Balancing valves a key to reliable recirculation

On every building job on which you work, you have to evaluate your options and pick the best one for the plumbing system and the building. Applying products that match the type of building being constructed can save you headaches down the road. The balancing valve, for example, is the key to the proper functioning of a domestic hot water recirculation system. Without this valve, the water circulating

On every building job on which you work, you have to evaluate your options and pick the best one for the plumbing system and the building.

Applying products that match the type of building being constructed can save you headaches down the road.

The balancing valve, for example, is the key to the proper functioning of a domestic hot water recirculation system. Without this valve, the water circulating in the system would follow the path of least resistance, which is the shortest branch. The longer runs of piping would not be able to maintain the water temperature in the piping.

Overlooking the proper balancing of the valves, even if they are in the right place, can mean the difference between a functioning system and one that doesn’t work. Paying attention to detail, especially the small ones, is very important.

What type of balancing valve you use is often not as important as having some device to control the flow of water through the pipe. Whether you use a factory preset flow control unit or a ball valve will depend on the system being installed. Individual installation will determine which options are selected.

On very large systems you may save time and money by using factory preset flow controls. But on a small system, a ball valve or a small balancing valve may be all you need in order to balance the system properly.

We may not necessarily always provide what is best suited for the specific installation. Different building types have varying requirements that must be accommodated for the plumbing system to work as it is intended. Fixture types and materials, water heaters, pipe insulation and materials and fittings all have their place in the plumbing system. But applying the wrong type of material could create problems.

For instance, you would not want to install a stainless steel water closet/lavatory combination unit in a country club. Likewise, installing a vitreous china water closet with an exposed flush valve in a maximum-security prison would not be a good idea either. Applying products that match the type of building being constructed can save you headaches down the road.

You should also be aware how various materials would affect your system. Changing one small component can have drastic effects on the operation of the system. Pipe insulation is a good example. Just changing the insulation material or thickness can have drastic results if the design parameters are exceeded.

You can change materials as long as their intent remains within the design criteria established for the building. Sometimes we need to keep an open mind about different materials that are being proposed on a project. After all, if you keep doing the same things the same way, you will always get what you always got. But, if we keep an open mind and work together, everyone involved in the process can gain knowledge and grow as part of the experience.

Working together to come to a solution and not taking extreme positions will go a long way toward providing a better building, especially when analyzing “value engineering” cost reductions to meet budget restraints. Remember to keep the system in mind and how every change can affect the final result. You can usually find ways to lower costs without sacrificing the system. The key is not to go to such an extreme that the plumbing is compromised.

Too often the engineer and contractor square off against each other and the solution to a small problem suddenly becomes very complex and, in the midst of debate, the function of the system is lost. Only by working together can the system be maintained without any compromise in how it functions.