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Residential plumbing and HVAC installers take note: you can pipe an entire home with the durability, flexibility and cost-effectiveness of PEX — for plumbing, fire sprinkler systems and radiant floor heating. Here’s how… PEX plumbing With more new homes plumbed with PEX than copper and CPVC combined, you’re probably already aware of the benefits of Read more

Residential plumbing and HVAC installers take note: you can pipe an entire home with the durability, flexibility and cost-effectiveness of PEX — for plumbing, fire sprinkler systems and radiant floor heating.

Here’s how…

PEX plumbing

With more new homes plumbed with PEX than copper and CPVC combined, you’re probably already aware of the benefits of plumbing with PEX. However, you may not know about a newer, smarter way to install a PEX plumbing system that goes in faster, uses less materials, requires fewer connections and minimizes your liability.

This innovative design is called Logic plumbing.

The Logic approach uses the flexibility of PEX pipe to minimize connections and reduce potential leak points while also incorporating multiport tees located near fixture groupings to limit the amount of pipe and connections needed.

What’s a multiport tee, you ask? It’s essentially a bunch of tees all molded together to create one long tee with multiple outlets. This design greatly reduces the number of fittings and connections needed to plumb a home (think: reduced materials cost and labor time).

Here’s an example of how a multiport tee saves installation time and materials: a flow-through multiport tee with six outlets has eight connections (six connections for the ports, a main flow-through inlet and a main flow-through outlet). Six regular tees, on the other hand, have a whopping 18 connections. That’s an increase of more than double the connections — and double the installation time.

Best of all, multiport tees are not considered manifolds, so they can be installed behind walls without the need for an access panel. Double win, there!

For a Logic layout, a main line connects to a multiport tee with distribution lines going out from the multiport to provide water to all fixtures in a single or adjacent grouping. This design uses significantly less pipe than a home-run layout, with just a few more connections. Plus, it requires considerably fewer connections compared to a trunk-and-branch installation.

For example, a 2,300-square-foot, two-story home using a Logic design requires only 637 feet of pipe while a home-run system uses 1,515 feet of pipe. And, while it’s true a Logic installation uses slightly more connections than a home-run layout (59 vs. 48 in the 2,300-square-foot, two-story home example), the amount of pipe savings is significantly more beneficial with the labor and material savings you get with less pipe to install.

A Logic layout also installs much faster compared to a trunk-and-branch system due to the vast reduction in connections. With the two-story home example, a Logic layout uses a mere 16 fittings and 59 connections compared to a whopping 96 fittings and 165 connections for trunk and branch.

PEX multipurpose fire sprinkler systems

If you’re a licensed plumber who wants to add an additional service to your offering, check out PEX multipurpose fire sprinkler systems. These systems combine the fire sprinklers with a home’s cold-water plumbing. It’s genius!

Installation is remarkably easy — the sprinkler is essentially just another fixture to tie into the plumbing line. For most contractors who already install PEX plumbing systems and have the tools, knowledge and, most importantly, the relationships with the home builders, this is a slam dunk.

Depending on the jurisdiction, multipurpose systems typically don’t need check valves or backflow preventers, and because they combine with the potable plumbing, they don’t use antifreeze, so all those added costs are eliminated.

To get started in most jurisdictions, licensed plumbers just need the appropriate training and a quality design that meets the NFPA 13D standard requirements for home fire sprinkler systems.

If you’re interested in learning more, email me at kim.bliss@uponor.com, and I can get you all the information you need to add this profitable new service to your business.

PEX hydronic radiant floor heating

There’s nothing like the comfort of radiant floor heating — ask anyone who has experienced it. And, homeowners will pay nicely for a quality radiant floor heating system, so there is definitely income potential if you can learn to do it right.

That said, with radiant floor heating, there’s a little more to learn. But, like fire sprinkler systems, starting with a proper design is key. If your design is wrong in the beginning, there’s not much you can do to fix the system once it’s installed.

Take advantage of the radiant design services many PEX manufacturers offer to guide you through the process. There are several design factors to know, including floor R-values, heat-loss calculations, pipe sizing, loop lengths, pump sizing, manifold types and more.

Once you learn the basics of radiant design and get a few small jobs under your belt, you have the potential to take your expertise to the next level with bigger, more profitable projects. But again, be sure to get the proper design and training before you tackle a radiant project. It will be well worth it in the long run.

To get a jumpstart on all things radiant, visit the following industry websites at radiantprofessionalsalliance.org, healthyheating.com or heatinghelp.com.

Kim Bliss is the content development manager at Uponor. She can be reached at kim.bliss@uponor.com.

By Laura Urbanek The Department of Energy is continuing its assault on the appliance energy efficiency standards program, with a proposed interpretive rule out this week that could freeze in place the standards for residential furnaces and commercial water heaters that use natural gas or propane. This shortsighted proposal could waste substantial amounts of fossil Read more

By Laura Urbanek

The Department of Energy is continuing its assault on the appliance energy efficiency standards program, with a proposed interpretive rule out this week that could freeze in place the standards for residential furnaces and commercial water heaters that use natural gas or propane. This shortsighted proposal could waste substantial amounts of fossil fuels and cost consumers billions in wasted energy costs. It’s a massive shift by DOE, which had already addressed this issue multiple times, as recently as 2016.

Fossil (aka “natural”) gas and propane are popular fuel sources for space heating and water heating in the United States, but when burned inside homes and businesses they emit climate-altering pollution and can impact indoor air quality. About half of homes are heated with fossil gas, and most of those homes used a gas furnace. Space heating represents the largest energy expense for the average U.S. household, accounting for about 45% of energy bills.

Standards for residential natural gas furnaces were last meaningfully updated in 1992, which means that many homeowners are already wasting climate-harming fossil fuels when they heat their homes. More efficient standards for furnaces, alone, could cumulatively save consumers $24 billion on their utility bills by 2050, while reducing harmful carbon pollution by nearly 85 million metric tons (equivalent to the annual emissions from 22 coal-fired power plants). But with this proposal, these savings are all but guaranteed to be lost, as DOE yet again prioritizes industry interests over the health and well-being of consumers and the planet.

Last fall, groups representing the gas industry—American Public Gas Association (APGA), Spire, Inc., the Natural Gas Supply Association (NGSA), the American Gas Association (AGA), and the National Propane Gas Association (NPGA)—petitioned DOE to change how it interprets the definition of “performance characteristics” as it relates to gas furnaces and commercial water heaters. While this gets wonky pretty quickly, the issue boils down to the use of condensing or non-condensing technology.

Condensing vs. Non-Condensing

Furnaces or water heaters using condensing technology capture additional heat from the flue gases that would otherwise be lost up the chimney, and return usable heat. This results in a more efficient furnace or water heater with significant energy savings for consumers. In fact, without the use of condensing technology, there is little room for energy efficiency improvements over existing models of gas equipment.

The energy-saving benefits of condensing technology are immense. A recent report from the Appliance Standards Awareness Project found that condensing technology can reduce residential gas water heater energy consumption by about 25 percent. DOE estimated in a September 2016 furnace supplemental proposed rule that consumers would save about $700 on average by purchasing a furnace that complies with the proposed standard, after accounting for all costs (including any relevant venting and plumbing costs related to installation).

DOE Changes its Tune

Condensing equipment requires different venting compared to non-condensing equipment, and also requires a plumbing connection to dispose of the condensate produced. The gas industry groups argued that the presence of this different venting and a plumbing connection are “features” or “performance characteristics” that require these products to be put in a separate product class, with separate standards for condensing and non-condensing products. That’s a problem, because it means that inefficient furnaces and water heaters that waste energy by not utilizing up-to-date technology will still be available on the market—which defeats the purpose of a higher energy-saving standard that benefits all consumers.

We do not agree with the gas industry groups’ interpretation of what constitutes a “performance characteristic,” as we laid out in comments submitted to DOE on the petition back in March, In fact, we find what the gas industry groups requested to be contrary to the law.

What’s more: DOE itself previously disagreed with this interpretation! The gas industry groups have been looking for a way out of updating the standard for years, and each time, DOE has given a consistent, rational explanation for its decision to not treat condensing products as a unique product feature. Most recently, DOE cautioned in the March 2015 residential furnace notice of proposed rulemaking (NOPR), and reconfirmed in its September 2016 supplemental NOPR, “Tying the concept of ’feature‘ to a specific technology would effectively lock-in the current existing technology as the ceiling for product efficiency and eliminate DOE’s ability to address technological advances that could yield significant consumer benefits in the form of lower energy costs while providing the same functionality for the consumer.” Yet this is exactly what the gas industry groups asked DOE to do in the petition at hand, without providing a compelling reason for why DOE should reverse its long-held, consistent determination of product classes.

Unfortunately, DOE has done a 180-degree turn to change its position, now agreeing with the gas industries—to the detriment of consumer energy savings. DOE claims that they’re looking out for the consumer, citing concerns about how exterior venting could impact the aesthetics of a home, and that requiring better technology would result in financial hardship to low-income consumers. Yet, groups like the National Consumer Law Center and the Consumer Federation of America—whose job day in and day out is to represent interests of low-income consumers—are strongly opposed to DOE’s approach. They note that consumers—especially low-income consumers—will suffer “substantial financial harm,” losing out on billions of dollars in energy savings under the proposal at hand.

There are more steps DOE needs to take before this is a done deal, and we’ll be fighting at every step of the way. Changing the rules to stymie progress is not in the best interest of consumers, especially low-income consumers who spend a disproportionate amount of their income on energy bills. This proposal rests on shaky legal ground, and even worse, it wastes fossil fuels. And when fossil fuels are responsible for so much of the climate crisis, a proposal to increase waste is simply unconscionable.

Laura Urbanek is Senior Energy Policy Advocate, Climate & Clean Energy Program, NRDC.

Recently, the International Code Council held their Code Action Hearings in Albuquerque, NM. Included on the agenda were what appeared to be innocuous proposals to update the standards that are included in the codes. Typically the standards updates are relatively benign, and incorporate new language to accommodate new technologies. Seldom does a standard update change the level Read more

Recently, the International Code Council held their Code Action Hearings in Albuquerque, NM. Included on the agenda were what appeared to be innocuous proposals to update the standards that are included in the codes. Typically the standards updates are relatively benign, and incorporate new language to accommodate new technologies. Seldom does a standard update change the level of safety for a particular product, such as is happening with the product listing standard for equipment using flammable refrigerants. In the ICC system, standard updates are considered by the Administrative committee and if they meet the ICC criteria, they are rubber stamped into the next edition.

Unfortunately, this committee is not one to debate or consider the technical aspects within the standards updates being proposed—they simply consider whether the standards meet the ICC criteria, which doesn’t require that the standard be complete before being considered. In this particular case, the UL standard for equipment containing flammable refrigerants was not complete and the exact publish date was still under discussion.

The 2018 and 2021 editions of IMC, IFC and UMC have all rejected the addition of A2L flammable refrigerants in direct HVAC systems until all safety concerns are addressed and the research is complete.

The flammable refrigerants issue has become a very big subject of debate in the codes covering HVAC, refrigeration and fire safety nationwide. In fact, many proposals to add these flammable refrigerants in direct systems, were proposed to the International Mechanical Code committee, the International Fire Code committee, and IAPMO’s Uniform Mechanical Code committee. All were rejected based on multiple aspects including, safety concerns, and incomplete research. The main concern was that the cart was being placed before the horse even before the cart had it’s wheels attached.

There was not a single safety provision related to A2L (flammable) refrigerants for direct air conditioning systems proposed for the International Residential Code (IRC). There was also not a single discussion before the IRC committee even though this committee was chosen for their technical expertise in this area. After the 2021 Code Action Hearings, all of the model codes, nationwide, were in unison in their rejection of proposals to allow these flammable refrigerants for direct HVACR systems in all occupancies, including residential and commercial.

However, there was one loophole still available for those relentlessly pursuing these new flammable refrigerants in all occupancies. They proposed the unfinished standard be included in the IRC to the Administrative Committee.

Proponents desperately trying to go around the technical committees knew that the administrative committee would likely consider only the procedural issues, and not entertain technical debate—the committee is called the “administrative committee” for a reason. Unfortunately, the proponents were correct—instead of rejecting the proposal and putting the responsibility on the proponents to present their case to the appropriate technical committee, they recommended approval and the buck was passed to the membership to determine whether flammable refrigerants should be permitted in the code without any installation requirements.

If this proposal is finalized at the Public Comment Hearing meetings in Las Vegas, there will be absolutely zero provisions in the code to safely install flammable refrigerants in direct HVAC systems in homes. It is important to note that the standard is a product safety standard, not an installation standard. An installation standard is currently under development by ASHRAE, but remains unfinished.

If the standard is confirmed at the Public Comment Hearings, there will be absolutely zero provisions in the IRC to safely install and inspect flammable refrigerants in direct HVAC systems for homes.

The Air Conditioning Contractors of America, multiple fire service organizations and interests and several of the largest manufacturers of refrigerants and equipment all oppose this standard at this time and the use of these refrigerants in direct residential applications.

This must be corrected at the Public Comment Hearings, and most importantly, during the Online Government Vote afterwards. The technical and safety debate must take its proper path and play-out as all other critical lifesafety provisions throughout the history of ICC’s code development process have done. If this action is condoned, what will stop others from timing their standards the same way as they have done here – circumventing all technical and safety debate of the industry and the membership of ICC? This sets a very bad precedent, raises safety concerns and conflicts with the votes of the IMC, UMC and IFC committees..

To the ICC Membership:

The committee must be overturned so that flammable refrigerants will NOT be allowed in homes without a single technical or safety provision included to insure public safety. Please vote to overturn the committee and maintain consistency with the IMC, UMC and IFC code development committees.

About the author: Jay Peters has been in the industry for almost 40 years as a licensed journeyman plumber, refrigeration journeyman, sheetmetal installer and multi-state contractor. For more than a decade he worked for the two largest code organizations as Executive Director of plumbing, mechanical and fuel gas at the International Code Council (ICC) and Senior Director of Codes and Education at the International Asssociation of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO). Currently he is the principal advisor at Codes and Standards International. His articles have appeared in Plumbing Engineer, IAPMO Official, Plumbing Africa, PM Engineer, Contractor, Reeves Journal, National Envirnomental Health Association Journal, ICC Building Safety Journal and more. Contact: Jay@BuildingCodesAndStandards.com

Dain Hansen is vice president of Government Relations, The IAPMO Group. He lends his frequent perspective of Capitol Hill, and the plumbing industry. Here is an edited version of his update from June 14, 2019:   Congressional Update. Repair Aging Water Infrastructure. Rep. Antonio Delgado (D-NY) and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) announced legislation to help Read more

IAPMO’s view from the Hill, and the industryDain Hansen is vice president of Government Relations, The IAPMO Group. He lends his frequent perspective of Capitol Hill, and the plumbing industry.

Here is an edited version of his update from June 14, 2019:

 

Congressional Update.

Repair Aging Water Infrastructure. Rep. Antonio Delgado (D-NY) and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) announced legislation to help repair the nation’s aging water infrastructure. The Promoting Infrastructure and Protecting the Economy (PIPE) Act would create a new grant program to help communities across the country invest in critical water system upgrades. The bill would authorize $5 billion over 10 years to provide discretionary grants to state and local governments, tribal governments, and public water utilities for projects related to drinking water and waste water infrastructure. The PIPE Act would allow communities to continue to provide clean water for their residents and reliable water systems that help promote economic development. Grants funded through the PIPE Act could be used to construct, replace, or repair public drinking water and waste water treatment facilities. This could include projects to repair or replace water pipes, projects to ensure drinking water sources comply with water quality regulations, and projects that promote water conservation and efficiency. Hansen: There is a lot of support for this legislation and a group of members of congress are pushing for hearings on this legislation.
Agency Update.
EPA Completes Work on New Lead Rules, White House Reviewing. The EPA has sent its new regulations on lead in drinking water to the White House for final review, a milestone the agency has never reached before during the nearly eight years it’s been struggling to overhaul these regulations. The White House’s Office of Management and Budget began its review of the lead regulations (RIN: 2040-AF15) June 6, according to the office’s website. This OMB review is typically the final stage in the regulatory process before a proposal is released to the public. After this new regulation is publicly released, the EPA will solicit comments on it and then analyze and respond to the comments before implementing and enforcing the new lead regulations. EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler has said the new regulations will focus on removing the millions of lead pipes still in use across the country. Water corroding these pipes as it passes through them is the primary way tap water gets contaminated with lead, a toxic metal that can cause irreversible neurological problems in children. Long before Wheeler became the country’s top environmental official, and even before the lead crisis in Flint, Mich., the EPA has been struggling with how to beef up its regulations on lead without imposing a crippling unfunded mandate on the many municipal-run utilities that own these lead pipes. Hansen: Wheeler said earlier this year he wants the agency’s new regulations to ensure that the most corrosive lead pipes are prioritized for the most rapid replacement.
Industry Update
Governor Abbot Takes Action To Extend Texas Board of Plumbers. Governor Greg Abbott yesterday issued an executive order to extend the activity of the Texas State Board of Plumbing Examiners past its set expiration of September 1, 2019. Governor Abbott utilized Section 418.016 of the Texas Government Code, which allows the Governor to suspend provisions of regulatory statutes prescribing the procedures for the conduct of state business if strict compliance would in any way prevent, hinder or delay necessary action in coping with a disaster. Since Hurricane Harvey made landfall and caused widespread destruction, the Governor has issued a disaster declaration each month effective through today. The magnitude of what still must be rebuilt is reflected in the more than $10 billion of federal funds that are newly or nearly available to Texas for areas impacted by Hurricane Harvey. A qualified workforce of licensed plumbers throughout the state, including from areas not directly affected by Hurricane Harvey, will be essential as those funds are being invested in crucial infrastructure, medical facilities, living facilities, and other construction projects. Hansen: The Governor’s order today allows the Board to continue its operations through May 31, 2021, giving the 87th legislature time to address the matter.

New Study Links Water Contamination To Cancer. Nitrate pollution of U.S. drinking water may cause up to 12,594 cases of cancer a year, according to a new peer-reviewed study by the Environmental Working Group. For the study, EWG scientists estimated the number of cancer cases in each state that could be attributed to nitrate contamination of public water systems, largely caused by farm runoff containing fertilizer and manure. They also estimated the costs of treating those cases at up to $1.5 billion a year. The current federal drinking water standard for nitrate, set in 1962, is 10 parts per million, or ppm. Yet several well-regarded epidemiological studies have linked nitrate in drinking water with cancer and other serious health issues at levels less than one-tenth of the legal limit. Four-fifths of EWG’s estimated cases were occurrences of colorectal cancer, with ovarian, thyroid, kidney and bladder cancer making up the rest. Nitrate in tap water has also been linked with serious neonatal health issues. EWG estimated that nitrate pollution may be responsible for as many as 2,939 cases of very low birth weight; 1,725 cases of very preterm birth; and 41 cases of neural tube defects. Hansen: EWG scientists estimate the level at which there would occur no adverse health effects from nitrate in drinking water to be 0.14 milligrams per liter – equivalent to parts per million. That level, 70 times lower than the EPA’s legal limit, represents a one-in-one-million risk of cancer.
Flint Back In the News. Prosecutors announced this week they are dismissing all criminal charges against eight people who were charged in the Flint, Mich., water crisis and are restarting their investigation into one of the worst man-made public health crises in U.S. history. The announcement of the dropped charges comes as prosecutors say they will essentially start from scratch in reviewing the water crisis in order to expand the scope of the investigation. Michigan Solicitor General Fadwa Hammoud took over the case in January and said previous prosecutors had not taken advantage of all available evidence. That expanded search included seizing the cell phone and other records from former Gov. Rick Snyder (R). Former state health director Nick Lyon was among those whose charges were dropped. Lyon was facing charges of involuntary manslaughter and accused of not quickly alerting the public of a Legionnaires’ disease outbreak while Flint used water that was not properly treated. The outbreak of Legionnaires’, a form of pneumonia, occurred while the city used lead-contaminated water that also contained other bacteria tied to the disease. Lyon was the top official charged in the probe. Lyon’s attorney, Chip Chamberlain, told the press they “feel fantastic and vindicated,” after it was announced that charges would be dropped, but also acknowledged that Lyon and others could be charged again. Hansen: In April, a federal judge ruled residents of Flint, Mich., can sue the federal government over its response to the city’s drinking water crisis.

Two piping systems that are taking the domestic-water and hydronic heating and cooling landscape to a new level. These innovative solutions are providing the construction industry with systems that are easier to learn (to help with the skilled-labor shortage), faster to install (to meet tight construction schedules) and provide cleaner installation sites (for jobsite safety) Read more

Two piping systems that are taking the domestic-water and hydronic heating and cooling landscape to a new level. These innovative solutions are providing the construction industry with systems that are easier to learn (to help with the skilled-labor shortage), faster to install (to meet tight construction schedules) and provide cleaner installation sites (for jobsite safety).

For PEX pipe, popularity is growing for risers, distribution piping and even direct-burial applications in sizes 3″ and down. Its flexibility, fast installations and stable pricing make it appealing for contractors, and its corrosion resistance and durability in freezing conditions make it highly attractive to building owners.

For copper press, contractors are enjoying a safer, flameless connection system that eliminates solder, heat and flux from the job site while offering contractors a metallic system that is faster and easier to learn and quicker to install.

Now, imagine combining the best of both worlds — PEX expansion and copper press — for quicker, easier training, faster installs and safer jobsites to get the job done right in less time.

With the launch of the industry’s first ProPEX® expansion to copper press transitions, professionals now have a solution for a completely flameless piping system that eliminates the hassles, costs and hazards of soldering while also providing more efficient installs.

Watch how easy it is to make these transitions.

Manufactured from high-quality, lead-free brass to meet all local and national domestic-water building codes, the transitions are available in both male and female configurations with the female adapters featuring an EPDM rubber O-ring for a dependable seal.

Best of all, they feature a patented design for securely fastening the pipe and fitting together, eliminating the need for a stainless-steel ring commonly used in large-dimension copper press fittings.

Compared to soldering copper, these transitions reduce an overall project timeline by an average of 71%, helping to manage a project’s schedule and, ultimately, the bottom line. And because they are backed by a 25-year transferable limited warranty, the transitions offer additional confidence and peace of mind.

So if you’re like most construction professionals out there, feeling the crunch of the labor shortage but still want the quality of a professional piping system, look to a hybrid PEX expansion and copper press system. The end result can be money in the bank.

To learn more about the transitions, visit uponorpro.com/copperpress_us.

Kim Bliss is the content development manager at Uponor. She can be reached at kim.bliss@uponor.com.