For Kitec (A) and REHAU (B)
A. Kitec Update
After a 6-month wait for what to do about obtaining a proper plumbing repair, Pulte finally came to the KITEC rescue. Regrettably, Pulte’s announcement came too late for the tens of hundreds of homeowners who rushed and acted prematurely in seeking a PEX solution that was promoted by Pulte, mostly out of anxiety to do something and not realizing that the something they contracted for would most likely mean a repeat of the same plumbing problem down the line as dezincification begins to take hold of those new yellow brass fittings for the second time.
In June 2007, Pulte came forward with a repair protocol that for the first time defined to Sun City homeowners what a proper plumbing repair should consist of. No, Pulte did not do this for the 3,000 homeowners who suffered from the KITEC problem. Instead, Pulte came forward to protect those homeowners who have the REHAU plumbing problem. Fortunately, that problem is identical in scope and severity to the dezincification problem facing our KITEC homeowners. In doing so, however, Pulte more clearly and more accurately defined the scope of the plumbing problem needing repair, whether that be KITEC or REHAU.
What is most evident about Pulte’s REHAU Protocol is that in opting for a PEX solution, whatever the homeowner did prior to mid-April 2007 to repair the KITEC problem did little if anything to address the KITEC plumbing problem. That glaring and troubling fact was made even more pronounced with Pulte's June release of the REHAU Protocol. Prior to April, there were no acceptable fittings to use with WIRSBO pipe, and in the case of the VANGUARD plumbing system their standard brass fittings would also be subject to the same dezincification process that affected the KITEC fittings. In April, Wirsbo's new bronze C314 fittings became available. On the other hand, those VANGUARD contractors who, instead, opted for copper fittings in lieu of the standard brass fittings could avoid the dezincification problem altogether—at least insofar as the fittings were concerned.
So what did Pulte say to the REHAU homeowners? While other matters are discussed in the Protocol, Pulte had three very important and significant messages for KITEC homeowners. Each is a critical step in controlling and mitigating the adverse consequences of dezincification and homeowners should heed the implications of Pulte’s message:
- No Brass Fittings. Standard brass fittings must be replaced with fittings that either do not dezincify or are designed to inhibit dezincification. In the case of the REHAU plumbing system (and WIRSBO) that means, according to Pulte, using Wirsbo’s C31400 Commercial bronze fittings. In the case of VANGUARD, that means using copper fittings. Standard brass fittings are not designed to withstand the deteriorating forces of dezincification.
- More Head. The existing recirculating Grundfos [webpage Link] pump is not adequately sized to pump water up to the attic and must be replaced. The existing pump is designed for a head range (or height of water) of up to 3½ feet while ceiling height is at least 9-10 feet. [To see the Grundfos pump's performance chart, click here.] As a result, a new pump with a greater head range is required and will be replaced in all REHAU built homes. According to Grundfos, the life of a pump is roughly ten years. Using an inadequately sized pump to send water up to the attic will cause any pump to wear out more quickly. Pulte’s solution for REHAU is to switch to a TACO [webpage Link] company pump (006-BC4-PNP). That pump has a built in check valve and the pump, unlike the Grundfos, can be repaired in the field. The head range of the new TACO pump is up to 9 feet. Both TACO and Grundfos manufacturer pumps with a wide range of water lifting capacities. To view the Specs. for the TACO 006-BC4 pump, Click here. NOTE: The need to replace your existing pump is discussed further in Part 9 of this series of KITEC Updates, published 2 August.
- Ball Valves Must be Bronze. The commonly corroded water heater valves on either side of the recirculating pump must be replaced with BRONZE fittings. Standard brass ball and check valves that are typically used by contractors to repipe your home will corrode as quickly (and be a potential source of clogged pipes in your system) as the valves they are replacing. Pulte has identified a supplier of a bronze ball valve that they will be using in the REHAU repiping. That ball valve is the Danfoss Flomatic [webpage Link] #5308E, Model 601E, ½” Bronze. Since the TACO pump has a built in check valve, there is no need to replace the existing in-line check valve with a bronze check valve. To view the Danfoss ball valve information and spec. sheet, Click here.
There are two additional fitting features to the REHAU plumbing repair Protocol worth mentioning. They are:
- New Angle Stops. Pulte calls for the change out of all angle stops to Brass Craft [webpage Link] angle stops (No. G2CR19 C). Although the reasoning is not specified, the presumption is that Brass Craft angle stops, being chrome plated are better suited at inhibiting dezincification than are the Watts angle stops (which are of unknown quality). For further information and images of the Brass Craft stops, click here.
- New Water Supply Lines. Rather than the use of the more traditional stainless steel flex supply lines at fixtures, Pulte recommends the replacement of those supply lines with an all plastic PEX supply line coupled with a plastic nut. Such lines can resists corrosion that can deteriorate stainless steel braiding.
As an aside, some folks may be interested in the Brass Craft 1/4 turn ball valves that can be used instead of angle stops to use at the fixtures. Click here.
With the obvious array of upgrades a homeowner actually needs to properly repair their KITEC problem, one has to question not merely the adequacy of Pulte's original monetary offer to homeowners but also Pulte's silence in allowing homeowners to move ahead and make costly mistakes with frequently wrong repair judgments they were not qualified to make.
B. REHAU Update
As I read Pulte’s REHAU Protocol, published in June 2007, it appears to be quite through. However, whether by omission or by design, no mention is made concerning the replacement of fittings for:
- REHAU’s fittings that connect to the stub-outs that are attached to other fixtures, although "tub and shower" and "washing machine" fittings are mentioned as well as "angle stops";
- Dishwasher; and
- Ice maker.
While fittings for these other fixture items are presumably covered by the repair, perhaps some further clarification would be helpful.
A critical issue with some REHAU homeowners is the apparent absence of any outside venting in the garage for the gas water heater. According to one Pulte representative, Pulte is aware of the problem and is supposed to take care of this along with the REHAU plumbing problem. But, no mention was made by Pulte in their REHAU Protocol for remediation of this problem. Note that homes with KITEC are understood to have outside vents in their garage.
According to the water heater's manufacturer who was contacted about this issue, they will NOT warranty the water heaters since there is no outside vent in the garage. In the absence of a vent to the outside, and aside from the potential health hazard posed, the water heater will break down at a much faster rate.
Pulte had advised one homeowner to keep their garage open (presumably just a little) so there would be ventilation and to open the door on the water heater. However, doing so is at the owner's risk. For further information, affected homeowners may wish to contact Pulte's Customer Relations Department at 914-4864.
Whether or not this gas and garage venting problem extends to some of the WIRSBO built homes that were completed after the REHAU built homes is unknown at the present time.
Ron Johnson, 13 June 2007