May 18, 2011

I never thought I'd be in love with a "plumber"... but don't quit your day job Kevin!

We decided to go with a somewhat new plumbing system called Pex, which is a flexible polyethylene tubing. It is easy to install and requires fewer fittings compared to copper or PVC pipe systems. The other major advantage is that all fixtures (i.e. sink, toilet, shower, etc.) have a “home run” water supply, meaning a single Pex pipe runs from each fixture all the way back to a manifold. The result is evenly distributed water pressure with no pressure drop when a fixture is used at the same time as another, and no temperature change (like when the toilet is flushed and you’re in the shower!)

This is our manifold installed on the ceiling in the laundry room. Cold water enters on the right (orange port), it's sent to all the blue ports and then out one of the orange ports on the left. After leaving the manifold, the cold water goes upstairs to the water heater and loops back down, entering the bottom orange port. Hot water is then distributed evenly through the red ports.

Pex tubing is connected by crimp rings to various types of fittings. Here you can see the connections to the washing machine supply valve. The crimp ring is placed on the end of the tubing, then the fitting is inserted into the pipe, and the ring is crimped, making a permanent water tight connection.

Here are the supply lines stubbed out for the kitchen sink.

Here is a shot of the master bathroom shower connections. We decided to have two separate shower controls in order to be able to regulate the temperature independently. Many fancy showers these days have multiple shower heads but water pressure is often sacrificed. The way this shower is plumbed (and thanks to the manifold system) we won’t have that issue here!

This is a picture of the manifold after the connections were made. Blue=cold water/red=hot water….except for the two in the top left of the picture. I ran out of blue pipe and had to use the red for two fixtures. All the pipe is ½” except for the white pipes, which are ¾” supply lines which maintain high pressure to the manifold, about 80 PSI.

Kevin also ran all the gas piping for the natural gas system. We will have a gas range, furnace, on-demand water heater and an outdoor connection for a grill.

Here you can see Kevin starting to cut threads on a piece of pipe. A large ratchet with thread cutting die is wrenched around the end of a blank piece of pipe, cutting the threads as it turns. Super fun work! Now we know why pipe fitters have Unions…not an easy job!

This is a close up of the ratchet head and the cutting die. You can see the steel pipe shavings curling away as the die cuts the threads. Oil is applied generously throughout this process to reduce friction. The end of the pipe is still pretty warm when it’s finished.

The gas system comes in and splits here. Normal gas systems have 0.5 PSI but we have a fairly high demand because of the water heater so we raised it to 2 PSI. The pressure is reduced near the points of use via in-line regulators, dropping the pressure back down to 0.5 PSI. Long runs of pipe cause pressure drop so this way the pressure remains high even when multiple fixtures are using gas at the same time.

To ensure there are no leaks, we pressurized the whole gas system with compressed air and monitored a temporary pressure gauge. Each joint in the system is then checked with a soapy solution. If it’s leaking, bubbles will appear and the pressure gauge will not remain steady.

Here you can see our on-demand tankless water heater. This is a Navien condensing unit that is 98% efficient and will deliver up to 8.5 gallons per minute of hot water….forever. Here you can see the ¾” white pipes that come up from the manifold with cold water and hot water to be distributed.

Finally, we had Washington Gas come out and replace our old gas meter (right) and the regulator (left) with new equipment. The regulator allows us to have the higher gas pressure I discussed earlier. Once the plumbing inspection is passed this will all be hooked up to the stub out on the wall just behind the meter. We have also made provisions to add a natural gas generator in the future for when the power goes out but for now that will be shut off by the red valve on the right.

1 comment:

Kate said...