The fixit business
A plumbing system is essentially a network of pipes and fittings. All the gas and water needs are supplied via the piping system within and outside of one’s home. Pipes also remove waste in the form of sewage and waste-water, and allow sewer gases to be vented to the outdoors. Pipes also deliver the potable water to your home for you to drink, and for bathing. They also serve hydronic and in-floor heating systems. In more recent time they have also distributed recycled water for uses such as toilet flushing.
Since electricity and water are the only two dynamic forces in a building, it is logical that electrical installation and plumbing are the important means of enhancing the life of a structure. Pipes are the heart of all plumbing systems. Pipes are most commonly made of three materials — copper, galvanised steel, and plastic.
Though there are a number of other materials with which plumbing pipes are made, like lead pipe, fibre glass pipe, etc., they are not accepted worldwide. Here it also helps to know that when making any modification or repairing in existing plumbing system, you must use the same type of pipe. Some pipes are more appropriate than others for specific jobs.
Pankaj Soni, country manager, Victaulic India, says, “Mechanical piping systems are increasingly used in India in plumbing as well as HVAC, fire protection and a range of commercial and industrial applications due to the time and cost savings associated with installation.
They are an effective alternative to welding and flanging for potable water distribution, equipment connections on pumps, water softeners and filters as well as drain, waste and vent piping, and other industrial applications.”
Gurmit Singh Arora, chairman of the Indian Plumbing Association, Mumbai Chapter, says, “Copper is the common and oldest material used by plumbing pipes manufacturers. Due to its high resistance to corrosion and tolerance, copper pipes are ideal for carrying both hot and cold water. Copper pipes are generally connected with soldered fittings, therefore, their fittings become permanent additions.”
Copper pipes are found in four types:
Type K, L, M and DWV. Because of its differing properties, they are specified for different purposes. Type K pipes have the thickest walls and are common for underground service lines in the supply system. Type L copper pipes have medium thickness and are generally used for home plumbing for interior hot and cold water supply lines. The thinnest is type M; it is also used for interior hot and cold water supply lines. However, the DWV pipes are mainly used for the drain-waste and vent system. Apart from all four types, there is the soft copper pipe that is flexible tubing used to go around corners and as supply lines for sinks and toilets.
“We were earlier in the mode of using only galvanised iron pipes which corrodes after 7-10 years. The major cause is the deterioration in the water quality. The industry has progressed from non use of galvanised iron to better products,” Arora adds. PiyushChheda, chairman, Prince SWR Systems, says, "We have recently started producing CPVC pipes for potable hot and cold water distribution from ½-inch to 4-inch, uPVC screen and casing pipes for bore/tube wells up to 250mm, 2 ½-, 3- and 4-inch plumbing pipe and fittings and agri-pipes up to 400mm. Besides this we have begun manufacture of elastomeric sealing ring joints pipes, and agri-fittings up to 250mm, and uPVC pipes for underground drainage and sewerage system.”
Plastic plumbing pipes are most popular for home supply. They are light weight, chemically-resistant, non-corrosive, and quite easy in making connections. A number of plastic materials are used by pipe manufacturers for producing plastic pipes. Some of the most popular materials are polyvinyl chloride (PVC), chlorinated polyvinyl chloride (CPVC), cross-linked high-density poly ethylene (PEX), poly ethylene pipe (PE), poly butylene (PB), and acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS).
Some of Victaulic’s new products include the Style 107N QuickVic Rigid Coupling, now available in sizes from 2- to 12-inches and feature installation ready technology designed to address the industry’s need to compress project schedules and increase competitiveness. “It is the fastest and safest pipejoining method currently available and installation-ready couplings install up to ten times faster than other pipe-joining methods such as welding, brazing, soldering or flanging.
The expansion of the installation ready range is now compatible with a variety of piping materials and available in an even greater range of pipe sizes, making it the ideal choice to compress schedules whilst delivering versatility and highly reliable operation,” says Soni.
G S Dikondawar, general manager (I&T), The Supreme Industries, says, “Our products portfolio has a variety of pipes and a vast spectrum of fittings totaling over 6,000 items that matches every conceivable need and application.
We have been active in areas like irrigation, bore wells, potable water supply, plumbing, rainwater harvest ing, building drainage, underground drainage and sewerage, etc. Some new and extended products include Skyrise hi-tech, low noise SWR drainage system, Nu-drain underground drainage system with readymade inspection chambers and manhole, Silbond solvent cements for uPVC & C-PVC piping products, high quality overhead water storage tanks and Aquakraft bath fittings.”
Energy costs typically represent 30% of a building’s annual budget and are the single largest operating cost. There is a general consensus in the industry that the energy use in buildings could be reduced from 10-40% by improving operational strategies in buildings, including maintenance strategies. Less deferred maintenance means a higher level of energy efficiency.
With welded and flanged piping systems, accessing valves, strainers, pumps and water softeners is often a time-consuming and inconvenient process due to system shutdown and drainage. The more difficult the process the more likely the maintenance will be deferred. Mechanical pipe joining systems provide an optimal way to effectively maintain piping systems in structures, thereby reducing the deferral of maintenance and promoting operating efficiency and saving money. Their ease of installation and ability to disassemble and reinstall the same components make them a simple solution for the frequent performance of both routine and unscheduled maintenance. For access to a grooved piping system, a maintenance person simply loosens the two coupling bolts.
Less deferred maintenance means peak energy efficiency and operation of buildings, and reduced overall costs. Repairs for equipment and buildings that have not been well-maintained are often far higher than the estimated maintenance costs. The plumbing system essentially comprises water supply – hot and cold, sewerage and SWR pipes that takes away the waste. “One must consider the longevity of the product because in India most of the pipe fittings are inside the wall. It is imperative to ensure that the pipe used is one that does not corrode as the low coefficient of linear expansion does not have any UV degradation. Today, there are pipes that are available that outlive the life of a building,” says Arora.
Coming to the down take pipes that are part of the sewerage system, there are PVC pipes and there are Indian companies like Prince and Supreme and foreign companies like Geberit and Thermaflex who supply these pipes. Earlier, plumbing was mainly confined to being a pipe and wedge technology.
Today, plumbing has become more scientific. Every pipe has new types of joint technology. Some of the types of joints available are fusion welded, soldered and compression joints. Dikondawar says, “We have introduced yet another innovative product, Manhole. While Nu-drain underground drainage system with readymadeinspection chambers in different sizes and configurations is already available, a readymade Manhole in plastic was launched recently."
Nu-drain is designed for collection, and transportation of domestic, commercial and industrial soil and waste. Manhole is the further extension of our Nu-drain system to address sewerage segment requirements. This product offers several advantages over erstwhile conventional products i.e. masonry or concrete manholes. Conventional manholes/ sewer systems are associated with several problems, which can be broadly classified in to leakage, blockages and breakages. Installation of concrete manhole is cumbersome and time consuming and requires repeated maintenance.
One of the main issues that this industry often faces is the serious lack of trained manpower. Most of them are rectifying this. Victaulic has opened a piping innovation zone at its operational facility in Pune. The training and demonstration area offers contractors, engineers and project managers the opportunity to learn about the latest pipe joining technologies.
Visitors can experience the different potential stages in piping system assembly including prefabrication, use of pipe grooving tools, assembly of couplings as well as use of press-fit systems, through to pressurisation and proper testing of their work. They will also learn about disassembly and retrofits.
Supreme Industries has set up a state-of-the-art knowledge centre, which works like a gurukul for the plumbing industry. Apart from research, this knowledge centre in the country provides training and hands-on experience for using plastic pipes and fittings.
The company has tied up with International Association of Plumbing (IAP), IAPMO and imparts training in line with Uniform Plumbing Code (UPC). The Uniform Plumbing Code-India (UPC-I) is a comprehensive document covering every aspect of plumbing installations. UPC-I with its accompanying publication – The Illustrated Training Manual – offers nearly 1,000 pages of specifications, drawings, charts and tables. UPC-I supplements information available in the NBC. The parent document, UPC, has been in publication for over 75 years and is implemented by lawin most parts of the US and several other countries. A code committee formed by IPA, comprising some known experts from the Indian plumbing industry edited and modified UPC to create UPC-I.
Some of the other problems are lack of any government legislation to monitor standards. While most of our cities have strict regulations for fire protection and electrical installations, none exist for plumbing. Continued neglect over the years has resulted in our industry being far behind the high standards adopted by the developed countries in every aspect of the trade – whether it is quality of products used, codes and standards implemented or construction practices adopted.
The Indian Plumbing Association has been playing very important role in sensitising the industry about the green practice. Green plumbing practices are being implemented as part of the overall concept of green buildings which is propagated by the Indian Green Building Council (IGBC). The IGBC criteria for green buildings have water Efficiency as an integral part. Requirements include water efficient landscaping, water efficient air-conditioning system, innovative waste water technologies and water use reduction by usage of low flow fixtures and faucets.