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                 PLUMBING SYSTEMS                   

Consumer Product Safety Commission

Tap Water Scalds

Document #5098


Each year, approximately 3,800 injuries and 34 deaths occur in the home due to scalding from excessively hot tap water. The majority of these accidents involve the elderly and children under the age of five. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) urges all users to lower their water heaters to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. In addition to preventing accidents, this decrease in temperature will conserve energy and save money.

Most adults will suffer third-degree burns if exposed to 150 degree water for two seconds. Burns will also occur with a six-second exposure to 140 degree water or with a thirty second exposure to 130 degree water. Even if the temperature is 120 degrees, a five minute exposure could result in third-degree burns.

Various procedures for lowering water temperature in the home exist, depending on the method of heating. Here are some suggestions:

Electric water heaters. Call your local electric company to adjust the thermostat. Some companies offer this service at no-charge. Hot water should not be used for at least two hours prior to setting. To make the adjustment yourself, start by shutting off current to the water heater, then turn off the circuit breaker to the heater or remove the fuse that serves the heater. Most electric water heaters have two thermostats, both of which must be set to a common temperature for proper operation. To reach these thermostats you must remove the upper and lower access panels. Adjust the thermostat following the instructions provided with the appliance. Hold a candy or meat thermometer under the faucet to check water temperature.
Gas water heaters. Because thermostats differ, call your local gas company for instructions. Where precise temperatures are not given, hold a candy or meat thermometer under faucet for most accurate reading first thing in the morning or at least two hours after water use. If reading is too high, adjust thermostat on heater, according to manufacturers instructions, and check again with thermometer.

Furnace heater. If you do not have an electric, gas, or oil-fired water heater, you probably have an on-line hot water system. Contact your fuel supplier to have the temperature lowered. If you live in an apartment, contact the building manager to discuss possible options for lowering your tap water temperature. Reducing water temperature will not affect the heating capacity of the furnace.

The CPSC notes that a thermostat setting of 120 degrees Fahrenheit (49 degrees Celsius) may be necessary for residential water heaters to reduce or eliminate the risk of most tap water scald injuries. Consumers should consider lowering the thermostat to the lowest settings that will satisfy hot water needs for all clothing and dish washing machines.

Never take hot water temperature for granted. Always hand-test before using, especially when bathing children and infants. Leaving a child unsupervised in the bathroom, even if only for a second, could cause serious injuries. Your presence at all times is the best defense against accidents and scaldings to infants and young children.

 


This document is in the public domain. It may be reproduced without change in part or whole by an individual or organization without permission. If it is reproduced, however, the Commission would appreciate knowing how it is used. Write the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, Office of Information and Public Affairs, 4330 East West Highway, Bethesda, MD 20814 or send an e-mail to info@cpsc.gov.

 

   POLYBUTYLENE PIPING:

 

WHAT IS POLYBUTYLENE PIPE?

PolyButylene is a form of plastic resin that was used extensively in the manufacture of water supply piping from 1978 until 1995. Due to the low cost of the material and ease of installation, PolyButylene piping systems were viewed as "the pipe of the future" and were used as a substitute for traditional copper piping. It is most commonly found in the "Sun Belt" where residential construction was heavy through the 1980's and early-to-mid 90's, but it is also very common in the Mid Atlantic and Northwest Pacific states.
These are typically gray or white in color with a dull finish. Most are shown with pipe attached. Figure (4) is a new fitting.
The piping systems were used for underground water mains and as interior water distribution piping. Industry experts believe it was installed in at least 6 million homes, and some experts indicate it may have been used in as many as 10 million homes. Most probably, the piping was installed in about one in every four or five homes built during the years in which the pipe was manufactured.

How to Tell If You Have Poly
Exterior - PolyButylene underground water mains are usually blue, but may be gray or black (do not confuse black poly with polyethylene pipe). It is usually 1/2" or 1" in diameter, and it may be found entering your home through the basement wall or floor, concrete slab or coming up through your crawlspace; frequently it enters the home near the water heater. Your main shutoff valve is attached to the end of the water main. Also, you should check at the water meter that is located at the street, near the city water main. It is wise to check at both ends of the pipe because we have found cases where copper pipe enters the home, and poly pipe is at the water meter. Obviously, both pipes were used and connected somewhere underground.

Interior - PolyButylene used inside your home can be found near the water heater, running across the ceiling in unfinished basements, and coming out of the walls to feed sinks and toilets. Warning: In some regions of the country plumbers used copper "stub outs" where the pipe exits a wall to feed a fixture, so seeing copper here does not mean that you do not have poly.

See the photos below of PolyButylene pipes and fittings.

Will the Pipes Fail?
While scientific evidence is scarce, it is believed that oxidants in the public water supplies, such as chlorine, react with the PolyButylene piping and acetal fittings causing them to scale and flake and become brittle. Micro-fractures result, and the basic structural integrity of the system is reduced. Thus, the system becomes weak and may fail without warning causing damage to the building structure and personal property. It is believed that other factors may also contribute to the failure of PolyButylene systems, such as improper installation, but it is virtually impossible to detect installation problems throughout an entire system.

Throughout the 1980's lawsuits were filed complaining of allegedly defective manufacturing and defective installation causing hundreds of millions of dollars in damages. Although the manufacturers have never admitted that poly is defective, they have agreed to fund the Class Action settlement with an initial and minimum amount of $950 million. You'll have to contact the appropriate settlement claim company to find out if you qualify under this settlement.

 

"A series of reports have suggested that increased use of chloramines accelerates corrosion and degradation of some metals and elastomers common to distribution plumbing and appurtenances.

With regard to elastomers, the study showed that with few exceptions, solutions of chloramines (either monochloramine or dichloramine) produced greater material swelling, deeper and more dense surface cracking, a more rapid loss of elasticity, and greater loss of tensile strength than equivalent concentrations of free chlorine."
----Steven Reiber, HDR Engineering, American Water Works Association Research Foundation

Polybutylene Pipes and Insert Fittings
 
Valves- Typically found under sinks and toilets.
Adapters- Typically used to connect PolyButylene pipe to fixtures.
Other fittings.
Manufactured Manifolds.
A riser (22) is a pipe running from sink, toilet, or other fixture to a valve. Pipe may be white PVC (23), black polyethylene (24), cream CPVC (25), or gray PolyButylene pipe marked "PB 2110 M" (26).
PolyButylene Plumbing System: PolyButylene pipe with plastic or metal fittings
PolyButylene Yard Service Line: PolyButylene pipe utilizing any kind of fitting
 
These are typically gray or white in color with a dull finish. Most are shown with pipe attached. Figure (4) is a new fitting.
Metal Insert Fittings- These are typically made of copper or brass. New fittings are shown in (11, 12).
PolyButylene Pipe- Yard Service Line is typically blue (13), gray (14), or black (15). Inside Pipe is typically gray (14) or Black (15).

 



 

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