Choosing a Plumbing System

Itís ironic that most homeowners today spend more time picking out the blinds for their foyer than choosing a plumbing system. Ironic because of the ease and frequency with which blinds can be changed compared to a plumbing system.

When it comes to the variety of furnishings and fixtures in the home, homeowners are often consumed with questions regarding the productís expected service life, the ease of installation, how easy it is to maintain, and what it will look like after years of use. Plumbing, on the other hand (probably because it is largely hidden behind walls and below floorboards), tends to be quickly forgotten and even overlooked during the evaluation process -- whether itís part of new construction, the addition of a bathroom or a remodeling project. Homeowners could avoid a number of problems down the road if they take a few moments to evaluate their plumbing options before making a decision.

Although the plumbing industry was once characterized by limited choices -- galvanized or copper -- today there are many viable alternatives that have proved to perform more reliably than their predecessors. To ensure you select the system thatís right for you, start by asking a few basic questions:

How will the system be installed? Even if you donít plan on tackling the project yourself, itís valuable to understand how the pipe will be installed. Copper requires a torch to solder the pipe and fittings together. In recent years, solder torches have been linked to numerous costly house fires. In fact, according to the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA), the torches required to solder metallic plumbing systems rank among the top-ten leading causes of house fires each year. The risk of damage is even greater during remodeling projects because a completed home is likely to have more highly flammable materials near the work site than in new construction.

Todayís more modern plumbing materials donít require the use of torches. Rather, systems like those made of specialty chemicals such as chlorinated polyvinyl chloride (CPVC) employ a solvent cement joining system. The FlowGuard Gold CPVC plumbing system, for instance, installs quickly and easily via a one-step joining system that eliminates the risk of fire damage.

How long will the system last? Itís reasonable to expect your plumbing system to last a long time. However, in recent years, there have been a growing number of reports and newspaper articles documenting instances where highly corrosive water and/or soil have caused metallic plumbing systems to fail repeatedly only a few years after installation. In some parts of the country, such as Florida, the failures occurred so frequently that the use of copper for plumbing has been completely banned in some areas. In other regions, including Washington, D.C. and Baltimore, task forces have been formed to determine the exact causes of the growing number of metallic plumbing failures.

While copper pipe is experiencing increased scrutiny, CPVC plumbing systems have more than 40 years of proven, reliable performance in the field and are uncompromised by aggressive water or soil conditions. The pipe and fittings, in fact, will never pit or corrode, regardless of water quality. In addition, since a CPVC system will never scale, the system maintains full water-carrying capacity throughout its entire service life (unlike copper). This further reduces the need for a costly repipe, which is estimated to be as high as $6,000 for the average home.

What is the systemís effect on drinking water quality? Third-party testing and certification labs, like NSF International, document that aggressive water may corrode copper at a rate sufficient to contaminate water beyond state and federal drinking water standards for copper exposure. Because CPVC systems will never pit or corrode, water quality coming into your house will not be compromised.

Are some systems more energy efficient? Yes. Although difficult to quantify the exact savings, CPVC has been proved to keep hot water hotter by naturally reducing heat loss. Just grab hold of any installed hot water copper pipe and youíll feel how much of the heat escapes from copper plumbing.

CPVC pipe, on the other hand, is cool to the touch, because it holds heat in. This special ability helps reduce the incidence of condensation which is common on copper pipes. Excessive condensation has been shown to cause drip damage to walls and furnishings.

What about noise? Unlike copper plumbing, FlowGuard Gold plumbing systems are quieter. There are two different types of noise that can affect a plumbing system. First, there is the banging noise associated with water hammer. This is the noise you hear when your washing machine, dish washer or ice maker shuts the water off quickly. The other type of noise affecting plumbing pipe is the sound of the water moving through the pipe. FlowGuard Gold plumbing systems virtually eliminate both types of noise. In fact, laboratory tests confirm that FlowGuard Gold systems are actually four times quieter than copper.

Whatís the bottom line on costs? Surprisingly, despite all of its advantages, FlowGuard Gold pipe and fittings are usually less expensive than copper -- primarily because they are faster and easier to install, which reduces overall labor costs.

What if there is already copper plumbing in the home? Since most older homes on the market still have copper plumbing, it is not always economically feasible to replumb the entire home, unless ongoing pinhole leaks or scale buildup mandate all new plumbing. But if you already have copper and are either hoping to add a bathroom or laundry room, or you need to replace a section of corroded copper pipe, keep in mind that CPVC transition fittings are available to allow a fast, inexpensive transition from existing copper pipe to CPVC pipe.

For more information about todayís plumbing options, call (888) 234-2436, Ext. 7393, or visit