If your home is relatively new or it has undergone a major renovation in recent years, it may use PEX plumbing for the water lines instead of copper pipes. In this case, the plumbing manifold is an important component of your water system. If your home uses in-floor, hydronic or radiant heating, you will also have a plumbing manifold. In either case, you may be wondering what the plumbing manifold is and what it does, which is what today’s post is all about.
Understanding PEX Plumbing
PEX is a type of flexible pipe that is becoming more and more common in residential and commercial plumbing systems. It was originally developed for use in radiant heating systems but has slowly started to gain in popularity for water lines as well. These pipes are made from cross-linked polyethylene that is colored either red or blue to designate hot and cold water. If you’ve ever seen those rolls of blue and red piping at your local hardware store, this is PEX piping.
With traditional copper plumbing, the main water line that branches off to supply each faucet and fixture. This is why it often takes some time for hot water to begin flowing out of your faucet. When you turn the faucet on to hot, the hot water first has to travel from the water heater through the entire length of the water line before it reaches the faucet. Although water always remains inside the hot supply, it won’t be nearly the same temperature as that that comes directly from your water heater.
PEX plumbing is different. Instead of having one main water line that feeds every faucet, each fixture has its own dedicated hot and water supply. All of the hot and cold water lines are connected to a central plumbing manifold. In turn, the plumbing manifold is connected to your main water supply and the hot water heater. The main water supply coming into your house provides cold water, and the water heater obviously supplies the hot water.
This type of set-up can provide some major benefits. There are also a few drawbacks to PEX plumbing. Before we get into the pros and cons though, let’s first look at what the plumbing manifold is and how it works in a PEX plumbing system.
What Does a Plumbing Manifold Do?
Only homes that use radiant heating or PEX plumbing have a manifold. The plumbing manifold is the central hub of PEX plumbing and radiant heating systems. With in-floor radiant heating, the manifold works to supply hot water to each loop of piping. These flexible pipes are run underneath the floor, and the hot water works to heat the floor and surrounding surfaces. This warms up the surrounding air to raise the indoor temperature.
The plumbing manifold only provides hot water in radiant heating systems, but in PEX plumbing systems it provides both hot and cold. In a PEX system, the hot and cold water lines that feed each fixture are connected to the manifold. The hot water from your water heater and cold water from your supply line both feed into the manifold, which then distributes the hot and cold water to each fixture.
Again, each fixture has its own dedicated hot and cold water lines. Instead of traveling through a longer section of copper piping that feeds all of the fixtures, the water is piped directly to the fixture.
The manifold will have a dedicated hot water and cold water outlet for every fixture inside your house. Your outdoor hose bibs will only use the cold water outlet. If you have an outdoor faucet, you can choose to only run a cold water supply or have both hot and cold water lines.
Every hot and cold outlet connection on the manifold has its own dedicated shut-off valve. Since your hose bibs only use cold water, the shut-off valve on the corresponding hot water outlet will always remain closed. If it was open, water would drain out of that outlet on the manifold.
These individual shut-off valves allow you to control whether water flows to a fixture simply by opening or closing the shut-off valves at the corresponding outlets. This is extremely beneficial when plumbing repairs are needed as it enables you to shut off the water for that fixture only instead of needing to turn off the water supply to the entire home.
Benefits of PEX Plumbing
A PEX plumbing system can provide numerous benefits compared to using traditional copper water lines. For starters, this type of system tends to be cheaper to install as PEX piping is less expensive than copper. Installing flexible PEX piping is also quicker and easier than installing water lines. When using copper, you will need to solder all of the connections and joints, and this can greatly increase labor costs compared to using flexible piping.
Copper pipes and other metal water lines are also prone to rust and corrosion, which can lead to issues with leaks and poor water quality. PEX water lines are non-reactive and won’t rust or degrade.
PEX plumbing also helps to reduce the chances of the pipes leaking in another important way. Copper pipes are obviously rigid and inflexible. This means that every time the water line branches or changes direction, you will need to use a tee or elbow to connect the two pipes and then solder them together. The more connections the plumbing system has, the more chances it has to leak.
PEX plumbing overcomes this by eliminating the need for multiple connections. By using flexible piping, it is possible to run the hot and cold water lines directly from the manifold to the fixture without any other connections. Each water line has only two connections—one at the manifold and one where the water line meets the fixture. As long as these two connections are tight, there is zero chance of the water line leaking unless you somehow put a hole in the pipe.
PEX plumbing also helps to reduce issues with low water pressure. Each bend and fitting in a copper water line slightly reduces the water pressure. By minimizing the number of fittings, PEX plumbing ensures that this isn’t a problem.
Copper is a great conductor of heat, but it is an extremely poor heat insulator. This makes copper water lines prone to freezing in lower temperatures since they cannot insulate the water from the cold. PEX plumbing is a much better insulator, which means that your water lines will be much less likely to freeze. This isn’t to say that PEX plumbing can’t freeze as any type of water line can eventually freeze if it is cold enough. Nonetheless, PEX plumbing can withstand much colder temperatures without freezing than copper pipes due to its superior insulating factor.
One final benefit of PEX plumbing is that it can greatly reduce the lag time between when you turn the faucet or shower on and when the hot water finally starts flowing. This can help to reduce water and energy waste. Since the hot water will be connected directly to the shower or faucet, it will flow much more quickly than it would if it had to travel throughout most of the house before reaching the fixture.
Professional Plumbing Services You Can Trust
If you need any type of plumbing service in Las Vegas, you can count on the professionals at BEST Air Conditioning Plumbing Repair to get the job done right. We install all types of plumbing systems and water lines, including both PEX and copper piping. We also install and repair sewer lines and all types of bathroom and kitchen plumbing fixtures. For more information or to schedule a service appointment, give us a call today.