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Whoa, whata month it’s been. Fires and floods and hurricanes. Pete the Plumber is back in his winter abode, in the parched dry mountains of Northern California. Could go up in smoke at any time. (A lightening strike, a car or truck back-firing, or a weed eater/lawnmower incident and I’m headed for the door, with my birth certificate, SS Card, passport and my new boots.) Why can I be so cavalier? I’m single with no pets; a renter; not a clutter bug, and have good insurance. I hear they can always use a good plumber in Pago-Pago anyway…
It’s more than ironic that this post is a topic which I mention in my book, and as I wrote it almost two years ago, has come to pass, in spades. At the bottom of my site’s opening page I had referred the reader to my story: Me And Angie. My obsession with water flow, both as plumber and CFD fireman, got the better of me and I lectured the reader about the importance of having a generous sill cock/hose bib supply, for this very contingency. When alloy car wheels melt like wax in spite of your best efforts there is little one can say. However, from reads and video Pete the Plumber saw many instances where if dwellings had been plumbed as he suggests in the book, he believes many could have been saved from fire.
During the Oakland, CA Fire Storm of October, 1991, 2,843 single family homes and 437 Apartment/Condominiums were destroyed. (Kept my nose to the stone for years afterwards.) One development, right gob-smack in the middle of the burn, was left standing. Why? It was a very new collection of high dollar custom homes and condos. The project had one developer, who owned all the land, and dictated that every structure was exteriorly sprinkled. The evacuated neighborhood returned to perfectly intact housing, on a moonscape. No one lost anything.
It so happens I had written a post on valve packing and packings, for this time at bat, but because we’re not outta the woods yet with fire concerns I decided to bring attention, once again, to my favorite sill cock. Pictured (Photo 1) is American Valve Company’s ¾ in. bent-nose ball-valve, hose cock. It is this plumber’s hunch that if you had supplied your home with a one-in. (long bends), full-circuit, 65 PSI or higher (up to 80 psi.) cock/hydrant supply, serving four or more American M74QT’s, feeding one-in. I.D. quality ‘contractor’s’ RUBBER hoses, powering sprinkling devices from the roof and grounds, you’d a probably been feeling quite magnanimous as you cut the next check to the water company. (You can slide a good Cuba into one of these.)
On my CFD assigned Mack pumper, right behind the cab, topside, were two large hose reels. One reel contained high pressure 1 in. I.D. and it’s twin, a high pressure 1 &1/2 in. I.D., both layered, cord reinforced, RUBBER hoses. Yes, even the one-inch is much larger and understandably heavier than the typical, cheap, vinyl, 5/8 in. (usually with kinks) residential garden hose. But you don’t hunt Kodiaks with a 22 caliber. As described in the book, the M74QT, supplying one-inch I.D. rubber, hosted by the Coxreels.com models suggested, is comfortable beef to withstand the duty. This is due to the construction quality of all involved. Notice (Photo 2) the cock’s large, notched-flanged base. This is a “sill” flange, meant to be firmly anchored to the sill or wall.
Adrenaline has a dramatic effect on your musculature. If you have one of these mentioned hoses attached to a sleaze bag ½ in. compression hose bib on Type M copper, you could be so charged-up yourself that you rip the bib with some pipe attached right outta and off the structure. No laugh. It’s been done. But no worries with the properly secured QT’s. From steam plumbing days Pete the Plumber has embraced ‘beef’ brass and stainless steel fasteners. And the QT’s flanges stay put. Permanently. No loosening, rusted hardware either with SS & Brass. Depending upon your winter conditions, these hydrants can be freeze protected with quality insulated armoring (rigid foam/insulated fabric) devices available on the net or at your local plumbing supplies.
Another design aspect that I like about the QT is it’s squat profile. (Photo 2). The closer the hose connection is to the building the better. I did not have a ¾ in. FIP QT the night I shot art for the book so I used an Champion ½ in. male ball-valve cock just to demonstrate the anchoring process. It was a quality valve but not my first choice way of doing things. Look at what a beef passage looks like: (Photo 3 and 4). Aside from the Champion being only a ½-in. valve, my concern was how far it projected from the wall. The longer, the more prone to leverage.
If you’re building a house or doing a major remodel, you’re already spending so many bucks that PtP feels it’s foolishness not to carry through with the comparatively cheap insurance of one-inch supply for four or five QT’s, serving quality, one- in. I.D cord-reinforced, rubber hose, hosted on the reels suggested. For the life of the structure and possibly your own it’s a small price for insurance and some piece of mind to boot.
PtP lived in the back woods for a spell on the Trinity River and plumbed, in copper, a roof sprinkler system supplied by a Honda high-pressure fire pump which sat sixty-feet below the cliff, at the river. I could and did start the pump and evacuated twice when blazes got too close for comfort. Into the kayak and down river with a wet towel on my head. Eves and soffits, though, are the Achilles’ Heel for structures that have them. (Some properly spec’d insulation with cladding over, is another money-best-spent idea.)
One last note. Firemen don’t leave their rolling stock parked outside in daylight any longer than necessary. Sunlight on rubber for long periods, be it tires or hoses, is not a good idea. If you are a bloke who decides to make this sound investment in plan and equipment, the author highly recommends that you purchase drape-over hose reel covers and underwrite this foresight. Coxreel should be able to steer you to a supplier of covers. And I guarantee you, no matter how much more your neighbors spent for their houses, with these (Photos 1 and 4), and Coxreel, you could cause someone an itch.”
An Afterthought : I wish American Valve would offer an up-grade (M74QTSSHN ?) of stainless steel handle and acorn nut for coastal installations.
Ohhh, for all of you who suffer hard water. My sincerest sympathies. Pete the Plumber lives where he can still put his face in crystal creeks and drink his fill, with no worries. But 85 percent of the US has hard (>121MG/L) water, and I do have a good buddy living fifty-miles over the mountain, who’s stuck with (‘hard-on-the-nose’), very over-mineralized deep-well water.
Attending a trade show recently, one of the exhibits was something that really caught my eye. I immediately thought of my buddy, for he has gone through numerous water softeners. On a display table was what you are looking at, the Housetron, by Fluid Dynamics USA. It is a conditioner that functions catalytically without electricity, moving parts or salts. (Basically it’s a stainless steel pipe with a special catalytic ‘corkscrew’ run down the center). The pipe has NPT (National Pipe Thread) male ends. It being stainless steel, no dialectic unions/couplings are required for installation with steel or copper pipe.
With a Housetron installed on the main service, my friend could kiss good bye the electrical-salt expense of operating traditional softeners. Even if he wanted to keep his softeners, the Housetron would greatly reduce the cost of salt and cycling frequency.
For the worst case hard water situation what I foresee is maybe two of them, joined with a brass union and also unions at both ends. Used in conjunction with an up-stream and down-stream isolating ball valve, the system could be opened up and the Housetrons removed, (if needed) cleaned, and put back in service very quickly, without having to shut off mains or pumps.
Peter Hemp is a San Francisco East Bay residential plumber and plumbing author and former R & D steam vehicle plumber. His hobbies are ocean kayaking and touring the Left Coast by bicycle.