Water leaks can provide the ultimate water related damage to any modern home, especially when it is not accurately diagnosed nor was it recognized early on. Most water related damages are due primarily to leaks in the house’s water ways system such as those found in plumbing and sewage systems.
However, there is a type of water related damage that can never really be prevented by homeowners despite tons of preparations for it. Weather related water damages are pretty much something that we can hardly do something about. Snowstorms, tornadoes, hurricanes, tidal surges, and windstorms almost always bring about significant water related damage to properties, and to some extent, some injuries to the life of the homeowner and his family.
The other type of cause of water related damage is anchored more on the integrity and maintenance of fundamental and common household items such as water heaters, commodes, washer hoses, water pipes and drains, and other items. In this case, a little preventive maintenance and the choice of the most appropriate material to use in our homes will spell the difference between a water related disaster and a water damage free home.
Your home is designed with an intricate network of pipes, tubes, hoses, and fixtures that convey water to and from the home to be used by all members of the household and for a variety of purposes from washing clothes to cooking food to watering your garden and plot to washing the car and bathing the dog to having a weekend swimming party on a family sized inflatable pool.
Your home’s Plumbing, or plumbing system, should be designed in such a way that it performs this basic function of carrying and distributing water throughout the house where it is needed. Your house’s plumbing system has essentially three functions: supplying, draining, and venting. The supply system of the Plumbing supplies water to the house and distributed through the hot and cold lines and to the different fixtures at the end of these water lines. Fixtures at the end can be toilet and kitchen sinks, toilet bowls, showers, tubs, washing machines, dishwashers, water heaters, and heated system boilers.
The draining function of the Plumbing deliver water away from all the fixtures in the house and drains them in a main water line that empty into a local drainage pit or the city’s sewage system. Your home’s venting system injects air into the drain pipes so that waste and debris will be carried away. Both the drain and vent systems of your home essentially use the same type of pipes and are strategically connected to one another to make removal of waste and debris more efficient. Collectively, the system is called the drain-waste-vent system or simply DWV system.
Water pipes are conduits, passageways, tubes, or ducts that carry pressurized and treated fresh water to the home and distribute this to the different fixtures and appliances inside the home that need water to be functional or need water to be used by the family members. More often than not, water pipes are made of polyvinyl chloride or PVC, ductile iron, polyethylene, or copper.
In ancient times, water pipes were made of lead because of its malleability or the ability to be reshaped with pressure. However, lead-related health problems such as stillbirths and higher incidence of infant deaths have spurred the development of new technology that incorporates tin alloy and tin antimony to join copper in order to reduce the ill effects of lead on health.
In some areas of the world, wooden pipes were also used to carry water into the household, most of which were carved out from hollowed out logs tapered at the end with a small hall in which water will pass through. Some used connecting bamboo splices to serve as a conduit for the distribution of water to villages from water sources high up in the mountains.
Water pipes made up of polyvinyl chloride, or PVCs, offer several distinct advantages over other types of water pipes. PVC water pipes do not conduct electricity and are free from electrochemical reactions that can be produced by acids, alkalis, and salts that can corrode metal pipes. PVC pipes are also cost efficient especially when used in applications that include ground soil and can be expected to outlast alternative pipes without the need for protective coating or lining.
PVC water pipes are also chemically resistant to various agents that are commonly found in homes and can withstand temperatures of up to 140 degrees Fahrenheit or about 58 degrees Celsius. They are lightweight which can be translated into decreased risk for installation related injuries and facilitation of lower cost of installation and transportation. PVCs are also fracture resistant and are flexible enough to yield under pressure and loading without breaking or fracturing.
One major advantage of PVCs is joint tightness which is made possible by its deep insertion, push-together gasketed joints. Gasketed PVC pipe joints have time and again out-classed other water pipes in that they are simple and easy to assemble and can be filled, tested, and placed in service immediately after assembly. PVC pipes also demonstrate outstanding resistance to wear and abrasion, possess relatively high resistance to impact damage, reduce the number of joints required to setup the whole Plumbing, and offer no corrosion by-product which can significantly affect the quality of water.
Furthermore, water flow is less turbulent in polyvinyl chloride pipes because of the relatively smoother inside surface of the pipe reducing the friction and improving overall water flow. The result of this is a much faster flow of water with significantly lower levels of noise and or vibration from the high water pressure. Polyvinvyl chlorides can be used in any kind of construction work, especially in plumbing systems that incorporate PVCs under slabs of concrete because PVCs will not react to the concrete.
PVC water pipes are also more difficult to ignite and will not continue to burn without an external ignition source. The spontaneous ignition temperature of polyvinyl chloride is 850 degrees Fahrenheit, well above the spontaneous combustion temperatures of most construction materials. PVC pipe is also referred to as a self-extinguishing water pipe because the products of combustion instantly combine with any available oxygen in the atmosphere in order to starve the flame.
The major disadvantages of polyvinyl chlorides include poor weatherability, moderately low impact strength, and somewhat high weight for thermoplastic sheet with a specific gravity of about 1.35. PVCs are also easily scratched or marred, and possess relatively low heat distortion point. Furthermore, PVCs are also prone to UV and oxidation problems making them impractical in extremely UV irradiated regions.
But if there is one thing that is considered the major downside of PVCs, that is its environmental effects. The sturdiness of PVCs is also its major setback because it renders the material non-biodegradable nor is it degradable by natural means. This means that they exist in their original form throughout ages without much change in their structure or form. Furthermore, PVCs are added with phthalates to make them flexible. The problem is that these substances have been shown to be carcinogenic and can cause a variety of kidney and reproductive system problems.
Steel Water Pipes
Stainless steel water pipes is already being dubbed as the way to go in safe and potable drinking water and has effectively addressed the need for high quality, low maintenance water pipe systems. Stainless water pipes do not rust, just like PVCs, and lasts a lifetime without ever worrying for any impurities which can contaminate your water.
The outstanding corrosion resistance of stainless steel also allows the extensive use of thinner walled pipes in order to help reduce installation costs. Stainless steel has a longer lifespan and greater resilience to allow less frequent maintenance and repairs in order to significantly reduce cost. Pipe assembly has also been made a lot easier with the use of an electromechanical pressing device to ensure safe and secure pipe connections without the need for welding or threading the joints.
Stainless steel offer lightweight, durable design solutions that also contribute to environmental benefits through lack of contamination of drinking water, reduced environmental impact of the water industry and recyclability. Stainless steel offer excellent corrosion resistance, tolerance of high flow rates, good strength and ductility, ease of fabrication, ready availability in a wide range of forms, very low leaching levels into water, excellent durability, and full recyclability.
The potential disadvantages of using stainless steel water pipes include the high cost of sanitary stainless-steel components, susceptibility to rouging (result of the formation of iron oxide, hydroxide or carbonate either from external sources or from destruction of the passive layer), and the need for periodic chemical passivation in order to restore the oxide film that provides the stainless steel pipe with its corrosion resistance.
The choice between PVC and stainless steel water pipe all boils down to one thing: how much you value your health and your environment and how much you are willing to pay for installing the most appropriate water work system for your home. Both PVC and stainless steel pipes offer long shelf life, ease of use and installation, flexibility and durability, and relative stability. The question now is their impact on one’s health and the environment as a whole.