Point to point shows the way forward

A brief history

This subject is not new. Point to point plumbing is not an original idea, and Emmeti UK is not the first to advocate it. It has been with us for a long time, as long ago as the rather disastrous usage in the 1970’s and 80’s, with small bore copper pipe systems for wall hung heating. It is good to know that things have moved on, and what is available today in the open market is quite different.

In recent times, the market has seen some experienced, competent installers making good use of the wide range of manufacturers who make capable, sensibly priced solutions. The sea change in systems is primarily to do with the large growth in the use of plastic pipe in modern domestic house construction, 10mm, 15mm and 22mm sizes.

What is point to point plumbing?

For those of you who aren’t familiar with this, a brief explanation of this terminology will help. It describes a method of installation, which amounts to a change in the working practices of M&E Installers. This is an important point – it is about doing thing differently, and not simply using new products.

Point to point plumbing applies to both plumbing and heating installations. It is about how you install the pipework, from A to B, where A is the heat source, hot water storage (or mains cold water), and B is the point of use, whether it is a bathroom tap or a wall hung radiator.

The key additional product is the manifold.

Ring circuits versus star systems

star plumbing circuit

star plumbing circuit

ring plumbing circuit

ring plumbing circuit

The diagrams shown here visually show the difference. The change in working practice flows from this decision to change the layout of the pipework. The outcome is the virtual elimination of tees and elbows, installing the pipe in such a way that between point A and point B there are no joints – point to point plumbing.

The pros and cons
In its simplest form, its strength is in eliminating the vast majority of joints – reducing the number of joints by as much as 70%. The outcome is a greatly reduced chance of leakage. Depending on the manifold, by adding more and more features to it, it becomes extremely useful in system commissioning, management and maintenance. These more advanced features are not covered here.

The weakness is that it requires the application of new installation techniques, with the inherent risks of getting it wrong. This is generally through poor design layout or installation planning, where you end up using too much pipe, and being forced to use additional tees and elbows. The result is more joints, and longer pipe runs than you planned.

The location of the manifold can be difficult, compromising the advantages. Again this is a function of the original house design, not being addressed during the design development phase.

Selling the advantages to your customer can be complicated – why should he pay what he perceives as more money for the same outcome? We will try to answer some of these questions later.

Why should I do this?
Because once you have completed the learning curve, it’s faster and easier – first fix, second fix, commissioning, trouble shooting and maintenance are all made easier and faster.

Because one of the known problems in modern new house-build installations is leaks. By using this technique, you reduce the chances of it happening, and limit the points at which it can happen to the point of use (usually accessible), and the manifold (which needs to be made accessible).

How do I do this?
Planning ahead, and expecting to have to learn – possibly you won’t get it right first time, but soon after it will become second nature.

Does it cost more overall?
No it doesn’t. At worst it is cost neutral, and at best it saves you money. But the installer perceives it as costing more. Why is that? Firstly, you start by seeing a new additional cost – the manifold and its accessories, and clearly, you use more pipe. So how about widening your perception, and changing how you view your costs:

Who pays for making good leaks and paying for any damage caused by them?
Generally, the responsibility for leaks falls on the installer. It is he who receives the call from the developer or main contractor, and it is he who has to make good the site. This cost is normally incurred sometime later, and is not generally attached to the project costs – it is not taken off the profit you made on that job. Imagine if you did this – how many jobs would have made a loss?

Who gains the advantages of this system?
All parties do, but the primary benefit is the installers. It is the installers whose call out costs plummet, and it is the installer whose on site time goes down. The developer gets no irate home owners, and the landlord gets reduced maintenance costs.

An insurance policy

Some experienced installers using this system have described it as having an insurance policy per site – the additional materials cost per home is like an investment in ensuring you get no call backs.

Where are the material savings?
When costing up the two methods, you of course need to subtract the elbow and tees from the bill of materials, offsetting these against the addition of the manifold and the increased metreage of pipe.

Overall, it still costs more in material terms than a conventional ring system, but of course this doesn’t take into account the virtual elimination of leaks and call backs, as well as reduced installer time.

Further savings can be made by a more experienced installer – In a plumbing system you start using 10mm pipe instead of 15mm, and 15mm instead of 22mm pipe. It is now practical to run 10mm plastic pipe to a hand basin, rather than 15mm. With modern high pressure hot and cold plumbing systems, this delivers more than adequate flow. For bath filling, it is now acceptable to use 15mm pipe for the same reason.

Installation costs for this system are higher?
They are certainly perceived as that, with more pipe to lay. But with the reduction in joints, once the learning curve is overcome, installing becomes quicker and easier. Some Installers using this technique claim up to a 40% reduction in the time it takes to install.

How can it save time when you are laying more pipe?
With good on site planning, the laying of the pipe, and understanding the curvature radius of the pipe becomes faster and more efficient. It is a bit like route planning for a journey – laying pipe from A to B with some idea of where the nasty bottlenecks can be, avoiding them and sticking to Motorways or A-roads means a longer journey in miles can take considerably less time.

Once you have taught your on site installers how to leave enough space through the flooring for the pipe radius to turn without stressing, kinking or distorting the pipe, installing speeds up. Small tricks help, like drilling through walls and flooring joists at an angle help considerably.

So what now?
Why don’t you try doing one house like this? This is a proven method, so the risk is limited. Cost up using both methods. One house will show you what it is all about. You won’t get the installer time savings until your on site team have done a few, but you will certainly get a feel for it, and understand better whether this evolution in pipe installations is for you and your organisation.

If you are interested, Emmeti UK has a CIPHE approved CPD course on this subject. We would be happy to provide you with more information.

So what next?
If your early trials prove enough of a success for you, you can then start looking at the system performance benefits this method can bring. These are a story for another article.

For more information please contact the office on 01993 824900.

Download PDF Point to Point plumbing

Point to point shows the way forward Ranges