Submitted by Kaylon Walker
Rainforest Plumbing & Air, Tempe, Ariz.
Plumbing & Hydronic Contractor News
Pre-insulated PEX pipe saves money on job site
The Fairways Housing Complex in a Phoenix suburb had a problem. Its domestic hot water system, whose two boilers feed 12 buildings and relied on underground Type L copper pipe installed 22 years ago, was suffering two leaks a month.
When the system was new, energy was far less expensive and copper was $1.03 a pound. At this writing it is $3.95 per pound. Considering the many repairs this copper system required and high price of copper, the owner and engineer felt that a new type of domestic water distribution systems would be appropriate. Rainforest PlumbingWorks was awarded a contract to replace all the underground copper hot water lines.
After researching many different options the owner decided to use a product called Rhinoflex, manufactured by Rovanco Piping Systems, Inc., of Joliet, Ill. The piping system consists of a cross-linked PEX pipe that is insulated with a 95% closed-cell foam insulation and covered with a waterproof polyethylene jacket designed for H2O loading at a burial depth of 2 feet minimum.
This PEX pipe is noted to handle temperatures ranging from -20°F up to 204°F. There are many benefits to this type of a piping system. For example, the material comes in large rolls, up to 1000' in length, which eliminates having to use many fittings underground. This product comes insulated which will help lower utility bills for the property as it is more energy efficient.
Rhinoflex can be pulled through road sleeves up to 1,000' or directionally bored under roadways, walkways, driveways, streams and ponds. If installed with pipe weights, it can be laid directly in a pond, lake, river or stream. Even though there are no ponds or streams near Fairways, Rhinoflex was ideal for the project.
Flexible pipe saves installation time
All fittings and connections in the Rhinoflex system are either brass or copper. All buried fittings are insulated and sealed per the system supplier's instructions. There are several different types of fittings for this material, one being compression type fitting and the other is a brass pressring fitting. On this job Rainforest PlumbingWorks used the brass pressring fitting which was installed by expanding the PEX pipe, then inserting the fitting into the PEX pipe, and pressing the brass press ring up to the fitting.
Pre-Insulated PEX pipe like Rhinoflex has been used on thousands of piping systems in the United States in the past 20 years and 32 years in Europe, In fact, There are more than 300 miles of flexible preinsulated pipe with PEX or PE carrier pipe installed in the United States and more than 3,000 miles installed worldwide over a 25-year period.
However, this is the first large job in the state of Arizona on which the product has been used.
Rovanco supplied the complete system - all pipe fittings and joint insulation material. The job site even had two visits from Rovanco's employees. Chad Godeaux, product specialist, Rhinoflex, was at the site to instruct and assist our installers.
This job was done while the complex was at full occupancy so one of our many concerns was to keep it safe, as well as livable. With the Rhinoflex piping system Rainforest was able to accomplish both, causing only minor, if any, disruption. This job was done using many PVC road sleeves in order to reduce the amount of traffic inconvenience to the residents of the property. As contractors installed the PVC road sleeve, they would backfill immediately in order to keep the traffic moving.
There are more than 300 miles of flexible pre-insulated pipe with PEX or PE carrier pipe installed in the United States.
After all the sleeves were installed and excavation was complete, actual laying of the piping was extremely fast. Some of the main runs were as long as 400' and workers were able to install those runs in a matter of minutes. This product lowered labor costs dramatically compared to what Rainforest would have spent installing a copper system. Rainforest was able to install 10,134 feet of this material with five installers in five days working only eight hours a day. The material was easy to store and stage, and is not likely to be stolen like copper would be at a job site.
The next trend... PEX Pipe?
Rhinoflex flexible pre-insulated piping could be the next big trend in piping domestic water distribution systems. Flexible, long lengths seem to be the trend in the plumbing business for gas, water lines, drain lines and even air duct. Rainforest PlumbingWorks in Tempe, Ariz. firmly believes that this material was everything it was told it would be, and then some.
Rainforest will be using this material again and encourage others to give it a try. Rainforest PlumbingWorks specializes in service and repair plumbing for commercial and industrial applications. Its customers include property management companies, restaurants, grocery chains, hotels and resorts.
Flexible pre-insulated piping has taken over the market for 4" and smaller pre-insulated pipe because it is a high quality product and it has the lowest installed cost of any preinsulated pipe.
Rhinoflex pre-insulated PEX and polyethylene comes in the longest lengths available from any supplier of flexible pre-insulated piping. The long lengths of flexible pre-insulated Rhinoflex result in few or no underground joints and up to 60% less labor resulting in an installed cost savings of 25 to 40%.
Rhinoflex can easily be cut to length with just a hacksaw. No special tools or equipment are required to install it. Rovanco provides complete installation kits, accessory materials, installation instructions. No special training or skills are required.
Rovanco Piping Systems, Inc., is a privately held manufacturing company located in Joliet, Illinois which was founded by owners Larry and Dick Stonitsch in 1969. The business was conceived for the express purpose of providing a high quality pre-insulated piping system as an alternative to outdated, costly, less effective, etc. field insulated piping.
The Stonitsches take a long view of their mission. Accordingly, they implemented a progressive R&D program without a preoccupation with short term results. Rovanco's success did not happen overnight, and the company's reputation for high quality products, prompt delivery, commitment to innovation and top customer service is well deserved.
Rovanco has always valued its ability to take on some of the industry's largest projects. Its references list provides a comprehensive look at numerous types of projects which Rovanco has successfully completed, and includes the construction of a mobile manufacturing facility to support the $10 million Getty Oil project, and the 750 mile insulated piping project in Saudi Arabia.