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PEX Tubing Size


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By Dan in Joliet, IL on 4/14/2007


I am planning on using PEX plumbing in the house I will be building this summer. I just talked with the local plumbing inspector and he said I can use PEX but I must run oversized lines. i.e. If the fixture calls for a 1/2" supply, I must run 3/4". I was wondering what the consequences of the larger lines would be? Would I lose water pressure? Would it be low flow? Any suggestions would be helpful.

Thanks,

Dan


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By Jerry in Lee's Summit, MO on 4/14/2007


Are you planning a home-run-type system? The inspector is probably referring to the fact that 1/2" PEX is a slightly smaller ID than 1/2" copper. However, the pressure drop is easily made up with the fewer fittings required with PEX. In fact, a 3/8" PEX line can easily support the flow of a fixture at 2.5 GPM. It sounds like this is a suggestion rather than a code requirement, but I am not familiar with your local codes. The manufacturers and local plumbers with experience with PEX will know better.
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By Kenneth in Lees Summit, MO on 4/15/2007


Jerry brings up a good point on the question about home-run style vs. traditional style, and what your intentions are. The home run manifold I used was made by Vanguard (Manabloc) and these come in basically three types; all 1/2" ports, all 3/8" ports, or some combination of the two. The ones available locally were all 1/2" ports, so that is what I used.

I also used all 1/2" PEX for every fixture, which was oversized for most of them (ice maker, toilet, most faucets, dishwasher, etc.). However I used all 1/2" for a couple of reasons:

1) If I buy all 1/2", I get a bigger discount because now I get 1,000 linear foot pricing instead of 100 linear foot pricing. Using a home run system will use a lot of PEX quickly, you may think 1,000 linear feet sounds like a lot, but I didn't have much left over. For reference, I used 36 ports of PEX manifold to give you an idea of how much plumbing I ran and how it might compare to your house.

2) I use less fittings. To use 3/8", I would have to have reducer fittings at the manifold. Less parts is always good.

3) I use less tools. 3/8" PEX crimps are different size than 1/2" PEX (and again different size crimps than 3/4" PEX too).  Each size PEX takes a different crimp tool as the ones I saw did not have interchangeable jaws. Probably not a big deal if you are a plumber, but for a DIY less tools again equates to less complexity. My supply lines are 3/4" PEX, but due to the limited number of these I used compression connectors to save buying a 3/4" PEX crimper.

So what difference does it make? Probably not much on your cold water side. On your hot water side, it makes a difference of how long you are willing to wait for hot water at the fixture. Turn the hot water on, and it takes time to flush your system from your hot water heater to the fixture. 1/2" takes more volume, and therefore more time. Keep your runs nice and short and you minimize this, but without seeing the layout of your house or a floorplan it is difficult to determine exactly how much impact this will be. Only you can decide if it is acceptable. There are other solutions if it is not acceptable (e.g. recirculating pump), but solutions always cost more money.


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By Dan in Joliet, IL on 4/16/2007


Thanks, Jerry and Kenneth.

I will be running a home-run system. I will be placing the manifold on the far left side of the house as this is where the kitchen, master bath, and utility room are located. My longest run will be no longer than 60 feet to a second bath at the other end of the house. I am thinking I will be able to run mostly 1/2" but the bathtubs and kitchen sink will require 3/4" if the code actually requires the up sized tubing. I know there are adapters for the manifold outs to go from 1/2" to 3/4" but that is not ideal. I will verify that the code actually states upsized must be run.

Thanks,

Dan


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By Chad in Oak Creek, WI on 5/20/2007


Dan,

I hoping to start building late this summer as well and am planing on using a PEX system as well. Any feedback you can pass on about what you experience both in buying the components and using them would be appreciated. By the way, I am building up in the Milwaukee area.

Chad


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By Joe in Ruskin, FL on 6/9/2007


Kenneth,

I am planning a PEX home-run system right now and just noticed a site that carries manifold branches. I know the idea of home run is to limit connections, but say the system becomes a modified home run and I were to run one cold line and one hot line to each bathroom and kitchen. Then set an access panel at a discrete location in each area where I used a branch manifold to split the cold water and hot water servicing the fixtures for each particular bathroom, kitchen, etc.

I recognize that it somewhat defeats the true home-run system; but generally, after taking a shower I use hot water in the sink to shave, thus saving on a fresh hot water run. Also, it would greatly reduce the tubing use yet still somewhat limit connections and maintain the water pressure since generally only one individual is using a bathroom at a time.

With the access panel, the connections would still be readily accessible as well.

Does this make sense or is there someone that can provide some cons to my idea?  I always like to hear negatives to ideas I have.

Joe H.


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By Kenneth in Lees Summit, MO on 6/9/2007


Actually Joe this isn't a bad idea, especially for the hot water system. If I were to consider this, I would keep some fixtures on their own simply based on a large draw. For example, I have a laundry sink next to my washer - I think rather than run one set of lines to the laundry room I would stick with two because the washer is such a large draw. However in my kitchen my dishwasher is also next to my sink, and I do run only one set of lines because the dishwasher draws so little and so slowly that it doesn't even trip my fire-on-demand hot water heater and wouldn't get hot water unless it was connected this way.

I would think in most bathrooms, 1/2 baths, kitchen, this would work fine. I would keep large draws (laundry, whirlpool tub faucets), on their own. I would also keep isolated units (hose bibs) on their own as well.

Now a downside might be if you plan to DIY and have to upsize your line for these single runs to the bathroom. A plumber already has the tools, and probably already has the spools of PEX on their truck. For you, this means buying smaller quantities and buying more tools that you will probably never use again. However you also get to buy a smaller manifold, but then the auxiliary manifolds have a cost as well too. Each project has a different answer as to optimization, don't limit yourself to either/or.


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