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Green Building Bible, Fourth Edition
Green Building Bible, fourth edition (both books)
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    • CommentAuthorSimonD
    • CommentTimeJun 22nd 2021
     
    Can someone point me towards some objective info re environmental impact providing comparisons between the various pipework materials used in home plumbing and heating systems?

    I'm interested in all the standard options ahead of a whole house fit-out of both hot/cold water and heating system.

    Options are:

    MLCP
    Polybutylene
    PEX
    Copper

    Initial plan was to use copper throughut, but I'm now seriously considering MLCP or Polybutylene using manifold systems to avoid joints. On the figures I've so far found (admittedly mostly from those loking to sell the sell the stuff) PB looks very favourable on all counts right now (e.g. this https://cms.esi.info/Media/documents/Warma_white_ML.pdf and this https://tubiplast-srl.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/82-EPD-i.pdf).
    •  
      CommentAuthordjh
    • CommentTimeJun 22nd 2021
     
    I'll be interested to see if there are any objective comparisons and what methodology they use. There are so many variables around expected lifetimes, reuse vs recycle, initial manufacturing impacts etc etc.

    I worried more about the practical side - likelihood of leaks, ease of installation etc, and minimising pipe sizes. We ended up with all, mostly long, runs in voids using PB and made up 'manifolds' out of normal copper parts. Some other complicated bits were copper too.
    • CommentAuthorSimonD
    • CommentTimeJun 22nd 2021 edited
     
    Posted By: djhI'll be interested to see if there are any objective comparisons and what methodology they use. There are so many variables around expected lifetimes, reuse vs recycle, initial manufacturing impacts etc etc.

    I worried more about the practical side - likelihood of leaks, ease of installation etc, and minimising pipe sizes. We ended up with all, mostly long, runs in voids using PB and made up 'manifolds' out of normal copper parts. Some other complicated bits were copper too.


    Fingers crossed something comes up - there's also the added complication of so much negative coverage of PB over in the US due to years of failures, nothing of which we seem to have experienced across Europe.

    PB definitely looks attractive on most measures right now. I'll be using Emmeti manifolds as when I started pricing up the parts to make my own manifolds, plus the time, the Emmeti product makes a lot of sense.
    •  
      CommentAuthordjh
    • CommentTimeJun 22nd 2021
     
    AIUI, the problems in the US were due to local issues - I can't remember now whether it was with the products themselves or the way they were used. But not something of any consequence here or Europe.
    • CommentAuthorjms452
    • CommentTimeJun 23rd 2021 edited
     
    There's a real shortage of copper (and likely to get worse). There are very limited alternatives to copper for electrical applications so for plumbing polymer feels the a better us of resources (as well as saving you money).
  1.  
    Posted By: djhAIUI, the problems in the US were due to local issues - I can't remember now whether it was with the products themselves or the way they were used. But not something of any consequence here or Europe.

    AIUI the problem was from a couple of causes, one was chlorine in the water degraded the PB (and there might have been other contaminants natural or added also as a risk factor) and another issue was incorrect fitting.

    For my 2d worth I would go for PEX, but it could depend upon the availability of the crimp tools for the joints. (I don't like bolt up fittings that are not visible) And what is easily available locally.
    • CommentAuthorLF
    • CommentTimeJun 23rd 2021
     
    I would be surprised if environmental factors are significant in choice ? Best thing is it is fitted and it works and does not leak or need repairing, creating waste.

    Echoing what has been said. Long runs no joints/minimal joints and PEX pipe is my experience.
    John Guest in my case. Really happy.

    Mice love to eat the fittings and most likely the pipe - so if any potential for this run all copper.
    I have on central heating on extension since 2003 and fine and hot and cold water all at pressure.

    For joining to copper if critical an insert and compression joint may be better that push fit.
    Saying that I have two 22 mm to 4 or 5 off 10 mm copper lines on push fit plastic manifold fitting from John Guest and it has been fine on heating. If it were to leak it would be a chop into plasterboard ceiling to get to it.

    If using push fit think where the plastic will expand and contract to and make sure there is flexibility in pipe so it is not trying to pull out of the oring on the push fit fitting. eg not right up against a joist or wall stud.

    I recently plumbed bathroom refurb in PEX and pushfit as it is so easy and all is easy to get at in future but out of sight (boxing in above floor). Copper looks better if it is not hidden away as soldered fittings are smaller and low cost. My bathroom radiator came of plastic 22 mm in push fit to 10 mm copper under boards and upto into radiator via a contorted route - used pipe bender. Push fit fittings and compression fittings to plastic were both fine from work in 2003.

    Crimped piping fittings are good too, but only used in industry setting. Stainless and option there.

    My new combi boiler last year was plumbed in soldered copper. 28 mm gas, 22 mm flow returns and 15 mm copper up into ceiling on to the existing copper.
  2.  
    Posted By: LFMy new combi boiler last year was plumbed in soldered copper. 28 mm gas,

    Soldered pipework for gas ???? Over here that has been banned for some years now. It is crimped fittings with internal silicon O ring. The thought being that in the event of a fire with a soldered joint the heat would melt the solder and the gas pressure would push apart the joint adding escaping gas to the fun.
  3.  
    Posted By: LFMice love to eat the fittings

    +1
    • CommentAuthorkristeva
    • CommentTimeJun 23rd 2021
     
    Posted By: WillInAberdeen
    Posted By: LFMice love to eat the fittings

    +1


    Ive got to plumb my bathroom soon and I'd like to use PEX but I'm worried about mice, but having worked in the water industry with water coolers and boilers for many years using JGuest 1/4" pipe and fittings I've seen plenty of evidence of mice nesting in units but never have I seen any damage to pipework, they love the polystyrene that insulates the reservoirs however.
    •  
      CommentAuthordjh
    • CommentTimeJun 23rd 2021
     
    Posted By: LFEchoing what has been said. Long runs no joints/minimal joints and PEX pipe is my experience.
    John Guest in my case. Really happy.

    Interesting. John Guest recommend their PB for long runs and PEX for short runs. I don't really know why but we went with the PB.

    https://www.johnguest.com/speedfit/products/plumbing-fittings-home/pipe-and-accessories/
  4.  
    Mice - we've had the screw collars of pushfit fittings chewed at, but never the pipe itself (don't ask me why!) And (touch wood) we never had a leak. Maybe brass compression fittings with plastic pipe would work out ok?

    They have also had a go at: polyethylene pipe insulation, expanded polystyrene, PIR insulation, mineral wool, squirty foam, polythene ventilation duct, polythene vapour barrier, cardboard boxes, a packet of foam paint rollers, a whole bagful of J-cloths, my site waterproofs, and the fuel primer bulbs on two lawnmowers... Fortunately not PVC cable insulation, except once.

    JG Speedfit instructions say:
    "Protection Against Rodents
    When used in locations that are vulnerable to rodent attack, all plastic pipes and fittings should be adequately protected within sealed ducts."

    They also mention that the PB is flexible (threading long runs through structures) and the PEX is stiff (short runs with fittings hanging from the pipe)
  5.  
    Posted By: WillInAberdeenThey have also had a go at: polyethylene pipe insulation, expanded polystyrene, PIR insulation, mineral wool, squirty foam, polythene ventilation duct, polythene vapour barrier, cardboard boxes, a packet of foam paint rollers, a whole bagful of J-cloths, my site waterproofs, and the fuel primer bulbs on two lawnmowers... Fortunately not PVC cable insulation, except once.

    Yes, little whatsits aren't they.
    • CommentAuthorArtiglio
    • CommentTimeJun 24th 2021 edited
     
    I used hep2o on 4 flats in 2000 and John Guest on 4 more in 2002, aside from poor pipe routing causing one JG fitting to come loose ,no problems. The heating uses manifolds and continuous runs to each radiator flow and return in 10mm. Not keeping on top of inhibitor levels has resulted in two cases of manifolds getting blocked with scale, both times only affecting one radiator.
    When i used to work with mdpe. In the sewage industry, a requirement was that any scrapes or defects were “made good” it seemed that mice need a defined edge to get a start for their chewing they just don’t have the bite to chew round pipe, hence the gnawing seen on fitting s but not pipe.

    I’m currently refurbishing an old property where umpteen metres of the old cabling has been stripped bare by mice and squirrels over the years.
    •  
      CommentAuthorfostertom
    • CommentTimeJun 24th 2021 edited
     
    Squirrels in the loft (old thatch house - imposible to seal em out) have twice-over eaten lights wiring (now plastic conduited - they don't touch that!). How do they not get electrocuted?
    •  
      CommentAuthordjh
    • CommentTimeJun 24th 2021
     
    Posted By: fostertomSquirrels in the loft (old thatch house - imposible to seal em out) have twice-over eaten lights wiring (now plastic conduited - they don't touch that!). How do they not get electrocuted?
    No connection to earth?
    •  
      CommentAuthorfostertom
    • CommentTimeJun 24th 2021
     
    There's always enough earth connection (unless you're a bird) to nastily shock a human or kill something smaller, if you touch a live wire - let alone when you wet-bite it!
  6.  
    And there's an earthed CPC conductor running through the same mouthful of cable....
    • CommentAuthorphiledge
    • CommentTimeJun 24th 2021
     
    With dry feet stood on dry wood/insulation theres not likely to be much of a conductive path to earth for a critter to get a bodily shock to kill it.

    One of the kids chinchillas bit a table lamp cable years ago and got a set of blackened teeth and burnt lips. Was a bit subdued for a day or so but business as usual after that!
    •  
      CommentAuthorfostertom
    • CommentTimeJun 24th 2021
     
    Why's it such a life-and-death for us humans then, when we hit a live cable, indoors, dry, shoe soles, carpet etc?
    • CommentAuthorphiledge
    • CommentTimeJun 24th 2021
     
    I dont think it is life or death for humans. Loads of people get a belt with or without an RCD and their still here. The boss of a commercial installation company told me years ago that every spark he knew had had a belt at some stage. Our chinchilla is testimony to the insulating properties of dry feet on a carpet!

    Obviously its different if youre bare foot in a wet room trying to change a bulb in the dark!
    •  
      CommentAuthordjh
    • CommentTimeJun 24th 2021
     
    Posted By: fostertomThere's always enough earth connection (unless you're a bird) to nastily shock a human or kill something smaller, if you touch a live wire - let alone when you wet-bite it!

    Not true. I've seen people handle live fuses whilst standing on rubber. I also saw my father accidently cut a live circuit with a pair of scissors whilst standing on a chair. The scissors had a big chunk taken out of them. My father was fine. (I was too young to interfere). It's all about a path to earth through the body. I've also seen a trained electrician use a neon screwdriver to detect whether a circuit was live and when it showed he wasn't he grabbed the wires and sparks flew. He was sitting on a thick carpet.

    Apart from insulation the other main precaution to take before something that might be live is to first touch it with the back of your fingers. If it's live the current causes your muscles to contract and bends the fingers away from the electricity. By contrast if you use the front of your fingers in the normal way, they are cramped tightly on to the cable.

    In my father's case the circuit formed between the earth conductor and the live one fast enough to blow the fuse and keep him safe. (this well pre-dated RCDs etc)
    • CommentAuthorrevor
    • CommentTimeJun 25th 2021
     
    Technicians work on HV cables whilst live ensuring they do not have contact with earth. The electrician approved stepladders are made of non conductive materials usually fibreglass.
    • CommentAuthorphiledge
    • CommentTimeJun 25th 2021
     
    Just to clarify all the situations mentioned above are very rarely the primary means of preventing electric shock and circuits should always be isolated/deenergised if youre working on or near them.

    There are very few instances where live working gets santioned/is justified and its always in a professional environment with all the correct tools/training/PPE.
    •  
      CommentAuthorfostertom
    • CommentTimeJun 25th 2021
     
    Anyway, I'm surprised there's no clear verdict, on GBF, about Cu vs plastic plumbing - it's all been about one plastic vs another. It may be thyat Cu is 'eco-virtuous' - I don't know - as afaik v high %age of Cu is recovered, and requires nothing like the energy intensity of Al (also highly recoverd) to recycle.
    •  
      CommentAuthordjh
    • CommentTimeJun 25th 2021
     
    The original links that Simon posted very clearly make the case that copper is an eco-villain rather than a hero. But they come from sources with a clear vested interest. Nobody's pointed out independent data yet. Al is a rd herring; it's not relevant; it isn't used for plumbing.

    So while I chose PB for practical reasons myself, I don't feel badly about my choice with an eco-hat on.
    •  
      CommentAuthorfostertom
    • CommentTimeJun 25th 2021 edited
     
    Posted By: djhAl is a rd herring; it's not relevant; it isn't used for plumbing
    sure - just an opportunity to discuss what may be a key factor (energy intensity to recycle) when considering the very rare cases where vital materials are admirably well recovered - like all the materials we use should be.
    • CommentAuthorLF
    • CommentTimeJun 25th 2021
     
    Interesting. John Guest recommend their PB for long runs and PEX for short runs. I don't really know why but we went with the PB.

    Hopefully my quoting works.

    DJH - you are probably right it is PB for long runs - long runs were done some time ago. White plastic with barrier
    Recent stuff was straight and short lengths and was definitely PEX


    ECO wise. It has to work and be practical to install and perform long term.
    Impact likely negligible between copper and plastic either way compared to concrete etc.
    50% of plastic in sea is from fishing nets I saw quoted on Seaspiracy film and refs. seemed to check out.

    Had a rabbit strip a wire inside some industrial equipment multiple times in the past - causing lost production.
    Escaped hamster went through I think nylon 6 mm pipe going to water dispenser in the fridge - twice.
    • CommentAuthorEd Davies
    • CommentTimeJun 25th 2021
     
    Posted By: LFImpact likely negligible between copper and plastic either way compared to concrete etc.
    +1
    • CommentAuthorSimonD
    • CommentTimeJun 25th 2021 edited
     
    I've found one further reference here:

    Environmental and economic life cycle assessment of PEX and copper plumbing systems: A case study (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0959652616311313). I can't access this paper as it's behind one of those typical academic paywalls, but:

    Abstract

    Cross-linked polyethylene (PEX) pipe has become viable alternative to traditional copper pipe to be used as residential water plumbing systems. PEX pipe is relatively cheaper and more versatile compared to a copper pipe. This study employs Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) to compare the economic and environmental performances of PEX and copper pipes over the life cycle of a student housing project in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. To achieve this objective, the costs in different life stages were extracted from three different sources in the market (RS Means book and two material suppliers; “Residential Copper Plumbing Products Limited Warranty” and “Uponor PEX”) and a Life Cycle Inventory (LCI) was used to quantify the energy and emissions of the two plumbing systems during the manufacturing process, in-service and end of life. The Building for Environmental and Economic Sustainability (BEES) model and SimaPro 8.0 software (Ecoinvent 3.0 database) were employed to develop the life cycle inventory of the piping system through all life cycle stages. BEES model adopts Tool for Reduction and Assessment of Chemical and other environmental Impacts (TRACI) life cycle impact assessment methods developed by the U.S. EPA Office of Research and Development. The LCA framework used in this study was based on a life cycle methodology that follows the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 14,040 standard for LCA. The results of the analysis indicate that use of PEX piping instead of the traditional copper piping systems in residential buildings, would considerably reduce the total cost of the building up to 63% over its life cycle. Moreover, it can significantly reduce the carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions (approximately 42%) and lessen the negative effect of environmental impacts to land, water and air.

    This one, on pipes for district heating suggests 'the dominance of heat loss on the environmental impact.' But the context is different here. (https://dhc2008.hi.is/session/greinar/p60_Korsman_deBoer.pdf).

    Posted By: LF
    Impact likely negligible between copper and plastic either way compared to concrete etc.


    Yes, probably, although I've already been through the stage of minimising concrete use throughout. My use was 9m3 of concrete for pad foundations and a small strip. I've forgone solid floors in preference for suspended timber floors throughout the house. A little extra went in for oversite. (I think this is a decent figure compared to average concrete use in house building). (It did help that I've use exisiting building foundations where we could, but those were very shallow, hence the need for the pads in some places.)

    I've also minimised plastic use throughout the house.

    Posted By: djhAl is a rd herring; it's not relevant; it isn't used for plumbing.


    Al is used in MLCP pipe where it all gets a bit more complicated due to the various layers of plastic and metal. I wonder what the recycling process would be for this type of pipe.

    Posted By: fostertomAnyway, I'm surprised there's no clear verdict, on GBF, about Cu vs plastic plumbing - it's all been about one plastic vs another. It may be thyat Cu is 'eco-virtuous' - I don't know - as afaik v high %age of Cu is recovered, and requires nothing like the energy intensity of Al (also highly recoverd) to recycle.

    Me too, although it does seems there's an acceptance of plastic here due to practicality if nothing else. I always thought that Copper was the eco-virtuous but I do now wonder.

    As indicated earlier, I'm leaning towards PB due to long-run capability, flexibility and the fact I can run it completely joint free from manifold to destination for all my sanitary pipework. Heating will be slightly different as I don't want visible plastic tails. Apparently it's recyclable too.

    Due to personal choice, while it's easy and quick, I really don't like working with PEX.

    Once it's all done, I doubt I'll lose much sleep over the issue. It would just be nice to know a bit more.

    I've zapped myself a few times, mainly because I wasn't paying proper attention or respect to what I was doing. Felt like I'd been slapped. The worst was when I zapped myself while working on a car - that actually really hurt. Probably explains a lot..
   
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