PEX plumbing – love it or leave it?

DIY plumbing tasks often call for the use of crosslinked polyethylene, also known as PEX or XLPE. You’ve seen PEX plumbing in hardware and home improvement stores. It’s a flexible supply-line hose that comes in various lengths and diameters. For residential applications, it is often packaged in ready-to-use lengths that have fittings already attached. It also comes in longer lengths and can be used behind walls. In commercial applications, it’s frequently used for “domestic” water services, hydronic heating and cooling, and natural gas transport.

PEX fittings could be defective

PEX is not without controversy. Some swear by it; others swear at it. And a major manufacturer has been the subject of a long-running class action lawsuit that’s accepting claims until 2020. According to the settlement, which covers Zurn’s “F1807” yellow brass fittings manufactured and/or sold between 1996 and 2010, damages caused by the failure, leaking or occlusion of the F1807 fitting are covered. No other Zurn product is included in the suit.

Consumers reported damage from leaks and reduced water flow stemming from the use of defective brass fittings. According to the suit, which was settled by Zurn and the members of the class, compensation is available for persons who “own or have owned real property containing plumbing systems that contain F1807 Fittings… and who have experienced at least one leak in a Zurn F1807 fitting due to corrosion.”

Additionally, the suit offers relief for claimants who can demonstrate a significant decrease in flow (more than 50%) between the hot and cold lines of the system. For its part, Zurn denies that the product is defective, but has set aside funds to pay claims on the product through 2020.

In many cases, the product is installed behind a wall, where it may be difficult to detect a leak until major damage has already been done. Some claimants have reported that they have experienced multiple leaks as a result of the use of PEX in their properties. More troubling to some is the knowledge that a potentially defective product is in use in a property, but has not yet failed.

It’s impossible to know how many claimants could be involved because the F1807 fitting at the center of the suit was used for 14 years. It’s also important to note that Zurn is not the only manufacturer of PEX, and that while Zurn PEX is the subject of the suit, millions of Zurn installations have been trouble-free.

The lawsuit does not cover the cost of replacing affected PEX products that have not yet failed. If you have Zurn PEX in your home (or PEX of any kind) and want it replaced, you’ll have to do so at your own expense. Many claimants have reported spontaneous catastrophic failures, but others have reported flow rate issues in affected lines prior to the development of leaks.

In any case, if you notice a substantial decrease in water flow or a major difference in the flow rate between the hot and cold water lines of a fixture, you may have a PEX line in the early stages of failure. Stop using the affected fixture immediately and inspect the line for leaks or other signs of damage. If you can’t see the line or would prefer to have a plumber evaluate your situation, please give us a call at Boston Standard Plumbing at (617) 288-2911 anytime. If you would like more information about the Zurn PEX settlement, please visit www.plumbingfittingsettlement.com.

Photo Credit: Krzysztof Szkurlatowski, via FreeImages.com