The first time I encountered a SharkBite fitting was while conducting a forensic analysis in a large custom home where their hydronic heating system was making shotgun-like noises in the middle of the night. I couldn’t imagine the fitting was rated for hydronics, but it turned out SharkBite fittings are rated for 200°F at 200-PSI. I’ll get to the shotgun-like noise and its cause in a bit.
Over the following years, we became users of SharkBite fittings for emergency repairs, capping off water and hydronic lines, and used them extensively while assembling more than 100 individual loops that were to be placed into prestressed concrete molds. The multi-tube loops in each prestressed concrete beam remained under 100-PSI air pressure during the concrete pour with each loop having its own pressure gauge. Before the beams were assembled to create a three-story bunker, all the loops had to be joined between the beams, connected to PEX pipe stubs rising out of the 3-ft.-thick concrete radiant floor, and then join the supply and return loops for one final pressure test. Given the need to have flexibility for joining a wide variety of loop ends, we used SharkBite fittings because of the ease with which we could disassemble and reuse the fittings — over and over again.
I’ll freely confess I’m from the old school and, to me, there’s nothing better looking than neatly soldered copper tubing. A skill long ago learned and refined, but change is constant and if we are to keep up and remain competitive, other pipe joining technology needs to be incorporated. That’s why we have three ProPress tools, PEX expander tools and crimp-ring press tools too. Aside from the labor reduction, no fire watch is required if you don’t need a torch on commercial jobs.
The challenge: Add a shower to a two-handle tub faucet; incorporate ASSE-certified scald-guard protection; provide enhanced slip/fall protection; and avoid upsetting a 93-year-young lady who has the onset of Alzheimer’s? Her daughter explained that the noise from our turbo-torch and any odors associated with soldering might be upsetting. She also said that if we changed the faucet to a single-handle model that would create an issue for her mom.
SharkBite has an ASSE certified thermostatic scald-guard mixing valve.
First and foremost, scald-guard protection was of paramount importance. Although her 93-year-young mother would have assistance while bathing, the possibility for an inadvertent adjustment between cold/hot handles could easily cause scald burns. Elderly and infants scald much more rapidly due to their skin being much thinner and elderly folks often will have lost the ability to sense when water temperature is too hot. SharkBite has an ASSE certified thermostatic scald-guard mixing valve, TMV HG110-D, that would fit inside the wall behind the closet access panel.
In order to avoid disruption of the potable water system, we installed two SharkBite ball valves to isolate the bathtub. SharkBite repair tees with an extra-long hub on one end allowed us to slip them over the copper line and then slide down to complete the connection on the hot/cold risers. A few ells were required to complete the offset in the hot water to reroute the safely mixed, tempered water to the hot side of the two-handle faucet. All raw ends of copper tubing were reamed and chamfered to ensure no sharp edges could damage the seals.
A diverter tub spout with side-outlet for a hand-held shower-wand flexible hose was installed with a two-foot slide-rail and height-adjustable holder for the shower wand. Given that the bather will be seated, this enables her or anyone assisting to position the shower-stream as needed. The shower-wand can be removed from its holder to rinse her hair or wash her back without a need to turn around.
A 2-ft. ADA grab bar was installed vertically to assist with entry/exit from the tub and a 3-ft. horizontal ADA grab bar was installed at a customized height by having “mom” stand in the tub (with assistance) to give final approval on its location. Challenge met and ease of mind knowing the mixed 112°F maximum hot water temperature, along with the grab bars, offers enhanced safety for the customer.
What caused the shotgun-like hydronic system noise? Water can absorb a finite amount of thermal energy until it reaches saturation temperature. Saturation temperature means that at any given pressure, water will flash over to steam once its saturation temperature is exceeded. The installer had placed a number of wet-rotor circulators standing on their heads: a clearly defined no-no in the instructions.
The middle of the night sees the coldest outdoor air temperatures and the longest run-times for the circulators. The longer run-times generated more heat from the motor windings (induction style motors), which anyone who has grabbed a wet-rotor circulator knows those babies get hot, and would cause quite a ruckus as water that flashes to steam expands 1,700 times in volume. The engineers at the circulator manufacturer confirmed the diagnosis was correct. The circulators were repositioned on the horizontal (as the instructions illustrated) and the shotgun-like noises went away. Uninterrupted sleep was restored and I learned that it was OK for that installer to have used SharkBite fittings on the hydronic system.
Dave Yates material both in print and online is protected by Copyright 2017. Any reuse of this material (print or electronic) must have the express written permission of Dave Yates and CONTRACTOR magazine. Please contact via email at [email protected].