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WHAT IS KITEC

Kitec is a plumbing system  that was manufactured by a Canadian corporation named IPEX sold in the  United States until IPEX discontinued the product line in 2007.   Kitec became a popular alternative to copper in the mid-1990’s due  to its inexpensive cost and simple installation. IPEX marketed Kitec  as a rugged, corrosion-resistant alternative to copper that would hold  up under aggressive water conditions.

The Kitec plumbing system consists  of both pipe and fittings. Kitec water pipe was manufactured as a composite  cross-linked polyethylene (“PEX”) and aluminum (“AL”) pipe,  whereby a thin, flexible aluminum layer was “sandwiched” between  inner and outer layers of PEX plastic.  Thus, Kitec water pipe  was commonly referred to as “PEX-AL-PEX” pipe. Kitec pipe and fittings  were connected together using either a crimped aluminum or copper ring  or a compression fitting using a locking nut and split ring.

THE PROBLEM WITH KITEC

In 2005, Kitec fittings became  the subject of a state class action lawsuit filed against IPEX in Clark  County, Nevada. Kitec fittings were for the most part made of brass,  which is mainly composed of copper and zinc. The Clark County lawsuit  alleged that Kitec fittings failed because of a chemical reaction called  dezincification. As alleged in the Clark County lawsuit, when hot and/or  “aggressive” water flowed through the brass fittings, the zinc leached  out of the fittings, thereby weakening the structural integrity of the  brass and, ultimately, causing failure in the fittings.

The Clark County lawsuit only  concerned Kitec fitting failures occurring in that jurisdiction, and  did not concern Kitec piping product, or Kitec fitting failures occurring  outside of Clark County, Nevada.  However, failures of Kitec hot  water pipe and fittings have been reported across the United States,  prompting the filing of multiple federal nationwide class action lawsuits  and investigations concerning the manufacturing process and composition  of Kitec hot water pipe. During the Kitec hot water pipe manufacturing  process, IPEX added an “antioxidant” to the PEX, which is a product  intended to prevent the PEX from quickly corroding under the effects  of light, oxygen, heat, and water exposure. In the case of Kitec hot  water pipe, it appears that the antioxidant is rapidly depleting from  the PEX, resulting in separation of the PEX-AL-PEX layers, corrosion  of the PEX and the aluminum core and, ultimately, premature failure  of the pipe.

WILL KITEC REALLY FAIL

A flood is one of the most  disastrous events that can occur to a home, given the damage that invasive  water can do to a home’s structure, appliances and furniture.   There have been numerous failures of Kitec fittings and piping components  reported across the United States, often resulting in severe damages  to homeowners (see map of affected states, below). Given the available  failure data, it is perhaps not a matter of if your Kitec Plumbing  System will fail, but when.

HOW DO I KNOW IF MY HOME  HAS KITEC

Identification of Kitec plumbing  should be performed by a qualified plumber.

IPEX manufactured Kitec pipe  in two primary colors for the interior of a home: blue for the cold  water side and orange for the hot water side. A typical sample length  of Kitec pipe prominently displays that it was manufactured by IPEX  in Canada, along with its pressure rating and other information (see  sample photographs of Kitec hot water pipe, below). Kitec fittings are  likewise prominently stamped with “Kitec” and the place of manufacture  on the obverse side of the fitting, (often Taiwan, as shown in the sample  photographs, below) and rating agency information on the inverse side.

Contractors who plumbed homes  with nonmetallic plumbing systems often affixed yellow stickers to warn  electricians not to ground the electricity near the nonmetallic plumbing  system. Homes that were plumbed with Kitec may have a yellow sticker  inside the electrical panel box or on their boiler (see sample photograph,  below). If you find this sticker in your electrical panel box or on  your boiler, it is likely that your home is plumbed with Kitec  or another nonmetallic plumbing system. You should only open your electrical  panel box if you have experience with its safe use.

The proper way to determine  whether your home has a Kitec plumbing system is to have a qualified  plumber inspect your home. In many cases it may be necessary to make  drywall penetrations to determine what type of plumbing is installed.

By Natalia on April 2, 2010 |

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