Polybutylene was used for many years as piping for plumbing systems inside of residential homes. It was manufactured between 1978 and 1994, and popular because of its astonishing benefits which included:
The Cause of Polybutylene Failures
The University of Illinois at Chicago conducted two studies regarding polybutylene failure which showed that disinfectants used during the water treatment process were the main cause of the problems. These disinfectants causes the material to flake away at various locations within the plumbing system which can result in catastrophic pipe leaks. More than $1 billion dollars in lawsuits have been paid to homeowners who had polybutylene installed and experienced a malfunction; however, these settlements have since expired and homeowners with PB piping are now faced with the costs of repairs or replacement.
Remove Polybutylene Pipes Immediately
Currently, no federal regulations are in place that require the replacement of PB pipes; however, it is highly recommend that you take action immediately to avoid potential leaks and major water damage. In addition, some insurance companies will not even insure the home if PB piping is present.
How to Determine if Polybutylene Piping is in your Home
PB pipes can be identified by the following characteristics:
If you suspect you might have PB piping, contact a qualified Home Inspector to evaluate your plumbing system.
What is an expansion tank?
An expansion tank is a metal tank connected to a building’s water heating appliance designed to accommodate fluctuations in the volume of a building’s hot water supply system. These fluctuations occur because water expands in volume as it gets hot and loses volume as it cools.
Expanding water volume in a closed system can create dangerously high water pressure. As water is forced into the tank by expansion, it compresses air contained inside of a rubber bladder. Air is used as a cushion because it exerts less force on its container than water, which cannot be compressed.
The function of this bladder is to prevent air from becoming absorbed into the water, a process that could cause the expansion tank to lose its ability to act as a sort of shock absorber. If, over time, the bladder begins to leak some air, a Schrader valve, identical to the fill valve found on bicycle and car tires, can be used to add more air.
What does it look like, inside and out?
Expansion tanks are considerably smaller than water heaters, usually holding about two gallons in residential systems, although tank sizes vary in relation to the water volume of the hot water supply system they serve. The design pressure for which a tank is rated is marked on a label on the tank, commonly 150 pounds per square inch (PSI) for a residential tank.
Not a Substitute for a Temperature Pressure Relief (TPR) Valve
If water heater controls fail and pressure in the system exceeds 150 PSI, or temperature exceeds 210° F, a temperature and pressure relief valve (TPR valve) installed on the side of the water heater tank will open, safely discharging water from the system. TPR valves are capable of reducing water pressure at a rate greater than the capacity of the water heater to raise it, thus eliminating the possibility that water will become superheated (greater than 212 degrees) and pose a serious threat. The importance of this valve cannot be overstated, and it is crucial that it is examined periodically for rust or corrosion, and the release lever should be exercised monthly by the homeowner.
If a TPR valve fails to operate when it’s needed, the result can be catastrophic. Pressure will continue to build in the water heater tank as water temperature rises past the boiling point and water becomes superheated. Eventually, pressure in the tank will exceed the ability of the weakest part of the water heater to contain it and the tank will rupture, exposing the superheated water to air and causing an instantaneous and explosive expansion of steam. This situation can propel the water heater like a rocket or make it explode like a bomb, causing extensive property damage, personal injury or death.