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If you’re a seasoned pro or just beginning in this industry, it’s important to know there are important differences in valves when it comes to PEX plumbing and mechanical piping systems. While some may view valves as a commodity with no differentiation, valves in PEX piping projects have some variances that can impact the quality of the install and the system's performance.
So, before you run over to your local distributor and grab any old (or new) valve on the shelf, stop and read this first. These essential tips will give you the insight you need to know before choosing a valve for a PEX piping system.
This is the most important point to know when choosing a valve for a PEX piping system. Building codes, manufacturing standards and listings set regulations for piping systems and components to govern the manufacturing, installation and inspection of products to protect human life, occupant health and building safety.
They also are important to your bottom line. If valves are installed that don’t meet a certain code, standard or listing required for the jurisdiction, the installer will be required to remove and replace them with the correct valves — at the installing contractor’s cost.
So, think about it: Any money saved on cheaper products just went down the drain with replacement costs (as well as valuable time doing rework). Do your research on the valves you choose, and make sure they comply with all necessary local, state and national building regulations.
Don’t know where to start? Here’s a rundown of the codes, standards and listings you should know to protect yourself, your reputation and your bottom line.
For residential potable plumbing applications, the valves may need to meet some or potentially all of the following building codes: International Residential Code (IRC), International Plumbing Code (IPC), Uniform Plumbing Code (UPC) and National Standard Plumbing Code (NSPC).
For commercial potable plumbing applications, the valves may need to meet some or potentially all of the following building codes: International Building Code (IBC), IPC, UPC and NSPC.
For residential hydronic heating and cooling applications, the valves may need to meet the International Mechanical Code (IMC) and Uniform Mechanical Code (UMC).
For commercial hydronic heating and cooling applications, the valves may need to meet the IBC, IMC and UMC.
Standards and Listings
For residential and commercial potable plumbing applications, the valves may need to meet some or potentially all of the following standards and listings: ASTM F877, ASTM F1960 (exclusively for cold-expansion fittings), NSF/ANSI 14, NSF/ANSI 61, NSF/ANSI 359, NSF/ANSI 372 and ASME A112.18.1.
For residential and commercial hydronic heating and cooling applications, the valves may need to meet some or potentially all of the following standards and listings: ASTM F877, ASTM F1960 (exclusively for cold-expansion fittings), NSF/ANSI 14 and NSF/ANSI 359.
Also, if you are installing PEX systems with ASTM F1960 expansion connections, the standard includes a list of recognized forged-brass alloys. It is important you use valves manufactured using one of these certified alloys.
Some valve manufacturers state they are “tested” or “conform” to ASTM F1960. However, that does not mean they are listed to it. Implying conformance by saying a valve is “tested” or “conforms” to a standard is misleading.
It is vital you only install a valve listed to ASTM F1960 to ensure the best possible quality and performance for your PEX piping system with cold-expansion connections.
Certain physical attributes are important to feature on a PEX piping system valve in addition to codes, standards and listings.
• Positive tube stops. This design feature ensures that the valve is inserted into the pipe far enough without overextending the pipe past a certain point.
Without positive tube stops, the potential for leaks due to improper connections is present. By using valves with positive tube stops, you add confidence for more consistent installations with less chance for leaks and callbacks.
• Stem features. You might think a valve stem is inconsequential to the overall quality of a system. However, valves featuring blow-out-proof stems are superior to ones that do not. It is something to consider when choosing a valve for a PEX piping system. The saying, “You get what you pay for,” definitely resonates with this feature. Keeping dollars in your pocket and your reputation solid go hand-in-hand.
Another key feature you will want to include on your valves is a stem extension. Some manufacturers offer stem-extension kits to make it quick and easy to accommodate insulation around the piping system without crushing or compromising the insulation quality. These kits can often accommodate insulation thicknesses up to 2 inches to help your systems comply with local energy codes.
Lastly, it’s important to consider the manufacturer. Some newer valve manufacturers recently entered the PEX piping market and are offering products at a lower cost. Be careful. The performance of these parts may not be verified based on available certification or supporting data.
Go with a product that has a proven history of reliability and performance. This is important to your business and your reputation. Make sure you choose valves that are tested, listed and meet all the required codes and standards for the PEX piping application on the project.
For more information about PEX piping systems, visit the Plastics Pipe Institute at www.plasticpipe.org or the Plastic Pipe and Fittings Association at www.ppfahome.org.