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Old 23-01-2009, 09:54   #1
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Need help on latest plumbing products

I'm repairing a customer's Qest polybutylene freshwater plumbing on an Endeavor, built in 1984. I had recalled that this type of system had caused considerable litigation, and that the tubing is no longer sold or produced by Shell. My local marine supply still has a large variety of the fittings. My immediate concern is how wise it would be to simply restore the few fittings, let the customer know of the issues, and move on.

I have also been reading about polyethylene (PEX) systems. There don't appear to be any reports of hazards or liabilities related to this product. Anyone have information regarding PEX? I have to replace the aluminum water tanks, which are heavily encrusted with calcium carbonate and other salts, which blocked the supply tube and initiated this whole repair. I am strongly considering using polyethylene tanks, made by a local supplier, to replace the metal ones.

For years we have been using polyvinyl hose (Blue thread and Red thread for cold/ hot applications), but there is considerable data now about the health risks of polyvinyl chloride leaching.

That leaves copper pipe as the sole remaining option, one which I hate because of the leaching of flux from the fittings (although there is no more lead used in the solder) and the cost and fire hazards involved in installation.

Anybody have new products or info? I'll be replumbing my own boat soon, so this is a pretty current issue for me.
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Old 23-01-2009, 10:42   #2
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Originally Posted by Roy M View Post
I'm repairing a customer's Qest polybutylene freshwater plumbing on an Endeavor, built in 1984. I had recalled that this type of system had caused considerable litigation, and that the tubing is no longer sold or produced by Shell. My local marine supply still has a large variety of the fittings. My immediate concern is how wise it would be to simply restore the few fittings, let the customer know of the issues, and move on.
Why not let the client know about the material and options and let him/her decide?

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I have also been reading about polyethylene (PEX) systems. There don't appear to be any reports of hazards or liabilities related to this product. Anyone have information regarding PEX? I have to replace the aluminum water tanks, which are heavily encrusted with calcium carbonate and other salts, which blocked the supply tube and initiated this whole repair. I am strongly considering using polyethylene tanks, made by a local supplier, to replace the metal ones.
I've used food grade polyurethane in bladder for camping. No taste or order noted. The company used to note you could drive over the bladder with a car and it wouldn't puncture.

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Anybody have new products or info? I'll be replumbing my own boat soon, so this is a pretty current issue for me.
I know there is a low toxicity PVC hose there, but I don't know if it meets the bill in other ways.

Also, I don't know if when they started using the term but there is a "food grade" line of products out (polyurethane, polyethylene, etc) so that might be worth incorporating into your search.
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Old 23-01-2009, 12:20   #3
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As noted above, I'd outline your concerns, and then let the client decide.
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Old 23-01-2009, 17:37   #4
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Thanks folks. I have related all of the info to the customer, who agrees that we should retain the existing QEST fittings and hose couplings. I removed the aluminum tanks today and confirmed extensive damage and "plaque" from mineral deposition, as well as pinhole leaks at weld lines. I will be ordering new, custom polyethylene tanks from RONCO in Tustin (near Los Angeles). I have been using their tanks on my own boat for thirty years, with no deterioration, whatsoever. My immediate concern is for my personal plumbing options when I replumb the pipes. Currently I am looking at a product by the company that produces Whale pumps, and of course, PEX Products. If anyone is familiar with similar products, please advise. As far as I know, there aren't any polyurethane tubing or pipe products being produced for this purpose.

My new plumbing system will consist of the following: At present, I have a seawater deck washdown, using a Series #31670 Dual Max Pump System (provides up to 7.5 gpm at max draw 15 A) which I'll also run to the galley to provide pressure saltwater. I'll use the same type pump (since they incorporate an accumulator tank for smooth running) to pressurize the house freshwater pressure system galley and hot water to the shower. The seawater lines are PVC hose, but the freshwater lines will probably be polyethylene (unless someone directs me to something better). I will also be installing a foot pump system for fresh and salt water at the galley. Lastly, I'll have drinking water spigot with extra filtration and UV treatment to produce my drinking water supplies.
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Old 24-01-2009, 00:13   #5
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I have also been using Ronco tanks for years. Great product...great prices. I used PEX system in a house here in Hawaii. I was impressed with the valving manifolds, tubing and so on. The tool was a little pricey though. We have not put it under pressure yet but most plumbers rave about it. Of course a boat is a different animal. I would imagine this will be a "marine item" in a few years and our local "chain marine store" will charge accordingly.
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Old 24-01-2009, 05:09   #6
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Polybutylene Pipe with acetal or metal insert fittings havenít been manufactured since 1995 for very good reason. They eventually leak, and allow oxygen to enter the water, which causes corrosion in HWTs etc!
I would NOT have anything to do with PB plumbing - except a total replacement.
Polybutylene Plumbing Information Links: Qest and other brands of Polybutylene
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Old 24-01-2009, 06:15   #7
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Back in my youth I actually did some research on polyethylene so some of my comments may be a little academic. Polyethylene is about as inert a polymer as you will find. It comes in a couple of different forms and densities (linear vs branched, high and low density). The disadvantage to its inertness is that you can't "glue" it. It is very slightly permeable to organics but quite impermeable to water and oxygen. It is a "thermoplastic" so it can be formed and extruded using heat. That means that at high temperatures it will "cold flow". But if you reach the temperatures where that is a problem for most applications, then you probably in pretty deep yogurt. Just don't think that you can use it for and exhaust manifold.

I think that the thing that has recently brought polyethylene plumbing into use is the fact that there are a couple of systems for mechanically joining tubing, valves, etc. I recently plumbed a gas line from the street to my house (or the plumber did) using PEX and I was really impressed. It was about 500 ft and I can't imagine the work that it would have taken to weld 20 ft lengths of steel pipe in the old days.

There may be additives or plasticizers in commercial PEX that I don't know about but PEX would probably be my choice for plumbing systems in general. I just hope that they get the costs of the tools for joining it down some.

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Old 24-01-2009, 06:28   #8
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Cross-Linked Polyethylene (PEX) pipe is great stuff.
PEX Information
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Old 24-01-2009, 09:06   #9
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Read an article a few years ago by Dave Gerr. He recommended PEX for the plumbing system tubing.
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Old 24-01-2009, 09:15   #10
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Read an article a few years ago by Dave Gerr. He recommended PEX for the plumbing system tubing.
Now if we can just get the powers to be approving it for marine use. It is at least twice as fast to use. Sure would beat PVC tubing and those damn hose clamps.
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Old 24-01-2009, 10:16   #11
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Thank you gentlemen for the detailed answers. I am reinstalling two or three QEST fittings on my customer's boat, at his direction, to enable him to get on with his life. He is aware of the issues, accepts full responsibility for his decision (?), and I can button up the job. I'm glad I am not going to be the future owner, but then, there are probably few perfect boats out there anyway.

For my own boat, the decision is much simpler today. I will be using a PEX system throughout, with exceptions for purely saltwater systems (washdown, engine cooling, bilge and waste hoses). Thanks again for all of the input.
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Old 24-01-2009, 10:37   #12
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I am in the plumbing wholesale industry and have decades of experience with various plumbing options. I have sold pretty much every system out there, except Qest. There was some Qest on my boat when I bought it, and I took that out largely because they were leftovers from a sloppy repair job from the previous owner.
Any plumbing system can leak due to a bad piece of material, poor installation, an outside force (freezing, vibration, chemicals). My own choice for my plumbing for both house and boat is pex. There are a variety of systems for joining pex, and I would recommend one of the versions that keep metal parts out of the water. If you are going to travel far on your boat, you want to have the correct tool for making repairs should the pipe or fittings get damaged.
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