Thursday, March 10, 2016

PEX rules!

PEX rules!  What is PEX, you ask?  It's a (relatively) new technology for plumbing, one that's now nearly the universal way plumbers use when plumbing a house.  Wikipedia has a good article about it.  The photo at right (not mine) shows a typical PEX connector (the brass fitting), PEX tubing (the semi-transparent tubing), cinch clamp (the silver strap around the tubing near the brass fitting), and the crimp cinch tool (the big tool working on the clamp). 

I was at my brother's cabin yesterday, installing a new pressure tank for his water system.  The old water tank was a teensy 2 gallon job that was mounted right on the wall, directly threaded into some copper pipe.  The one I installed was a 20 gallon, floor-standing tank.  We had to run about 6 feet of pipe between the old tank's mount and the new tank.  If I had run copper pipe, I'd have had to cut four pieces of pipe to precisely the right length, plus three 90° elbows and two solder-to-threaded adapters for the ends.  I'd have needed a box full of tools, probably five or six hours, and an enlarged cussing vocabulary to cover all the mistakes I made.  Plus it would most likely have leaked the first three times I tried it.

What a difference with PEX!  Because it's quite flexible, I only needed two fittings: adapters to threaded pipe at each end.  I only needed one piece of pipe, and no elbows.  Cutting the pipe was as easy as using a pair of scissors – the cutting tool slices right though the pipe like scissors on paper.  I'd never used PEX before, so I wasn't sure how hard it would be to use the crimp cinch clamp tool.  Turns out it's about as challenging as a pair of pliers.  You just put the tool onto the clamp and squeeze – you're done!  Then when I turned everything back on, it didn't leak a drop.  Total time was about 30 minutes, and most of that was just me being careful with techniques that were new to me.

Count me as a new PEX advocate.  I'm actually thinking about re-plumbing the mechanical room of our house.  The current setup is an incrementally-installed copper pipe mess.  I sometimes have to study the pipes for fifteen minutes just to figure out which of the maze of valves I need to turn on or off.  With PEX I could easily make a manifold-based system with individual valves for every water destination...

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