Plumber Finds a Faster Way to Serve Customers

PEX compression-sleeve fitting system helps contractor fulfill need for speed, quality on new plumbing installations.

Plumber Finds a Faster Way to Serve Customers

Northwest Plumbing Services plumber Ron Blankenship uses a PEXa/EVERLOC+ compression-sleeve fitting system while on a new home installation job in Bellingham, Washington. (Photos courtesy of Northwest Plumbing Services)

As a 20-year user of the REHAU, Building Solutions Division, PEXa plumbing system, it’s easy for plumber Kevin Thomas to cite the many advantages it provides, including one big intangible: a good night’s sleep.

That’s because the owner of Northwest Plumbing Services in Bellingham, Washington, never worries about the integrity of the PEX connections his technicians install every day while plumbing high-end residential homes, not to mention commercial buildings and remodeling projects. “You can’t help but be impressed with the completed finished product,” Thomas says. “It’s a no-brainer. It goes together and it’s ‘ever-locked’ forever. I sleep good at night.”

Moreover, Thomas — whose company employs 11 people and works throughout Bellingham, located in far northwestern Washington — estimates his crews can plumb a new home 10 times faster compared to soldering copper pipes. That’s because the PEXa system requires fewer connections than rigid pipe, such as copper or PVC.

FOUR PRIMARY COMPONENTS

The plumbing system features four primary PEXa components: RAUPEX UV shield cross-linked pipe, EVERLOC+ compression-sleeve polymer and lead-free brass fittings, connecting compression sleeves that fit over the pipe and fittings, and a battery-powered compression tool. The process is simple: After a technician inserts the tool into the end of a piece of pipe, the tool then expands it wide enough to accept a fitting. Then the same tool is used to firmly compress a sleeve (already placed on the pipe) onto the fitting and pipe for a secure connection.

“Then you’re done — forever,” Thomas says. “Once that completed fitting is on the pipe, you can’t get it off without cutting it out. The whole process takes maybe 10 or 15 seconds. It takes a little longer for 2-inch-diameter pipe because it takes a little longer to expand the pipe and the compression tool is heavier.”

Northwest Plumbing Services owns 15 compression tools, and Thomas says it takes all of five minutes to learn how to competently use one. One is a larger tool that expands pipes ranging from 1 1/4- to 2-inch-diameter pipes and is used primarily for commercial applications. The other tools are smaller and designed to accommodate pipes ranging from 3/8 to 1 inch in diameter. The larger tool weighs about 20 pounds and costs about $4,000, and the smaller tool weighs about 5 pounds and costs about $1,300.

If plumbers encounter copper lines on remodeling projects and need to extend those lines, Thomas uses EVERLOC+ transition fittings.

“The PEXa cross-linked pipe is darn near indestructible,” Thomas points out. To test its strength, he says he once plugged one end of a short section, filled it with water and then plugged the remaining open end. Then he put it in a freezer to see what would happen. “It froze and thawed without any damage,” he says. “If you did that with a copper pipe, it would’ve blown apart.”

INTEGRAL TOOL

When Thomas bought the company in 1997, he was used to soldering copper pipes. He doesn’t miss that one bit, though he notes the company still installs copper pipes, primarily on commercial construction jobs where PEX isn’t allowed. “You don’t get burned and there’s no solder dripping onto your hands or down your neck,” he explains. “We still use copper pipes for things like shower valves or for roughing in hot-water tanks, but then we transition to the PEXa.”

Another benefit: instant pressure testing — even in the middle of winter. As soon as the sleeve is compressed onto the fitting, it’s ready for testing; other cold-expansion compression fittings require a wait for the PEX to retract to its original size. “But if we’re repairing a broken line, for example, we can test it as soon as we’re done attaching the fitting,” he says.

The only downside to the system Thomas could cite was that the compression tool is difficult to use in tight areas, like when installing a tee fitting. “But if you think ahead, you can usually make it work,” he explains. “You have to pay attention or you can paint yourself into a tight corner.”

Overall, Thomas says the EVERLOC+ system has become integral to his company, which runs six service trucks, either Fords or Chevrolets outfitted with KUV box bodies made by The Knapheide Mfg Co and top-mounted pipe racks custom-made by FabTech. His crews often install plumbing in multimillion-dollar homes in the Bellingham metro area. “If a copper fitting ever blew off, the home would potentially suffer hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of damage,” he says. “But with this product, I don’t worry at all about that. Like I said, I sleep good at night.” 



Discussion

Comments on this site are submitted by users and are not endorsed by nor do they reflect the views or opinions of COLE Publishing, Inc. Comments are moderated before being posted.