PEX install on older home using too small diameter pipe?

Discussion in 'Plumbing Forum, Professional & DIY Advice' started by pexhouse, Feb 4, 2014.

  1. wjcandee

    wjcandee Wise One

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    Apr 27, 2012
    Location:
    New York, NY
    I would just quit talking to this guy and talk to (a) his boss, (b) your city councilman, (c) the mayor, or (d) the local newspaper. It can't hurt. I talk to the mayor (in our town in the country, not NYC) fairly often. It's amazing how nice they are at his office and how responsive he is. Elelcted officials get to be re-elected officials by satisfying constituants. The mayor oversees the building department. I would just call and say that you want to alert him that it doesn't seem that the plumbing codes are being enforced, because the guy in charge of plumbing inspections seems...well...not completely on top of the relevant code requirements.

    It's not for nothing that you have The Most Famous Plumber In America and a plumbing-afficianado NY lawyer looking at your diagram, looking at the codes (which Terry already knows), and scratching our heads as to how the person responsible for protecting you has either abdicated his responsibility or is incapable of carrying it out. Shoot the mayor a link to this thread. He wouldn't be embarassed because neither Terry nor I have any idea of even what state our forum member lives in -- you were smart not to publicize that. But, really, your municipality collects tax dollars from you for the purpose of serving you. And good local politicans want to make sure that their administration is running competently, or they will soon be former-local-politicians. Local elections get decided on a frighteningly-small number of votes such that anything that can motivate a few voters to turn out makes a big difference. It's why local civil leaders, church leaders and union leaders get listened-to by the council and the mayor. It's also why little guys who try to stand up for themselves can get a good audience; the mayor can choose to use you as an example of a concerned citizen that helped improve safety and consumer protection in his administration.

    Okay, rant off. But it doesn't hurt to at least give the elected folks of your choice a call, rather than the bureaucrats.
     
  2. craigpump

    craigpump In the Trades

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    Apr 12, 2012
    Occupation:
    Self employed water system tech
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    Connecticut
    You might want to consider contacting a local TV station as well, some of them have reporters with some balls who can draw attention to your situation.
     
  3. pexhouse

    pexhouse New Member

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    Feb 4, 2014
    Location:
    Oklahoma
    I happened to have today set as a repair appointment for he hot water heater. The thinking is the cold tube in it is broke so it's going to be replaced. We'll him and I get along really well. I even have his home number. His brother is a plumber and they recently redid his home in pex using a manifold with 3/4 going into the manifold. His brother isn't in this town but should be the same state so I was going to ask him and see what he says and maybe he could call his brother and pick his mind for some info. Meaning if he says something similar to what is happening on my end then I'll know that in my state it's all the same but if he says stuff that we are all saying then that will say a lot.
     
  4. Terry

    Terry Administrator Staff Member

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    Bothell, Washington
    If he is from the same state, and the inspectors in your state are having troubles understanding the code book, good luck on that.
    You already had the head inspector out there, and he didn't have a clue.


    How old is the water heater?
    The serial number gives you that information. Anything over ten years, it's very iffy spending much on it for repairs.
    Take the serial number, and using the manufacturers web site, you will know the age.
     
    Last edited: Feb 12, 2014
  5. pexhouse

    pexhouse New Member

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    Location:
    Oklahoma
    ok I talked to the guy and he said they just plumbed it with 3/4" from the meter to the water heater and I believe he said it was 3/4" into the meter so they just went with that and he hasn't had any complaints with the water or the pressure.

    I don't think I'm going to get any of them to budge so I'm just going to leave it where it's at. I think I could put a lot of pressure on it all and it won't change in the end.


    As to the water heater, it's under a maintenance agreement and 8 years old (part of a whole-house maintenance agreement that we have....we're already way ahead on what we paid) so it doesn't cost us anything. He replaced that long tube that's in it (turned out it was fine and not broke) went ahead and replaced the whole control unit (with the temperature dial on it) and all the flame internals. Tried it lastnight and still ran out of hot water after about 1/2 an hour. Does that sounds right for a gas HWH? It's a Kenmore 40-gallon unit that has the swirl tube at the bottom. He replaced pretty much everything without replacing the entire unit so not sure what else it could be.

    When he did the test it started out at the faucet at 120F or so and after about 20 minutes it was down to 72F. Same at any tap. No leaks anywhere. Never seemed to have this problem before. The hot water is fine for awhile and then i keep having to turn the faucet to hotter and hotter to keep it hot and then it'll be cool and then it will be cold water by half an hour into it. This is just from me shaving and then taking a shower! I'd imagine having the wash machine and it going at the same time might not work too well.
     
  6. wjcandee

    wjcandee Wise One

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    New York, NY
    Well...we have a 30-gallon electric hwh in the garage apartment, and it's good for about 20 minutes for a nice hot shower with both hot and cold faucets open, using my non-water-saving spray head, then you need to goose the hot a bit and progressively lower the cold to zero until what's coming out the showerhead is merely warm. That's consistent with the performance of my 30-gal electric HWH in an apartment I had in Texas when I was younger. Both are "short" versions, so I assume there's a little more mixing than in the "tall" versions. So what you're talking about isn't completely inconsistent with my experience. Of course, I'm talking about electrics

    Now in the house, we made a conscious decision to pay extra for a high-BTU 50-gallon oil-fired HWH that is separate from the furnace. Even on cleaning day, with the washing machine and dishwasher going, you can happily take a shower for any reasonable length of time. But we definitely had to specify something with higher BTUs to accomplish that.

    One note on the electrics (I don't know about the gas). Most have a wattage that they are set at, and an option to goose the wattage on one of the burners if your electical infrastructure can handle it. Interestingly, the 30 gal imparts the same number of BTUs as the 38 as the 50. The bigger tank just means that your first-hour gallonage of hot will be higher, but all are subsequently good for 17 or 25 gph recovery (depending on wattage), and no more. There may be more flexibility with gas in terms of burner size. (Well, I know there is because in the restaurants we owned we installed 100-gallon units with 199,000 BTU gas burners which could produce over 200 gallons per hour at a 100-degree rise.) So maybe the burner size is something you want to look at on your next one...

    Having said all this I just looked at the specs on a typical Kenmore 40-gal HWH, and it indicates 67 gallons of hot in the first hour and 40 gph at a 90-degree rise, and a 40,000 BTU input, so that's a heck of a lot better than the electrics (25 gph with the extra heating) and suggests that you should be getting better performance than you are from your HWH.
     
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2014
  7. pexhouse

    pexhouse New Member

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    Oklahoma
    hmm I looked at it and it's a Power Miser 12 and says 40,000BTU/hr and says 40.94 recovery gallons/hr

    Do those specs seem to fit what I'm describing? or does it still sound like something's wrong? The guy here seemed to agree with me that it seemed to get too cold too quick but maybe we're both smoking something.
     
  8. wjcandee

    wjcandee Wise One

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    New York, NY
    Well, I will be interested to see what one of the pros thinks, because they install these things all the time, but if my experience and yours are similar and I have a 30-first-hour-gallon unit with 17gph recovery and you have a 40-first-hour-gallon unit with a 40 gph recovery, I'm thinking that doesn't sound right. Of course, mine starts at 130 (and our plumber set our oil-fired unit at 140), so that may have some effect, but still...
     
  9. pexhouse

    pexhouse New Member

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    Oklahoma
    hmmm...I was almost hoping you said that sounded right. lol Most stuff was replaced in the HWH, all the water lines have been replaced in the house. I checked and when hot water is called for the burner turns on nearly right away so it's on the ball. One thing I am thinking about is I wonder the effect of the COLD water now, being winter and all. It's been really, really cold here and the cold water is so cold I can barely wash my hands as quick as I can without them HURTING from the ice cold water. That has to influence the heating efficiency of a HWH I'd imagine since it will take longer to heat the water to the correct temperature, as well as harder to keep it hot as the cold water dilutes in the tank when the hot water is in use.
     
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2014
  10. wjcandee

    wjcandee Wise One

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    Apr 27, 2012
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    New York, NY
    And as a practical matter, provided you don't have a concern about accidental scalding (which can be alleviated with a mixing valve), you can nudge that thermostat to 130 or 140, then you use less hot water and more cold water when you do something like take a shower. You can even got to 145 or 150 if you have a mixing valve (tempering valve) which instantly mixes the hot with some cold when it comes out of the water heater, thus extending the amount of useable hot water in the heater. Jim on here knows more about that. But those might be some ideas short of replacing the thing. And you're right that if the water is exceptionally-cold (the lowest it could be is in the 30s), adding a 90-degree rise only gets you to the 120s. Start with warmer "cold" water, that 40K BTU/hr you are putting into it will be producing hotter water (or producing 120 degree water sooner or more of it).

    There is a campaign by child safety advocates to keep the hot water heater output around 120 to prevent scalding injuries (although a tempering valve would do the same). Our own plumber, as I mentioned, wants ours set at 145 or 150. This might be because he is also our oil dealer (rolleyes), but there is also a school that says you keep it at at least 140 to prevent the growth of bacteria, including legionella. At 155, the water will cause a 3rd degree burn instantly, so you really don't want that coming out of a fixture. Also, water heaters don't hold water at a precise temp; they really only keep it within a range of temps that can swing by ten degrees or more. (In the restaurants, we kept the water hot -- north of 140 degrees. Our warewashing equipment and service sinks got that hot water directly. The public restrooms, on the other hand, were plumbed to a tempering valve so that the hot tap was around 120 degrees.) Tempering valves aren't a perfect solution, but it may be a way for you to get what you want out of your existing heater.

    Still wondering what the pros think...
     
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2014
  11. Terry

    Terry Administrator Staff Member

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    Plumber
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    Bothell, Washington
    In some parts of the country, a water heater will fill with lime. When that happens, it's very hard to transfer the heat through that material in the tank, and it also reduces volumne.
    Master Plumber Mark has some pictures from Indiana that how a tank nealy 1/3 filled with gunk in less than 10 years. Just one more reason not to spend too much on an old water heater.
     
  12. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

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    Retired Systems engineer for defense industry.
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    A nominal shower head can discharge NGT 2.5G/min and still meet code (and older one, could be a lot more) depending on the pressure and the valve feeding it. Let's say you have 40-degree in coming cold water (could be colder, could be warmer - mine, this time of year is more like 35-degrees), so you're using maybe around 2gpm of hot. You cannot use the entire amount of the hot water stored in the tank, but it does start try to heat once you draw some down, but 20-minutes at 2gpm, is probably pushing it.

    I don't shave much anymore, but when it did it daily, I shaved in the shower...got a better shave, and used less hot water, too.
     
  13. pexhouse

    pexhouse New Member

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    Feb 4, 2014
    Location:
    Oklahoma
    house plumbing2.jpg

    ok here is the final how it stands. The 3/4" (squiggly line in drawing) goes all the way to the wall separating the garage from the crawlspace. What that means is that the 3/4" transitions to 1/2" which then goes to the washing machine and then to the hot water heater and then all of the hots. When I turn on the shower and then turn on the washing machine I'd say it drops down by more than a third. The neighbor across the street I tried his and it doesn't drop at all. Mine drops because both hots as well as the cold are fighting to get what they need through the little .475" hole. lol The things that are individually tied on to the full 3/4" I notice a lot more flow and can have several things going at the same time with no impact.

    I've thought about it and here's what I've decided to do. I'm going to buy the Milwaukee M12 and I can get the supplies I need here (including all the AquaPEX sizes cut to 20' lengths) and I'm going to bring the 3/4" to the water heater as well as turn the hot into a 3/4" trunk all the way to the bathroom and get a 3-port manifold, which would cover the 2 sinks and 1 shower. I think after that I'll be happy.
     
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