The first award is for Best Water Piping Material. This award goes to cross-linked polyethylene, which most of you know as PEX. For years the plumbing industry has searched for the best water piping material. In a way, it has been similar to searching for the fountain of youth. We have never had the perfect material. However, if you list all of the attributes you want in a water piping material, PEX comes the closest to filling the bill.
I never thought PEX would catch on because of the high price of the pipe. But in the past year, the price of PEX has dropped considerably. Part of the reason is the demise of PB; the other is the increase in the number of manufacturers of the pipe.
Many plumbers have compared PEX to PB. This is a mistake. It is like comparing a Geo to a Cadillac. PEX is the Cadillac. It is a virtually indestructible pipe. About the only drawback is that PEX cannot be joined by soldering or solvent cementing. While PEX only controls a small share of the water piping market, I believe in 20 years, PEX will be the dominant water piping material in the United States.
The second award is for the Best Full Flow Shut Off Valve. This award goes to ball valves. I am happy to report that the plumbing industry has finally seen the light and has generally switched to using ball valves over gate valves. I am one of those individuals who would like to see gate valves disappear off the face of the earth. A gate valve can only be used in the full open and full closed position. If you make a slight error in not opening the gate valve completely, you risk having a broken stem. That is just one of the many things that can go wrong with a gate valve. A ball valve can be used for full open, full closed, throttling of flow, etc. It is a workhorse of a valve that is less likely to fail.
The next award is for the Cleverest Manifold Piping System. This award goes to the Vanguard Manibloc. The Manibloc is a plumber’s dream. Vanguard added just about everything we can ask for from a manufacturer. I like the fact that it is well designed for a 2– by 4–ft. stud wall assembly. The shut off valves (ball valves, of course) are color-coded — blue and red to indicate the cold and hot water. The pipe also comes color-coded — blue PEX for cold water and red PEX for hot water. The color coding would have helped me out many times when I mixed up the hot and cold water lines.
The manibloc also comes with the amenities that make it easy on the plumber. There are numerous labels that make it easier to label the shut off valves. From an engineering standpoint, the manibloc has a large inside diameter for balancing the pressure between the various lines.
I happen to like the fact that many of the pipe manufacturers are now supplying manifolds for the piping system. When you compare them, there is no denying that Vanguard was the cleverest in the development of its manifold.
Enough of the awards on the water side of plumbing. How about an award for a drainage product? The drainage award is for the Highest Quality of Waste Fittings. This award goes to McGuire Manufacturing Co. In a day and age when many of the waste fittings and tailpieces have gotten thinner and thinner, McGuire has produced a great line of heavy duty waste fittings.
I always hated when I had to remove the tailpiece and it fell apart in my hand. The waste fittings have to withstand a lot of abuse. It never made sense to me that they kept getting cheaper with the brass and chrome plated tubing. McGuire has reversed this trend. Their success in the marketplace indicates there is still a place for quality in the plumbing industry.
The last award is for the Best Letter I Received From a Reader. Many of you have dropped me a line or e-mailed me over the past year. I try to respond to as many letters as I can. If I did not get back to you, I apologize. But sometimes there is a large influx of mail for a given article. There is, however, one letter that sticks out as the letter to receive this award. That letter was from Dominic Ambrosio, a plumbing contractor in Elmont, NY.
Dominic was compelled to write to me after reading my July column that discussed World Peace. Included with Dominic’s letter was a t-shirt that he’d had made up to read, “World Unity, World Peace.” There was a picture of the world with doves flying around it. Dominic believes World Peace is something to strive for. So do I.
I sent Dominic one of my company t-shirts as a thanks for his shirt. On the front of our shirts it reads, “If you want Peace, work for Justice.” On the back it reads, “The time is always right to do what is right.”
During the Holiday Season, it is good for us to sit back and ponder the words Unity, Peace, Justice and Doing What is Right. All of us have a part in making this world a better place. With that, I wish all of you peace and joy. Have a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and a Happy and Prosperous New Year.