Advice for new plumbing installation

Discussion in 'Plumbing Forum, Professional & DIY Advice, Tips & ' started by Brian.Hoard, Nov 16, 2012.

  1. Brian.Hoard

    Brian.Hoard New Member

    Messages:
    29
    Location:
    Haymarket, VA
    Hello, I am going to hire a plumber to update my house's plumbing and would like your advice on what would be the best materials and type of equipment as I am ready to update the entire house's plumbing.

    Here's what I have now...
    - The house was built in 1973 and plumbed with 3/4 and 1/2 copper.
    - I'm in Northern Virginia
    - I have a well and septic with high iron in our water.
    - The water softener was installed when I bought the house in 1999.
    It's got mechanical heads on these, and they don't have any iron removing filters, I just use the salt that is made for high iron.
    - I have a very large pressure tank.
    - The well pump was replaced a couple of years ago with a constant pressure pump.
    But it never got the computer controls or anything installed for it. So not sure if I should install those things now to allow a smaller pressure tank. The P-tank I have now is twice the diameter of my water heater. It's huge.
    - My water heater is electric, and made in 2005. It is a cheap one, nothing special about it.
    I would love to do the water heater where it can take advantage of the sun's energy by heating water on the roof. But not sure if those systems are worth the price.

    I also read a lot of good things about PEX, but the plumbers I've spoken to don't touch the stuff.
    The plumber who has done other work in my home and done a good job recommends CPVC for the pipes.

    Any advice you have, or do's and dont's, things to look for in water heaters, piping, softners, etc would be much appreciated.

    - Brian
  2. cacher_chick

    cacher_chick Test, Don't Guess!

    Messages:
    3,239
    Location:
    Land of Cheese
    You have asked a loaded question, because everyone has their own opinion about what is best, and why.

    You have copper piping, which pretty much lasts forever in most homes, unless you have acidic water. PEX is becoming more common primarily because it is faster (cheaper) to install, and raw copper prices are through the roof. CPVC is not widely used for new construction or re-piping here in the Midwest, but I have used it for smaller jobs with no issues. It is also inexpensive and easier to install than copper. One thing to remember when installing PEX or CPVC is that the I.D. is smaller than the equivalent copper pipe, so it is often suggested to install one pipe size larger than what is commonly recommended with copper.

    The pressure tank you have now is fine as long as the bladder is good and you maintain the air charge. Do you need the room you will save by replacing it with a smaller tank? If so you might consider a CSV instead of the controller for the variable speed pump. The electronic well pump controllers have a pretty high failure rate, so I wouldn't suggest switching over.

    If you have natural gas available, you should research the cost difference in heating water with gas vs. electric. In most (but not all) of the U.S., gas is less expensive. Depending on your water, an electric tank might last over 20 years. There is no guarantee that a new tank will last any longer than the one you have. The main thing to consider is what might be damaged in your home if your current tank starts to leak? A pan with a drain line can be cost effective if the tank is in or above a living space.

    If the iron content of your water is relatively little, a softener alone will take care of it. What is more adequate for treatment would depend on the results of a complete water chemistry analysis.

    If I were you, I might look at what will minimize the chances of an expensive plumbing failure, like heavily corroded piping or old washing machine hoses (likely to burst). If your existing plumbing is in decent condition, you might be better served by putting in some updated fixtures like shower valves with anti-scald technology or looking harder at your heat/cooling losses and weatherization.
  3. Gary Swart

    Gary Swart In the Trades

    Messages:
    7,308
    Location:
    Yakima WA
    My question to you is why do you feel it necessary to replace 40 year old copper? In most places, copper will last longer than the house.
  4. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    26,293
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    Why do you think you have to "update" the plumbing? In most cases people only update it when they want to make changes, otherwise the only update is to change to better looking faucets or fixtures. I do not know what "salt for iron" is, because the salt only regenerates the resin.The iron content is filtered by the resiin and is "removed" when the backwash water flushes it out.
    Last edited: Nov 17, 2012
  5. Hammerlane

    Hammerlane New Member

    Messages:
    252
    Location:
    Ohio
    If you want PEX and the plumber you have used in the past does not install PEX, find a plumber that does. But as mentioned before, why do you find it necessary to replace 40 year old copper??
  6. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    26,293
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    [QUOTE=If you want PEX and the plumber you have used in the past does not install PEX, find a plumber that does. But as mentioned before, why do you find it necessary to replace 40 year old copper??

    My preference would be to NOT use PEX, but if the customer insisted, I would have to evaluate the job to see if I wanted to do it with PEX, or let the customer go elsewhere.
  7. Brian.Hoard

    Brian.Hoard New Member

    Messages:
    29
    Location:
    Haymarket, VA
    Thanks everyone for your help and advice. As for why I want to update the plumbing, it's because the copper plumbing running through this 2nd floor bathroom is now exposed. I removed the floor since this bathroom shower was leaking and damaged the floor. So now that I have all of this plumbing exposed, I figured if there are any improvements to be made, now would be the time.
    I'm not sure if this picture I'm uploading will work, but if you can see it, you can see the existing copper has multiple joints as they made their way around the floor HVAC duct. All of these joints are green, so I'm thinking that's of years of corrosion happening on uncleaned joints. Not sure.
    Also, if you can see the pipes that T off and go down the wall from the sink supply in the photo. That is how my kitchen gets it's water. And it takes 1 minute 45 seconds to get hot water to the kitchen now. So not having that pipe go all the way upstairs, then back down the wall into the crawl space, I think I can greatly reduce the length of the hot water pipe going to the kitchen.

    I'm not trying to do PEX, or any particular solution. It seems the more the read on these choices, the more confusing it is.
    I'm only trying to find out what is the "best" solution. I'm not so concerned about price. Although I'm not wanting to waste money, I think paying more for the best is worth it with jobs like this. I don't want to find out in 5 years that I have to tear out that bathroom floor again because something I installed is now toxic, or leaking, or otherwise causing problems. IMAG0554.jpg
  8. Brian.Hoard

    Brian.Hoard New Member

    Messages:
    29
    Location:
    Haymarket, VA
    Thanks. I can see how everyone would have their opinion on these things. For each one, they all seem to have pros and cons.

    As for the pressure tank, yes I'm trying to use the room that it is in. It currently sits in the middle of the room with all of the water equipment, and this room is large enough to be a nice laundry room, or even a small office. But I need to get this water equipment tidied up against the wall.
    I'll have to look into a CSV.
    Thanks for your recommendation on not using an electronic pump controller. That was my concern, if it would introduce more problems that it's worth.

    I do not have natural gas. Only electric and my furnace use #2 heating oil. I did the math a while ago on the cost of installing a propane tankless water heater, and we found that it would take over 300 years to pay for the installation. So that was an eye opener on that.

    The plumber who is working on getting me quote also mentioned that I need to get the water heater where it has a drain. It's currently on a concrete slab on the 1st floor. So he is recommending putting the new one (a squat-50 gallon I believe he called it) on a stand and connecting that into the main drain. There is no drain in the floor now, just the ABS plumbing drains.
  9. Brian.Hoard

    Brian.Hoard New Member

    Messages:
    29
    Location:
    Haymarket, VA
    Thanks hj. When the softener was installed, the water company that did it gave me instructions to add a certain amount of Iron Out to the salt. I used to do that, but then I saw salt sold where it said on the bag it was for high iron water. So I'm guessing they pre-mix the Iron Out chemical in the salt tablets.
    I know from our water test that the water is highly acidic and has high iron content directly from the well.
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