Read more
In today’s competitive market, it’s important to choose products that improve productivity and profitability. PEX isn’t a new pipe material, but more plumbers are choosing it as their preferred pipe type — and for good reason too. Explore the key reasons PEX is the best tubing to use for your next plumbing installation.
1. It’s more versatile
The initial cost of PEX is already budget-friendly, but its flexibility makes it even more so. The bendable tubing can maneuver around corners without the use of elbows or other additional fittings, making it easier for getting into places where rigid pipe isn’t easy to use.
Because its flexibility helps reduce the number of connections, PEX helps lower the cost of materials and minimizes potential leak points. Plus, you can install PEX pipe in longer runs with the use of coils that come in lengths up to 1,000 feet.
2. It’s quicker to install
One of PEX’s biggest draws is that it’s compatible with quick-installing plumbing solutions like SharkBite EvoPEX push-to-connect fittings that help you stay on schedule. In today’s labor market, that’s no small thing. Here’s why,
You need less labor. When you plumb PEX with push-to-connect fittings, you don’t need glue, solder, solvents or torches. These traditional techniques often require you to start and stop during installation, wait for glue or for water to dry before testing the plumbing system, or spend extra time cleaning up scrap material.
Bypassing these time-consuming processes means you can complete your installation with fewer people and without ever needing to pause your work. It also keeps potentially dangerous chemicals out of plumbing systems and removes the potential risk of fire from using torches on the job site.
You don’t need a specialized toolbox. Since they don’t require special tools, push-to-connect PEX systems give you more mobility compared to a two-hand system like crimp/clamp, while also significantly reducing the chance of installation errors and leaks. This in turn lessens the risk of water damage and mold.
As an advanced PEX push-to-connect plumbing system, SharkBite EvoPEX fittings even display a green visual indicator to assure you that a proper and permanent connection has been made. Plus, you can immediately test the plumbing system once the installation is done.
3. It performs better in the winter
The chemical composition of cross-linked polyethylene, the synthetic material PEX pipe is made from, allows the structure of the pipe to have more freeze resistance and elasticity under pressure. That means PEX will expand if water within the pipe freezes, and it’ll contract to its original shape when it thaws. This can help prevent other plumbing issues in the winter.
Additionally, the tubing has a host of other attractive features:
- It’s chlorine-resistant and resists scale buildup, which is common in copper pipe. Corrosion resistance facilitates more water pressure and better hot water delivery.
- You can find PEX that is tested to the highest level of chlorine resistance (100% chlorine at 140°F) and is certified to meet ASTM F876 oxidative-resistance requirements for continuous recirculation.
- PEX can withstand not only extreme low temperatures, but also extreme high temperatures too.
4. It’s sustainable
As the world focuses more on sustainable building practices, there’s a growing emphasis on reducing the long-term impact of building materials, including pipes. The good news is PEX addresses all three pillars of sustainability: environmental, economic and social impact.
Environmental. Polyethylene is a byproduct of oil or natural gas that’s already being extracted for other energy use, so PEX doesn’t require the extraction of natural resources just to make the tubing. It also doesn’t take a lot of energy to create PEX.
When the pipe is installed, it saves energy too. Polyethylene is a non-conductor and has insulation properties, which means PEX plumbing systems require less energy than copper systems to achieve a desired water temperature. And at the end of its life, the tubing can be ground up and used as a filler in composite lumber, playground equipment, traffic barriers and more.
Economic. Not only is PEX cheaper than other piping materials, but its bendability and compatibility with efficient plumbing solutions like push-to-connect fittings help save on parts and labor costs. Because it’s flexible and corrosion-resistant, it also has a long lifespan (about 50 years per PPI TR-3). This reduces costs, increases customer satisfaction and lessens waste.
Social. PEX and the innovative plumbing systems that it can be used with help address the industry’s labor shortage. It supports pros who have limited help in the field by making installations faster, safer and more reliable. Some other social benefits include:
- PEX is joined using mechanical fittings rather than soldering, which creates a potential fire hazard during installation.
- PEX systems are certified to NSF/ANSI/CAN 61, so they’re approved for potable water application.
- PEX is resistant to leaching, pitting and mineral buildup.
When picking a PEX manufacturer to work with, consider one that offers the highest-rated chlorine resistance and six-month UV resistance, such as SharkBite PEX-B. This tubing is also made in the U.S. — right in Cullman, Alabama — which creates and maintains jobs that boost the national economy.
80 Gallon Tanks, a Mainstay of Residential Construction, are Being Replaced With Smaller Units to Meet Energy Requirements Over the next decade or so, many veteran plumbers will recall the good old days as the ones where they installed 80-gallon electric water heaters. Once standard in many homebuilding projects, those tanks are products of bygone Read more
80 Gallon Tanks, a Mainstay of Residential Construction, are Being Replaced With Smaller Units to Meet Energy Requirements
Over the next decade or so, many veteran plumbers will recall the good old days as the ones where they installed 80-gallon electric water heaters. Once standard in many homebuilding projects, those tanks are products of bygone eras. Like Tyrannosaurus Rex, black and white televisions and 2-hour baseball games, their days have come and gone.
The impetus for the change occurred with the National Appliance Energy Conservation Act of 1987, an act of Congress that regulates energy consumption of specific household appliances. The death knell for the 80-gallon tanks sounded in 2015, impacting all conventional residential electric water heaters with a storage volume greater than 55-gallons. After significant postponement, NAECA III enforcement finally went into effect on January 1, 2022. While the installed 80-gallon electric tanks were allowed to remain in use, many of them have now reached the end of their useful life and need to be replaced.
Water heaters were not alone in the focus of NAECA: dishwashers, air conditioners, refrigerators and nearly every household appliance needed energy improvements, and manufacturers had to make swift changes to their products. The message was clear: reduce the energy demand for every home appliance and do it now.
Canada does not have similar laws – yet — but one project in Nova Scotia included the retrofit of an 80-gallon tank with a 55-gallon tank. The HTP Elevate water heater installed by Adams Heating is much lighter and takes up less space in the mechanical room.
“It’s the equivalent of a much larger tank, but it freed up a lot of space in the mechanical room and is a lot more efficient than a standard water heater,’’ said Brennan Ferguson of Bruce Sutherland Associates, who recommended the HTP Elevate for the installer.
Out With the Old
The retrofit was not uncommon. The century-old, 2,000 square foot home in Mahone Bay used the water heater for domestic hot water. The home’s heat comes from an oil furnace.
While there was no way to determine the precise age of the existing water heater, it had seen better days, to put it mildly. “It was an incredible failure of their onsite tank,’’ Ferguson said. “It was done.”
The homeowner contacted Adams Heating, which contacted Bruce Sutherland Associates. As the HTP representative in Eastern Canada, Brennan Ferguson felt the application called for the 55-gallon Elevate. “With the smaller footprint, and the difficulty in accessing the basement, we thought this might be a good opportunity,’’ Ferguson said.
The space savings in the mechanical room, improved efficiency, stainless steel tank and lifetime warranty of the HTP Elevate made the choice easy for the homeowner. “Going down the stairs with the smaller tank was easy,’’ Ferguson said. “The much harder part was removing the 80-gallon tank. It had been there for some time. It took 3 or 4 guys to manhandle that tank to remove it.”
Several features of the Elevate make it one of the most unique products on the market.
The corrosion-resistant 316L stainless steel tank is an industry rarity but is a top-of-the-line feature. 316L grade stainless steel provides greater corrosion resistance than other types of stainless steel, and is commonly used in marine applications, chemical and petrochemical industries, food processing and pharmaceutical equipment.
The other distinguishing feature is an integrated mixing valve that protects against scalding by safely and consistently mixing outlet water to the desired temperature of the homeowner. Combined with an adjustable thermostat, the Elevate allows for safe and consistent temperature at the faucet while amplifying the total amount of hot water available by safely turning the thermostat up to store water as high as 170°F. An ASSE 1017 anti-scald mixing valve is factory installed, so only inlet and outlet connections need to be established. This valve was chosen for its safety features and proven certification.
“When the water comes up through the mixing valve, it ensures safety on the other end,’’ Ferguson said. “We never want to deliver water more than 120 degrees to the tap. What this concept does is create a tank that delivers hot water reliably with a much smaller footprint and is much more effective than a standard electric water.”
The tank is also lightweight and much easier to handle than glass-lined water heaters and includes low watts density titanium elements that increase corrosion resistance and extend element life.
NAECA’s energy efficiency mandate changed the game for manufacturers, who needed to develop different products to comply with the legislation. Manufacturers responded, but now is a critical time in the industry. The lifespan of a typical electric water heater is 8-10 years, and many of the water heaters installed just before the original legislation are on their last legs.
Panic, however, does not have to set in for homeowners or contractors. While there are multiple options, the HTP Elevate is one of the newer products that gives contractors and homeowners peace of mind for the long haul and is easily installed with the added benefits of increased space in the mechanical room, use of premium materials (stainless steel tanks and titanium elements), and a limited lifetime warranty.
“The small footprint and stainless-steel tank make this a really good product,’’ Ferguson said. “It is something we’re going to recommend for a lot of residential retrofits and new installations.”
Thomas Renner writes on architecture, building, construction and other trade industry topics for publications throughout the United States.
For a boiler to operate properly, the liquid it contains must maintain the correct pH levels. If the pH level is not regularly tested and properly maintained, minerals can build up on the inside of the components. Or the water can turn acidic and attack the boiler’s metallic components and piping from the inside out Read more
For a boiler to operate properly, the liquid it contains must maintain the correct pH levels. If the pH level is not regularly tested and properly maintained, minerals can build up on the inside of the components. Or the water can turn acidic and attack the boiler’s metallic components and piping from the inside out, causing rust to form.
Scale or rust buildup reduces system performance over time. Enough buildup can essentially stop the operation of the system altogether.
Understanding pH levels in hydronic heating systems
Historically denoting “potential of hydrogen,” pH is the measure of how acidic or basic the water inside a hydronic heating system is. According to usgs.gov, the universal reading for pH goes from 0-14, with 7 being neutral. Less than 7 indicates acidity; greater than 7 indicates a base.
- Examples of items that have a pH of less than 7 are black coffee (pH=5), grapefruit juice, soda, or tomato juice (2.5-3.5), and lemon juice or vinegar (2).
- Examples of items that have a pH of greater than 7 would be seawater (8), baking soda (9.5), ammonia solution (10.5-11.5), and liquid drain cleaner (14).
pH is an important indicator of water that is changing chemically. Boiler systems need to have the perfect pH level balance. If the pH goes too high or too low, it can drastically impact a system.
The correct pH level will depend on the metallic composition of the heat exchanger. Some recommended pH levels range from 8 to 8.5. We recommend checking the boiler installation and operation manual to determine the acceptable pH range. Systems with a cast iron, stainless steel or copper exchanger are resilient and usually have a wide range of acceptable levels. Aluminum is more prone to corrosion and may require a specific pH.
Performing pH testing
Do a visual reading by opening the drain valve and bleeding off some liquid. If it appears clear, proceed with a pH test. As mentioned above, the correct pH level depends on the composition of the heat exchanger.
How to test pH levels
You can buy test strips that provide a color-coded readout. If you need a more precise reading for an aluminum system, use a digital pH meter.
Hercules Cryo-Tek Test Strips, available in packs of 6 to 10 color-coded and disposable test strips, can simultaneously check both the level of freeze protection (propylene glycol) and the level of corrosion protection in a system.
To conduct the test, drain some water from the boiler and then dip one of the pH test strips into the sample. Once a bit of color starts to pop up, compare the strip to the color chart to determine the pH level.
How often should you test pH levels?
These are closed systems, so there are usually no external signs of corrosion, making it difficult to spot an equipment leak — unless, of course, water is visibly running onto the floor. (If so, corrosive water inside the boiler is a likely cause.)
This general lack of immediate visibility is why it’s important to test hydronic systems annually. If your locale has hard water or there are conditions causing the water to be more acidic, testing should be done twice a year.
The lack of visibility is also why sampling the water for a test, as described above, is a must: It is the best way to tell if anything is wrong. If rust or sludge appears in your sample, you should test and replace the water.
What happens if a boiler’s pH is too high or too low?
If you find the pH levels too high, you’ll start to notice scale or limescale buildup in the boilers. Too much mineral buildup will restrict the system’s water flow. Essentially, the effectiveness of the boiler is lessened.
If the pH levels are too low, the water has turned acidic. This leads to rust and corrosion — a serious problem since boilers are typically made of copper, cast iron, and aluminum. As mentioned earlier, enough corrosion can stop system operation altogether.
How to balance out the pH
Maintenance managers or contractors can use a corrosion inhibitor to balance out the pH — a seamless fix. However, if the buildup or corrosion has been going on for several years, the system will probably not recover with this treatment. Instead, you’ll have to use a cleaner to flush the system to maximize boiler efficiency.
The Hercules® Boiler and Heating System Cleaner is formulated to clean and condition both steam and hot-water hydronic systems by removing rust, scale, and sludge. The cleaner can also free and lubricate zone valves and help stop priming and foaming with a special anti-foam agent. Ultimately, it is a liquid cleaner and corrosion-prevention treatment.
The Hercules® Sludgehammer System Restorer & Noise Reducer is another option for maintaining a boiler system. More aggressive than the system cleaner, it also cleans and reduces kettling (bubbling and banging), while restoring system efficiency. Maintenance managers or contractors can pair this product with a corrosion inhibitor for annual heating system-maintenance checks.
If the pH level is off:
- Drain about a gallon of liquid from the boiler and dispose of it.
- Fill a container with a quart of corrosion inhibitor, such as Hercules® Sludgehammer™ Universal Corrosion Inhibitor, and 3 quarts of fresh water. Pump it back into the system and allow it to circulate for about a half-an-hour.
- Test again. Usually, a single dose of inhibitor does the job, but if the reading is still too low, repeat the process
Watch the video below to learn how to remove sludge and corrosion in hydronic heating systems with Sludgehammer.
In conclusion, you must test the pH of boiler systems to maximize their efficiency, using products that can make monitoring pH levels simple and easy. If this testing uncovers damage to the system, there are also ways to alleviate and fix that damage.
But regardless of your boiler’s condition, Oatey products can offer a solution. For more information, go to Oatey.com for their heating chemicals and antifreeze products/resources.
Author’s biography: Sean Comerford is a Technical Applications Manager at Oatey Co. He is a third-generation tradesman with nearly 20 years of plumbing experience, including serving as the lead plumber for commercial/residential new-construction, service and fire protection jobs. He holds a State of Ohio Fire Protection License for Sprinkler and Standpipe.
Homeowners in the United States are becoming more inclined to update their residences with the latest smart home technology. Smart homes are the homes of the future and come fully equipped with a range of interconnected devices to offer benefits to the average homeowner. Smart voice assistants, smart kitchen appliances, smart home security systems, and Read more
Homeowners in the United States are becoming more inclined to update their residences with the latest smart home technology. Smart homes are the homes of the future and come fully equipped with a range of interconnected devices to offer benefits to the average homeowner.
Smart voice assistants, smart kitchen appliances, smart home security systems, and smart HVAC systems are examples of smart home technologies that homeowners are looking to adopt. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, considering how technology has developed over the years and how the consumer market is becoming more tech-savvy.
As American homes are evolving, how will the role of technicians change? Will technicians learn new skills or technologies to earn business from homeowners? Below is more information about smart home technology and how the role of technicians may change in an interconnected digital era.
Smart Homes Becoming More Commonplace
Statista estimates that the number of smart homes will increase and surpass the 350 million mark by 2023.
Many big tech companies, including Apple, Samsung, Google, and Amazon, are releasing new smart home technologies for customers. Smart TVs, sound systems, voice assistants, security systems, lighting systems, and thermostats are some examples of popular smart home technologies.
Homeowners reap a handful of benefits by using smart home tech. Convenience is likely the primary benefit – most smart home tech can be controlled by one device, usually a smartphone or tablet. These internet-enabled devices connect to hubs or applications for ease of use.
Impact of Smart Home Technology on the Role of Home Technicians
Because so many homeowners are equipping their homes with smart technology, this will likely change, if it hasn’t already, how home technicians do their jobs.
Typically, smart home technology does not have to be maintained or repaired as often as traditional home technology. For example, most systems will alert homeowners in advance of a breakdown, and some will even help homeowners troubleshoot issues.
However, because smart home technology has complex inner workings, technicians may have more difficulty completing repairs. Higher-end equipment often requires more skilled technicians to handle these types of repairs, or those with knowledge of proprietary systems.
What Technicians Need to Know
It will be crucial for technicians specializing in home maintenance or repairs to educate themselves and understand how basic smart home technology works. Service technicians will have to learn how these home devices connect and how each device functions to diagnose and repair issues.
Beyond working on smart technologies within customers’ homes during repairs, technicians may need to rely on these technologies for their own operations. For example, technicians might employ the use of electronic signatures to fuel their business and close deals more efficiently. Or, they may use wearables to capture and improve upon connected data like inventory and location information.
One major reason technicians will need to become more knowledgeable about smart home tech is that homeowner expectations are changing. A technician who has expanded their skillset to repair smart home tech will be in higher demand than those who do not.
As smart homes go mainstream, technicians capable of working on these complex smart home technologies will be well-positioned to offer their repair services, allowing their business to grow and generate more revenue.
Technicians: Keep Your Skills Relevant in the Age of Smart Home Technology
All technicians need to stay up-to-date with the latest technologies. Whether they specialize in HVAC, lighting, or plumbing, modern technicians should be aware of the adoption of smart home technologies to better prepare themselves for these repairs.
Guest Blogger: April Miller is a managing editor at ReHack.com who specializes in engineering and construction technology. You can find her work published on sites like Open Data Science and The Society of Women Engineers.
Speed and accuracy are the name of the game when it comes to a successful piping installation and a thriving business. Whether you’re installing potable plumbing or hydronic piping, the faster and more precise the job, the more time and money you potentially have to work on other projects. While there are hundreds of tips Read more
Speed and accuracy are the name of the game when it comes to a successful piping installation and a thriving business. Whether you’re installing potable plumbing or hydronic piping, the faster and more precise the job, the more time and money you potentially have to work on other projects.
While there are hundreds of tips and tricks out there to make your installs faster, easier, and more effective, I’m going to concentrate on the following three methods almost any plumbing or mechanical contractor can use to bring greater productivity to projects.
Flexible PEX pipe with bend supports
If you’ve never heard of PEX, it’s an acronym for crosslinked polyethylene. It’s a flexible, durable plastic piping product that provides numerous benefits over rigid CPVC or metallic systems, including faster installs, zero corrosion, and freeze-damage resistance.
Many residential contractors are already using PEX (considering it’s the most installed piping system for new-home construction over copper and CPVC combined). However, PEX is still a relative newcomer in the commercial industry.
The biggest benefit of PEX is its flexibility, which allows you to simply bend the pipe with each change in direction. With a tight bend radius of six times the pipe’s diameter, you can practically make 90-degree bends without the need for a fitting.
For times when you do have a tight bend that needs to stay in a particular place, PEX manufacturers offer bend supports. For those of you that prefer to watch rather than read, here’s a video that explains bend supports in detail.
These helpful products are available for ⅜”, ½”, ⅝”, ¾”, or 1″ PEX pipe. They hold the bend in place at the proper angle and take a fraction of the time compared to making a 90-degree elbow.
Most contractors agree that using flexible PEX with bend supports can eliminate most fittings in smaller-diameter pipe sizes 1″ and down, saving up to half the install time of a rigid piping system.
When it comes time to make a connection with PEX pipe, the professionals’ choice is PEX expansion. Note that expansion connections are only designed for PEX-a pipe. If you’re using PEX-b or PEX-c pipe, you’ll need to use a different fitting type as PEX-b and PEX-c pipes aren’t made to expand like PEX-a pipe, and they will experience microcracking during expansion.
Expansion connections require one simple tool that expands the pipe and an expansion ring before inserting a fitting. As the pipe and ring shrink back down around the fitting, it creates a solid, strong seal that can withstand up to 1,000 pounds of radial force. It’s quick and easy to do and simple to learn, so it’s highly beneficial with the skilled-labor shortage that’s challenging the trades. Here’s a quick, 20-second video on how to make a connection.
Now, to make installs even faster, expansion tools have advanced to make connections even quicker. For up to 1″ connections, the Milwaukee® M12 FUEL™ ProPEX® Expander with RAPID SEAL™ Heads is the fastest tool yet — with up to 65% faster sealing times compared to previous models.
For larger-diameter pipe connections, the new Milwaukee M18 FUEL™ ProPEX Expander with ONE-KEY™ is taking commercial installs to a new level by offering 3X faster 2″ connections. To watch how much faster, check out this video from Milwaukee Tool.
Finally, let’s talk about prefabrication. This is becoming a big trend for national residential builders or large commercial projects that have a lot of repeatability on the project. By prefabbing certain sections of a project, it can shave days, weeks, or even months off a timeline, depending on how big the project.
Prefabricating piping assemblies in a controlled factory environment not only adds more efficiencies, it also provides an additional benefit of greater accuracy. By doing a job repeatedly, it hones the skill and gives installers greater confidence in their work.
Plus, having rows and rows of prefabbed piping assemblies in a shop environment makes it a lot easier to perform quality checks. Instead of walking for miles on a job site, a supervisor can save significant time simply walking a shop floor.
And here’s another area where flexible, durable PEX provides additional benefits. Transporting prefabbed PEX piping assemblies is much easier than transporting rigid assemblies that can crack or break. Because PEX is super flexible, it can withstand the rigors of being transported to a job site without worry.
So, there you have it…just a few ideas to keep in mind the next time you have a project with a tight deadline, and you’re squeezed on time and skilled labor. Every little bit helps when it comes to adding productivity to projects. If you have other ideas, I’d love to hear them. Feel free to email me at email@example.com.
Kim Bliss is the technical and marketing content manager at Uponor. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.