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Jelly's Forum Posts: 55
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By Jelly in Baton Rouge, LA on 7/28/2009


I am about to pour the slab for my new house, and have some PEX questions.

I hired a good plumber for the drain rough-in, and he likes to use PEX for water supply. But he never uses manifolds or home-run systems, claiming it would effect the pressure. I tend to think he just has this opinion, but has never actually tried a home-run system. I may do the top-out on my own.

Anyway in my PEX research I keep finding essentially two methods: home-run (where each fixture has a hot and cold line run directly from a central manifold), or trunk-and-branch where the fixtures are hooked up in sequence and sized down at each fixture (the way that most copper systems are installed and how the plumber wants to do it).

But I was wondering if a hybrid of home-run and trunk-and-branch might not make sense. In other words, using a home-run system for all the hot water distribution, and trunk-and-branch for the cold water distribution. It would seem you would have the home-run benefit of energy efficiency and less wait time for the hot water, but also the trunk-and-branch benefit of less material costs for the cold water. Has anyone ever done this? Am I overlooking something obvious that would make it a bad idea?

Another question, how crucial is the placement of the incoming water supply from the meter? I had wanted to put it in the laundry room, which is close to the meter and below the water heater in the attic. My plumber wants to put it in the kitchen, which is also close to the meter but a little farther from the water heater. He put it there because he said we could put the main shut off valve under the kitchen sink cabinet, and not have to build a box for it like we would have to do in the laundry. I figure he's probably right, and another 15 feet won't really matter. The important thing is minimizing all the runs that are coming out from the manifold, right?

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By Kenneth in Lees Summit, MO on 7/29/2009


Actually I would go a different direction with your hybrid system. I would look at using a manifold for all cold water, and using a structured hot water including recirculation pump. I think there is a thread on such a system over in the Green Building Section of this board. This is really only applicable if your fixtures are widely spaced, and will minimize your wait for hot water in this situation.

There is also a fairly current PEX discussion (with much relevant information) over on the Construction Bargain Strategies Section. There are most certainly others, PEX is a widely discussed topic (including some lawsuits from specfic sources) here as people discuss the merits of PEX vs. other materials.


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By Tom in Stroudsburg, PA on 7/31/2009


Jelly, I agree with Ken to a certain extent. The system he describes is excellent. My only problem with it is the cost to run the circulator. Here in Pennsylvania, our utilities bills are going up 30 percent next year, Deregulation I guess translates to more utility profit. In any case, I have been working to reduce my utility load and the circulator is load.

Home runs do not lower your pressure under normal circumstances. Having good pressure from the street is the first consideration. The size of the feed from the street to the house is another. You can only get so much flow through a half-inch pipe. The larger the pipe to the manifolds the better. Pressure reduction only occurs with flow restrictions or overuse. In other words, turn on every faucet in the house and you may end up with low pressure but one guaranteed way to have low pressure is a one-line system. Again, you can only get so much flow through a half-inch pipe. As soon as you open a second valve on a one-line system, you begin to cut into available capacity. Water follows the path of least resistance, so if you have a two-story home the second story is where you will feel the pressure reduction first. Home runs and adequate supply-line size from the street will reduce this problem and may eliminate it entirely.

Contrary to Ken's system, I ran all home runs in my ranch over a basement. Any regrets - only one, and here's Kens point. You go into the bathroom, turn on the shower, get out and want to use the sink and you wait on the hot water again. I've since put the bath sink and shower on the same line since I have access from below. The benefit of the home runs is that if someone uses the kitchen sink, dishwasher or the laundry, I don't notice it in the shower. Other than that one change though, if you choose to forgo the circulator, everything should be home runned to the manifold.


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By Jelly in Baton Rouge, LA on 7/31/2009


The meter was already placed by the city, so I don't have any control over what size the line is from the mains to the meter.

From the meter to the house I guess I can put whatever is best. The connection out there I know is 3/4 because I hooked a hose bib up to it so we could have water during the slab forming. Does that mean I need to go with a 3/4 line from the meter to the house?

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By Tom in Stroudsburg, PA on 7/31/2009


3/4" from the meter should be minimum considered. Be sure to double check the meter you may find a reducing bushing reducing it from a larger size. A lot of the water company meters are 1" in and out.
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By Jelly in Baton Rouge, LA on 8/1/2009


Ok, so if there is no bushing, does that mean a 3/4 inch line is my only option, or can I run a larger line? Sorry to seem ignorant but I am very new to the world of plumbing  :)

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By Tom in Stroudsburg, PA on 8/4/2009


It is perfectly okay to oversize the line from the meter. My manifold accepts 1", which is what I used. You can use larger and then reduce it again at the header, but I doubt that it would be noticed unless you have 10 bathrooms and 30 kids.

Picture it this way: a small stream fills a big reservoir that feeds a town. The reservoir creates a buffer to ensure adequate water supply for everyone in the town. Now suppose everyone moved out of the town but one person. Well it's likely the steam alone would have been sufficient to supply one house. The same holds true with supply line size; a little reservoir is good but you can quickly reach a point of diminished returns and just waste your money. Also your feed through the hot water heater is likely only 3/4".


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By Mark in APO, AE on 1/25/2010


Years ago, when I lived in Plano, TX, I was putting in a lawn sprinkler system and was concerned about losing pressure in the house.  I think I paid the city about $115 to come out and replace my 3/4" meter with a 1" meter.  So, even though I didn't change out the 3/4" line to the house, I was T'ing off of the meter 1" output to two 3/4" lines - one to the house and one the the sprinklers.  I never had any noticeable pressure loss in the house. 
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By Mark in Seattle, WA on 2/16/2010


Instead of a circulator and its additional upfront and operating costs, you might consider using 3/8" PEX on some or all of your runs instead of the normal 1/2" PEX.  3/8" has half the volume of 1/2". If the run to a bathroom lav takes 22 seconds to get hot water with 1/2", it takes 11 seconds with 3/8" PEX. With a low-flow shower head and the heater set good and hot, you'll never notice it in the shower. For running straight hot water to fill the kitchen sink, I can tell the difference, but it's not a problem. With a dishwasher, you'd never notice. With a washing machine, it really doesn't matter. I can't think of any fixture where it is more important to get the maximum amount of hot water than it is to quickly get hot water.

Figure out the shortest path for your home runs. I snapped a line on the joists and drilled, even though the engineered joists have knockout holes.  You'll save a few bucks in PEX by reducing the footage and, more important, you'll shave off a few seconds in the time the water takes to get there and leave less hot in the pipes to cool off when you're done.

To me, hot water circulation is an odd concept, especially in any situation where you have a need to cool the home. Why have radiant hot water constantly heating the walls when AC is cooling the home? How can that be an energy savings? If hot water circulation is required, it probably means that the house is too big.

Mark


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