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PEX Safety? (post #81944)

I have a customer who is an engineer and has researched just about everything going into his new house.  He has raised concerns about both the safety of PEX from a chemical standpoint and also potential problems with water pressure.  See the links he sent me below.  I'm a GC and lean on my plumber to make sure the water lines are the right size and all but I've never seen him do any calculations or anything.  The last 4 houses I built(and several I worked on before that) all had PEX and I've never had any complaints from my customers.  In this area at least it seems like it's all anybody uses unless copper is specified in a really expensive house or something.  Is there another water line alternative other than copper?  I guess there's the PVC type but couldn't it have similar chemical issues and is it cost effective? 


http://contractormag.com/plumbing/cm_column_22/


http://www.chemaxx.com/polytube1.htm

(post #81944, reply #1 of 34)

PEX for too many reasons.

(post #81944, reply #2 of 34)

Forget about the cost difference, if given a choice of pex or copper for the same price, I would always chose pex. I only would use copper in areas where you need the rigidity of copper like shower valves, heating pipes around the boiler, etc.

(post #81944, reply #3 of 34)

I'm an old school plumber that has mainly dealt with copper for water supply.


First introduced to pex in 1990 for radiant heat applications.


First introduced for potable systems was 2001 for me.


I was leary about recomending it to anyone at first for potable systems.


Other than it looking like crapp i haven't had any problems with Wirsbo brand.


Your first link is standard for any potable water system------ it has to be sized correctly. Too many fittings is bad for any system no matter what the material is.


His comment on compression style fittings is misleading, most compression style fittings have a stiffener insert for plastic piping.


I have heard & read about MTBE being introduced into potable water from pex since 2006, I am doing more fact finding before I post my opinion wether pex is good for potable systems or not.


I am a member of ASPE ( American Society of Plumbing Engineers) & am currently looking into pex leaching benzene as well MTBE.



“The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing.”Albert Einstein

 

(post #81944, reply #4 of 34)

So what it comes down to, from the links is:


1.>  Build it the way it is supposed to be built - OK, Duh!  I know this is news to some... but, DUH!


2.>  Don't use pipe that is more than 7 years old.  I would be impressed if you could FIND 7 y.o. pipe anywhere besides a yard sale.  A store that has inventory on its shelf for 7 years is... out of business already!


Rebuilding my home in Cypress, CA


Also a CRX fanatic!


If your hair looks funny, it's because God likes to scratch his nuts.  You nut, you.

YAY!  I love WYSISYG editing!  And Spellcheck!

____________________________________________________

(post #81944, reply #10 of 34)

>>So what it comes down to, from the links is:
. . . .
>>2.> Don't use pipe that is more than 7 years old.

Seems to like an overly broad reading of the note regarding 2001 and changes since then.




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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_DyerMay your whole life become a response to the truth that you've always been loved, you are loved and you always will be loved" Rob Bell, Nooma, "Bullhorn"

======================================== "Man's capacity for justice makes democracy possible, but man's inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary." Reinhold Niebuhr: 'The Children of Light and the Children of Darkness' http://rjw-progressive.blogspot.com/ ========================================

(post #81944, reply #11 of 34)

As the article didn't report that this was a problem with ALL pex pipe (was this PEX supposed to be used for Hydronic heat, not potable water?), AND since it said that "manufacturers are aware of this problem and may have made changes since 2001", AND it also says the contaminents wash out over time.


It's like the local news, trying to be relavent by making you fear ordinary things in your home that are unlikely to do any harm, by reporting "A POTENTIAL DEADLY THREAT IN YOUR HOME - WHAT YOU CAN DO TO STAY SAFE - MORE AFTER THE BREAK"


It sounds like they ae taking a known loaded sample and trying to extrapolate a wider danger.  They don't independently sample other commonly available tubing to see if this is industry wide, company wide, or even a batch problem.  MTBE contamination can be a BIG deal, if it was out there I think there would be a regular stink being made by the very people PEX hurts the most:  Union Plumbers


I've yet to see a Union Plumber PSA warning about the dangers of PEX contamination.


Rebuilding my home in Cypress, CA


Also a CRX fanatic!


If your hair looks funny, it's because God likes to scratch his nuts.  You nut, you.

YAY!  I love WYSISYG editing!  And Spellcheck!

____________________________________________________

(post #81944, reply #18 of 34)

"MTBE contamination can be a BIG deal, if it was out there I think there would be a regular stink being made by the very people PEX hurts the most:  Union Plumbers"


I'm curious.  Why are you are expecting Union plumbers to know about and be concerned by MTBE contamination?  They're not chemists after all.  Moreover, should contamination be found, plumbers in general would be the recipients of a whole lot of work replacing all the plastic pipe out there - PEX and CPVC.


History has shown that the installation people in an industry using a product are generally the last to cry foul unless it hits their bottom line because of product failure.   Examples include:  Painters - High VOC solvent paints, HVAC engineers - freon, Siding - Asbestos, etc.  It's the manufacturers that typically know, deny, and hide when issues of safety arise.


For my money, I will use copper and not worry about chemicals leaching into my water supply.  Copper would have to cost a pretty big multiple of PEX before I would even think of switching.  One man's opinion.

(post #81944, reply #19 of 34)

I would expect them to trumpet it loudly if it could be used to make the case that copper should be used instead of PEX.  Copper is much more labor intesive then PEX, just like EMT is more labor intensive than Romex.


As far as the price multiple, I see a 60' role of type L 1/2" copper at $2.60 a foot, while the last roll of PEX I bought (100') was $.36 a foot. 


That's 4 times as expensive already, not including the extra labor of sweating each fitting.  Exactly how much more expensive does it have to be before you would consider using it?


 


 


Rebuilding my home in Cypress, CA


Also a CRX fanatic!


If your hair looks funny, it's because God likes to scratch his nuts.  You nut, you.

YAY!  I love WYSISYG editing!  And Spellcheck!

____________________________________________________

(post #81944, reply #20 of 34)

A labor study done a couple of years ago actually found it was only 20% cheaper to run PEX than Copper. 


http://www.toolbase.org/pdf/fieldevaluations/brighton_plumbingreporttask1.pdf 


They used identical floor plans and crews and did multiple houses as a comparison.  Now, given the rise in Copper prices, I would expect the numbers to have changed, but the main savings are still probably not in the materials, but in the labor.


Comparing raw material costs between PEX and Copper is misleading.  It's my understanding that most PEX installs do not run identical to Copper.  While branching and terminations using PEX can be done like Copper runs, most times manifolds and home runs are used greatly increasing the amount of PEX used vs Copper.


How much of a cost differential would push me to PEX?  Hard to say. 


Would I buy a car today without crumple zones, fuel tank protection, or airbags just because it was cheaper?  No.  Would I use undersized lumber in a structural application just because it was cheaper?  No.  Would I install inadequate gauged wiring in a house just because it was cheaper?  No.  I see the safety concerns with PEX in much the same light even if my comparisons are not perfect.


I'm not installing something behind a wall that I even suspect might cause me harm down the road.  Why risk it if you can afford not to? 


Edited 4/3/2008 6:37 pm ET by WindowsGuy

(post #81944, reply #21 of 34)

My understanding is that pex has been in use in europe for 50 years.


Now window guy, don't you think it would have been off the market


a long time ago.


as far as comparrisons between them,  they probably used the same plumbers.


By doing this they skewed the results.  How you might ask, well the


plumbers in america have very limited experience with pex.  I know that


plumbers in america have been sweating pipes for years.  As far as


price, the pex is getting cheaper everyday when comparring materisl costs, because copper is going up and up.


The advantages of pex is the home runs back to the manifold.  Less


reduction inh2o preasure.

(post #81944, reply #22 of 34)

My understanding is that pex has been in use in europe for 50 years.


Not exactly, pex as we know it was invented in about 68, Engal & Silane methods.


Didn't hit the market until the 70's, & that was for radiant heat applications.


Late 70's for Europe to use as domestic water. 84 when the product hit the US.


I'm not sure who allowed it first in the US for domestic water, but upc was the 2000 code adopted in 01.


Now window guy, don't you think it would have been off the market


a long time ago.


How long was asbestos on the market?


plumbers in america have very limited experience with pex


True, but let's not paint with such a broad brush. I have more experience with copper, but I have installed  9 miles of 1/2" pex since 2002.


Depending on the design time savings will vary.


The price differential in material with someone posting 60' type "L" soft is misleading.


Average home is plumbed in type "M" rigid which runs about 50% of the cost of type "L" soft.


The advantages of pex is the home runs back to the manifold.  Less


reduction inh2o preasure.


Actually not, the piping material does not affect the pressure.



“The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing.”Albert Einstein

 

(post #81944, reply #23 of 34)

I will bow to your knowledge.


Do you still use copper, caste iron for waste?

(post #81944, reply #24 of 34)

Copper for the hot water mains.


Stainless steel for the cold water mains.


Uponor (pex) from the metered manifolds to each fixture.


Cast iron for the main stacks & plenums.


ABS for the branch dwv lines.


Current job has ABS going through the floor due to the particular fire rated sleeve that we are using------ in theory the fire ring is supposed to be able to pinch off the abs if there is a fire.



“The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing.”Albert Einstein

 

(post #81944, reply #25 of 34)

The reason I asked is, the plumbers around here had a hard time switching from cast to PVC.


In fact in state law, commercial buildings in NY have to still use cast.


We used to joke about plumbers full employment codes.


Every time there is a new product, there is a natural resistance to


try anything new.


As far as Pex, I believe that there seems to be resistance by our


local plumbers to use it.


Personally I would never do any plumbing, rather have someone else


do it.  I know my limitations.

(post #81944, reply #26 of 34)

I've seen some thin walled stainless products.
Look and install similar to PEX, a bit more
expensive, but all stainless. That's the
way to go.

(post #81944, reply #28 of 34)

Our stainless is bige bore------ 2 to 6 inches.


We can't run the hot water in it yet. I haven't received an actual scientific answer as to why yet.



“The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing.”Albert Einstein

 

(post #81944, reply #30 of 34)

We have stainless that looks just like ordinary galvanized pipe.
Whole selection at my local hardware store. A bit more expensive
though.

I think the thinwall stuff is really cool.


Edited 4/5/2008 10:24 am by talkingdog

(post #81944, reply #27 of 34)

Plumbbill gave some good facts.


In general, I never believe in a product (or person for that matter) based solely on the "years in service" argument.  Way too many examples of bad things coming to light years after a product is in service.


PEX and CPVC are petroleum-based.  I will admit to a growing anti-petroleum bias.  (yes I know copper production is no environmental angel either)


As for Cast Iron, wouldn't you know it, high end homes specify it to cut down on noise.  Every time a toilet flushes on an upper floor in my house, I wish I had cast iron.  Of course, having dealt with some CI in a 100 year old house I used to own, I know that PVC is clearly easier to handle.

(post #81944, reply #5 of 34)

The first one is not a problem is PEX. It is a problem with some one that had absolutely no concept of flow rates, pressure drops and sizing.

What the article says is that PEX still follows the laws of physics. And while it is easier to install you still need an IQ higher than a toad.

Like wise the 2nd article indicates that the problem is only with certain methods of processing and even at that it can easily be flushed.

Used irridated PEX.

.
.
A-holes. Hey every group has to have one. And I have been elected to be the one. I should make that my tagline.
. William the Geezer, the sequel to Billy the Kid - Shoe

(post #81944, reply #6 of 34)

If you look at the articles, the first one appears to slam PEX, but the analysis shows that the culprit was undersized piping, not the material the pipes were made of. You just need to account for the distance & fittings and you're good.


The second article does not condemn all PEX -- it specifically notes that certain brands release chems, but that others don't. It also states that the tested material was all manufactured pre-2001, and that mfgrs have since changed the makeup of the product.


In my book, you have 2 choices, and only 2 choices, for supply lines -- copper or PEX. Price them out, and let your customer decide. (If he wants to feed his research/engineering jones, let him research which brands of PEX are chem-free and let him size the lines. It'll keep him busy.)


Mike Hennessy
Pittsburgh, PA

Mike Hennessy
Pittsburgh, PA
Everything fits, until you put glue on it.

(post #81944, reply #9 of 34)

The first article referenced from Contractor Mag simply points out that this particular type of piping is and can be great - if the installer does their job correctly. PEX is not a silver-bullet that somehow gets an exception to the principals of hydraulics.


No stiffeners are required with the insert fittings - the fitting is the stiffener. Annealed copper crimp rings, stainless steel clamps or PEX rings capture & hold the pex onto the somewhat-barbed insert fitting type described in the first link.

(post #81944, reply #7 of 34)

dogfish,


  At one time I started to replace all the CVPC and replace it with Copper.   Then came the articles about lead leaching so I switch to a low lead solder, I'm still not satisfied so for right now I'm reusing all of my old CVPC while I'm installing the pex for in floor radiant. 


 The detractors of CVPC are many and varied..


  The detractors of Copper are many and varied..


 The detractors of Pex can join in as well. 


 what's your favorite paint color? <grin>

(post #81944, reply #8 of 34)

frenchy: you said it well. 

(post #81944, reply #12 of 34)

I switch to a low lead solder,


What year are you talking about "low lead solder"?



“The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing.”Albert Einstein

 

(post #81944, reply #14 of 34)

What year are you talking about "low lead solder"?


Must have been when he was a little boy!

(post #81944, reply #15 of 34)

I recently found out that brass fittings are a health
concern due to the lead content. WHO has issued a directive
on this. Lead is added to brass formulations to improve
machinability.

AFAIK, there is only one company in the world that
has commercialized a lead-free brass for use in plumbing,
and that stuff, Eco-Brass, is not yet on the market.


Edited 4/3/2008 7:38 am by talkingdog

(post #81944, reply #29 of 34)

Brass plumbing fittings can contain upto about 10% lead.  However, the chemistry of the water in the system affects how much lead is leached from the fittings.  Hard water helps prevent leaching because the minerals deposited on the fittings protect the brass from the water.  Acidic water tends to increase leaching. 


I'm surprised that the second article in the OP didn't mention anything about the chemistry of the water in the systems where the MTBE was found.  I'd find it hard to believe that water chemistry doesn't factor in to leaching of chemical from PEX.

(post #81944, reply #16 of 34)

I built my own house in 1986, plumbed everything with 50-50. Got the water tested in 95 when my wife was expecting, lead was to little to detect.


Hardly scientific, but hardly a worry either.

(post #81944, reply #13 of 34)

Besides the solder I read recently that many brass fittings contain lead. Like probably all those full-port ball valves I put in... blame my spelling errors on them.

(post #81944, reply #17 of 34)

Here is something I came across recently dealing with a specific company's brass fittings for PEX. The only date I noticed was 2003 so I don't know if it is resolved yet or not.

http://www.zurnclassaction.com/index.html