‘Breaker boxes’ for water now common

Local plumbers are sold on a new type circuit system for water that seems to modernize its use just like breaker boxes improved electrical use in the home over old fuse boxes.

It’s called Manabloc, or modular manifold plumbing system, and it’s manufactured by Vanguard Piping Systems, Inc., in McPherson.

Rather than route water lines indpendently through a home to fixtures, the Mannabloc first routes them through a distribution box with individual labeled shut-off valves for each line.

Shane Marlar, who is a plumber with Jost Plumbing, said this means a valve can be turned on or shut off for each line in the house without disrupting water flow to other parts.

Marlar said, “It gives a nice, even flow with the water moving in really fast. We use it, and recommend it as often as we can, and the people really like it.”

Merle Flaming of Flaming’s Inc., Heating and Air Conditioning, added that the continuous PEX tubing pipe that goes with the system “eliminates any joints in the walls if it’s done right.

“It gives an even water flow pressure with the continuous piping-the only openings are at each end. It keeps the water warmer with plastic too, rather than steel.”

Marlar and Flaming said they use the Manabloc nearly exclusively for new homes, and in many older homes, too.

Flaming said in new construction, they tend to depart from Manabloc only in commercial development that requires larger dimension piping.

DuWayne Suffield with Suffield Heating, Cooling and Plumbing, said, “We put it on nearly every new house we do, on a lot of remodeling jobs, and sometimes on older homes a majority of the time if the walls are open so we can find a way to push it through.

“Later on if there’s a leak in a sink or a toilet, you can isolate it without shutting down the whole house. By code you have to have shutoffs on some things, but that’s not necessarily normal on showers. With this, you have it everywhere.

“On showers and other fixtures you have pressure equalized so if you’re using one, you’re not reducing pressure on the other one.

“You’re also not stealing hot water from the same line so you have better hot water distribution.

“It is more expensive than plain plastic, but labor-wise it’s much quicker, and that helps keep the price down putting it in. Everything is going up, so anytime you can keep labor costs down to keep costs in line with where it was a year ago, it’s a plus.

“It’s not the same stuff as the former poly pipe that sprung leaks, and caused lawsuits. It can take freezing more than other pipe can because it can expand more without breaking. Some plumbers use this pipe in places where pipes have been freezing because if it does freeze, it

doesn’t break so easily.”

Suffield said eliminating any elbow joints was a big positive step with the system.

All three plumbers liked the way water pressure is equalized throughout a home. For instance, persons showering in different parts of a home notice no reductions in pressure due to each other’s usage.

Vanguard confirms Suffield’s observations about freezing, saying the PEX tubing is being used in places like the Alaskan market where copper fittings don’t work as well.

The tubing can be pulled through walls similar to the way electricians pull wiring with a barbed crimp system to attach fixtures rather than sweating copper joints.

Vanguard said the Manabloc is molded from polysulfone plastic used extensively in the medical industry for its resistence to hot water, chlorine and other chemicals. The manifold sections are sealed with high-grade O-rings, and contained by six metal tie rods adjusted for tension.

Other plastic components are engineered for each specific purpose, Vanguard said.

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