Practical Plumbing 101

When we first started devising and revising the plan for this house, it seemed logical to locate all the plumbing elements in one area to save money.  In practical terms, this lead us to locate the upper and lower bathrooms more or less directly on top of each other, with the kitchen and laundry facilities in the same end of the house.  This way no large drains or supply plumbing needed to be run long distances.

All of the lower drains are located under the concrete slab – they were installed back in February.  This weekend, with the help of my brother-in-law, the upper floor drains, drain-water heat recovery stack and all venting were installed.

Here is a shot of the drain-water heat recovery unit – it is basically a counter-flow heat exchanger of the same sort used by serious beer home-brewers (I have one for that purpose).   Your hot-water supply line runs up the drain as hot shower water runs down the drain, as it circulated around the 3″ copper drain pipe the heat is transfered and it recovers about 68% of the heat from the shower waste water, thereby raising the input temperature of the supply water before it goes to the heater – it therefore takes less energy to heat the water.

 Here is a shot of Matthew trying to figure out how on earth we were going to get 12′ of 3″ drain installed within floor joists spaced 22.5″ apart …

Working in the dark with headlamps (not recommended, by the way)

Here are some shots of the pex supply lines that Rachel and I installed last weekend.   Whoever says the romance is gone after 20 years has never worked with pex before!


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3 Responses to Practical Plumbing 101

  1. Don says:

    Hey John,

    Loving the blog.

    How are you heating your hot water? Would the method you use to heat the water (electrical, propane, natural gas) change your opinion on installing a DWHR unit?
    I’m wondering about a the DWHR unit in our reno project when it’s being heated by natural gas.


    • JS says:

      Hi Don – we’re installing a Noritz 411 high efficiency tankless heater. Seems the jury is still out on whether tankless is cost effective – see for discussion of this. This may be especially so if you have access to natural gas – which we do not.

      One thing I like about them is that you have 0 standing heat loss, whereas with a 30-50 gallon tank system, the heater is keeping 30-50 gallons of water at a certain temp all of the time, despite usage in morning and evening only, in general.

      In our case, we are using the heater for 2 purposes: 1. to heat our domestic water, and 2. to heat our radiant floors using a heat-exchanger. With radiant floors you need a pretty big water tank to ensure heating capacity – generally 50-60 gallons – and I could not live with the additional standing heat losses for that system in a house that will likely require little or no additional heat beyond the woodstove. So we chose tankless to address this issue and believe that overall, our energy costs will be very low. We’ve also chosen higher-end, low-flow shower heads to reduce energy usage.

      Give me a call any time if you have more questions – I’d be happy to take you through my thinking.

  2. JS says:

    This blog site excised my reference to the diwscussion link – see greenbuildingadvisorDOTcom.

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