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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

3 tips to find and eliminate plumbing leaks

You may not realize that you have a plumbing leak until you receive an unusually high water bill. When you think of plumbing leaks, you think of the unexpected flood that deposits a lot of water on your floor or damages your walls. In reality, a lot of plumbing leaks aren’t actually detected by the homeowner. Sometimes, you can determine whether a leak is present, but finding the damage might require more detective work!

Finding a plumbing leak. Plumbing leaks can be stealthy. One good way to determine whether you have a leak is to turn off all of the supply-side water valves in your home. You should have a supply-side shutoff valve at each water-using fixture. It’s good to test these valves once in awhile anyway, so this exercise may help you kill two birds with one stone. Once all of the fixture valves have been closed, check the water meter. If the meter is still running, you may have a leak. During this test, if you find a shut-off valve that is stuck or broken, replace it.

If you do find that your system is still drawing water, you’ll need test each segment of the system to find out which one is affected. This can be time-consuming, but it’s the best way to locate the source of a leak.

Testing your water pressure. Don’t skip this step in the hunt for leaks! You need to know what the water pressure is in your system. Here’s why:

The municipality needs to pump water at a high pressure to ensure that water is delivered correctly and safely to homes and businesses. Often, however, the pressure in the municipal supply is about three to four times higher than what residential systems are designed to operate at! Residential plumbing components aren’t designed to take high pressure for long periods of time, and will wear out early and often! Once a component begins to fail, a leak is the natural result.

You can buy an inexpensive in-line water pressure gauge at your local hardware store that can measure the water pressure at a faucet. If your water pressure is significantly higher than 55 PSI, a regulating valve located near the meter will help ensure that your system maintains a correct and safe water pressure. These regulating valves are adjustable, so if you find that 55 PSI doesn’t meet your needs, you can turn the pressure up.

Check your appliances. Don’t automatically assume that the valves in your water-using appliances are in good working order. They’re under the same pressure that the rest of your system is. Check the valves of your laundry, refrigeration and dishwashing equipment regularly for leaks and deterioration around the seals. Inspect the hoses and replace them every five years. These valves and hoses are inexpensive and are readily available from appliance repair stores.

If you need help with locating a leak in your plumbing, testing your water pressure or installing a regulating valve on your plumbing system, please contact us at Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating at (617) 288-2911. We’ll be happy to test your system, locate hidden leaks and help you protect your water-using appliances.

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