June 20, 2018
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Plumbing like a crazy person

By Tom Gocze, BDN Staff

Plumbing is a fun job. There is nothing more exciting than installing plumbing and have it not leak. Well, almost nothing.

Whenever I get involved in a building project, if I have to install some water lines, I always wind up installing a manifold plumbing system. A manifold plumbing system works a lot like an electrical wiring system. The one we used was Manabloc by Viega. Google “manabloc” to see it.

The Manabloc has two sides. On one side there are hot water taps and on the other side are all cold water taps. These taps are fed either from the cold water main that comes into the house or hot water from the water heater.

The taps, or branches, all have individual shutoffs for each plumbing run.

The plumbing runs are what are referred to as “home runs.” There are no fittings in between the manifold and a plumbing fixture. As an example, the bathroom would have a cold water line to the toilet, a hot line and cold line to the bathtub and a hot and cold line to the lavatory sink. This system uses more tubing, but most manifold plumbing systems use PEX (cross-linked polyethylene tubing). And PEX tubing is inexpensive, easy to install and relatively freeze tolerant.

There are a number of manifold plumbing systems available to the homeowner and professional plumber. The simplicity of installation makes it a great do-it-yourself project, as well as an inexpensive professional instal-lation.

I like the fact that the tubing can be color-coded: red for hot water and blue for cold water. (Or you can do it backward, just for fun.)

The system is simple enough that I think it can be left exposed, instead of hidden in walls. I think it is rather attractive, and the fact that the tubing can be bent in simple curves eliminates all those fittings that copper requires.

I have been using half-inch nominal diameter tubing lately. A couple of years ago I used three-eighth-inch tubing and the local plumbing house I deal with was having a conniption since all they stocked was half-inch. Smaller diameter tubing wastes less water when you are needing to flush the lines to get hot or cold water.

After having issues getting three-eighth-inch, I went to half-inch, and, of course, now the plumbing houses all carry three-eighth-inch tubing and tons of three-eighth-inch fittings. I then get questioned as to why I am using half-inch. Sometimes it’s not easy out there on the edge of technology.

The smaller tubing is nominally less expensive, but the fittings all cost about the same. Use the smaller tubing if it is available.

Now, the people who manufacture copper consider the use of PEX to be something akin to Satan worship. They claim that PEX puts chemicals into our drinking water and will do bad things to us.

And the PEX people counter that copper tubing puts large amounts of copper into our drinking water.

So who’s right? Probably both have some germ of truth. I think that in either case, if you run the water for a bit to flush the water line (for drinking and cooking), there is nothing to be concerned about.

That flushing of water lines makes the case for the three-eighth-inch PEX tubing and the home run system. This will allow adequate flow in most homes and still save you water.

And it comes in pretty colors. Did I tell you about that?

Questions for Tom Gocze should be mailed to The Home Page, Bangor Daily News, P.O. Box 1329, Bangor 04402-1329. A library of reference material and a home-project blog are at www.bangordailynews.com/thehomepage.html.

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