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MECHANICAL CONTRACTING


| FIELD REPORT |


savings to be had. In a busier environment, those time savings would be even more valuable in getting on


Push-fit fittings for plumbing and heating growing in use and acceptance


58


contractors are finding work in rehab jobs and in doing repairs and re-piping upgrades to existing housing stock and commercial buildings. A lot of that work is in piping transitions for domestic and potable water. While pick-up work at this level is a less-than- ideal employment situation for many contractors, who less than a decade ago had more work than they could get to, it comes with a silver lining for the manufacturers of PEX tubing and push- fit fittings, who are seeing greater awareness and acceptance for their products in such an environment. The growing lead-free movement, which will transition in just a few years to national reach with federal legislation kicking in, is also a boon. Push-fit fittings, which were introduced in the mid-1980s in America and today represent a $100 million market, are poised to go big-time in the years ahead.


W


Plastic push-fit fittings and tubing are green


A recent study linking use of plastic


fittings and tubing to green building technologies* shows that they can play an important role in proper functioning, safety and environmental performance in residential and light commercial applications. Such fittings are preferred over alternatives for their strength and durability, corrosion resistance and biological inertness, material flexibility and lighter weight, transportation and ease of maintenance, and even for their ease of color coding and markings. Plastic piping systems, the study found, are increasingly selected for use in green buildings to take advantage of state and local governments’ tax credits incentives, utility subsidies and fast- track building permit approvals.


John Guest USA: A major player in the push-fit market


John Guest Ltd. of Great Britain is


one of the leading suppliers of push-fit fittings to a number of worldwide markets — automotive and marine, water treatment/filtration and plumbing and heating. The company maintains an active research and development effort in its labs in Great Britain, using the newest resins available for demanding applications. Around the


ith new housing construction starts in most of the nation stuck in neutral, plumbing


world, John Guest fittings are widely used for residential plumbing and heating under the Speedfit®


brand name.


Here in the States, as with all the players in the push-fit arena, its American-based operation, John Guest USA, has had to work hard to convince contractors to give its engineered plastic resin products a try as an alternative to traditional copper and CPVC joinery. The company has even donated product to jobsites with the simple intent of getting contractors to use the product and provide feedback. The push-fit business has lots of


players. John Guest, which to date is the only push-fit manufacturer to offer a fitting which employs PEX, has to contend with a number of competitors offering metallic push-fit connections or engineered resin ones, as well as with the inescapable curse of cheaper knock- offs of inferior quality entering the market. With the greater use of PEX and the reopening of major markets like California to PEX use, engineered resin push-fit fittings, which work with PEX tubing as well as copper and CPVC, are gaining headway with builders and contractors who are looking for a faster, labor saving alternative when working in tight spaces and behind-the-wall.


Engineered plastic push-fit advantages


Feedback from John Guest USA’s


regional sales reps portrays a positive picture for use of push-fit fittings in general and engineered plastic ones in particular. Use of donated products demonstrate that, when contractors use the fittings and experience how easy and quick they are to install (no tools needed, not even a crimping tool), they like what they see and endorse their use, even for whole-house work. Contractors, in particular, note the time and labor


to the next waiting job. Clifford Allen, John Guest’s


Eastern regional sales manager, says that most contractors have encountered push-fit fittings by now and that they’re using


them mostly for transition work from copper. Use with PEX is also increasing. Theft of copper at construction sites in urban areas is an issue that also drives more use of PEX and plastic. The new federal lead-free legislation,


which will go into effect at the start of 2014, is not much of an immediate issue, Allen reports, but it will be in due time. Push-fit manufacturers of largely brass components will have the most to deal with when it comes to the transition from brass to lead-free components. They now have to supply dual inventories between lead-free and non-lead-free states. Converting their inventory will be costly, and their new lead-free products will generally be more expensive (estimates range from 28% to 40%). Stocking contractors will have to be mindful of their leaded inventory as the


January 1, 2014, deadline nears. For others, the feeling, even today, is, “Why wait, the future is now.” The contractors and builders that


Allen has worked with in recent years like engineered push-fit fittings once they’ve used them. He reports that there have no issues stemming from their use. Smaller (and hungrier) wholesalers like Speedfit products too, for their profit margins.


Making the case for push-fit fittings


Quality and durability issues are concerns that push-fit sales reps deal


e Continued on p 60


phc december 2011 www.phcnews.com


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