Building Inspector and Powerpipe Drain Water Heat Recovery
Last Post 04 Apr 2011 08:06 AM by joe.ami. 42 Replies.
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MikeathomeUser is Offline
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16 Jan 2011 11:52 AM
I need some help here with a MAJOR problem I am having with a building inspectors find and wanted to know if anyone else has run into the same problem and found a solution.

I just finished my DIY project which includes renovating the bathroom, replacing the old water tank with a more energy efficient tank and I ventured towards purchasing and installing a drain water heat recovery unit, the Powerpipe.
The building inspector will not certify my job because the Powerpipe does not comply to the building and plumbing code.

Here is what I was told by the building inspector who will not authorize my renovations.
- The Powerpipe's UL certification is not for potable water.
- The inspector told me that  the drain water heat recovery unit has to be ASTMB88 (potable water tubing) and ASTM306 (Drain pipe) certified.
- The problem with the Powerpipe is that the header that distributes the water to the coils has not been certified to ASTM B88 and is not NSF61 as per the requirements of the plumbing code.

I have 30 days to comply with the ruling or remove the unit and send it back to where I purchased it. After further investigation, it turns out that I am not the only one who has faced this problem.

Please Help! I have 4 weeks left before I have to scrap this project.

P.S. I found some information regarding drain water heat recovery code compliance on the gfxtechnology.com website and on the dwhrma.com website.

I HAVE ATTACHED A PICTURE OF WHAT THE PROBLEM IS....

Thanks for your help!!
Mike

Attachment: Powerpipe1212.jpg

kenoraUser is Offline
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16 Jan 2011 12:32 PM
Where are you located?

and..

I can't see any pictures :(


MikeathomeUser is Offline
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16 Jan 2011 01:25 PM
New at this...I added an attachment to my posting and I am located in Michigan.

I am trying to place picture as attachment again...the problem is the header where the smaller pipes are brazed onto and then is distributed to the 3/4" copper.

Mike

Attachment: Powerpipe1212.jpg

MikeathomeUser is Offline
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16 Jan 2011 01:32 PM
Another try.....
Here is the problem........
Powerpipe does not conform to plumbing code according to building inspector, UL cert does not apply to potable water, drain water heat recovery or anything to do with plumbing. I may have to go with another manufacture like gfxtechnology, watercycles, Ecogfx or thermodrain.

Attachment: Powerpipe1212.jpg

vkykamUser is Offline
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16 Jan 2011 02:08 PM
I can't speak for what the code is in Michigan, but in Ontario (where Renewability is located I believe) I'm pretty sure it must be, since they're part of a program offered by Enbridge (local gas utility) where new home builders are subsidized for the installation of the Powerpipe.  We just had ours installed at almost no cost (we had to pay the upcharge from 4' to 5'), and I can't imagine that it's not to our local building code if the local utility is behind it.  But the Ontario or the Canadian building code is different than the US...

Perhaps you can try to work your way up your building department to see if the higher up's might have a different opinion?

From a design perspective, I like the Powerpipe over the others because of that connection you're pointing out.  They've essentially soldered 4 pipes together to go around the drain stack, so much less potential pressure loss.

Victor
www.ecobuilthome.ca
A 4350sqft Net Zero Energy initiative


MikeathomeUser is Offline
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16 Jan 2011 07:13 PM
Victor,
Thank you for responding.

After a weekend of internet research I think that my building inspector may be onto something and that the Powerpipe does not in conformance with the US or Canadian building code or with the UPC (universal plumbing code).

Victor, could you please talk to someone in Ontario and ask them about what my inspector found and to see how they get around the NSF61 and ASTMB88 requirements? It sure as hell would save me from pulling out my Powerpipe if I can use the same approach.

Watercycles, ecogfx and especially gfxtechnology websites state they use ASTMB88 and ASTM306 copper.

I found the Ontario building code 2007 online in PDF format and here is what is said regarding drain water heat recovery technology and it appears word for word in our states requirements.

7.2.7. Non-Ferrous Pipe and Fittings
7.2.7.4. Copper Tube
(1) Copper tube in a plumbing system shall,
(a) be certified to ASTM B88, "Seamless Copper Water Tube", or
(b) comply with ASTM B306, "Copper Drainage Tube (DWV)".

Victor, Please get back to me on what you find and how you bypassed the building code so I may do the same!


Thanks!
Mike


vkykamUser is Offline
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16 Jan 2011 09:23 PM
Mike,

I'll ask tomorrow with my rep and see how he responds.

But to be a devil's advocate, if I used standard copper tubing for any plumbing project, how is that "certified"?  I guess from my uneducated perspective, I don't see any difference between this and any copper piping that's been used for pretty much most of the latter part of last century.

Victor
www.ecobuilthome.ca
A 4350sqft Net Zero Energy initiative


Matt GUser is Offline
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16 Jan 2011 09:28 PM
Mike:

One thing that is important to understand that different states adopt different model codes, and sometimes even different counties (or municipalities) within a state may use different codes, or at the very least they may add their own "spin" on things. So, although you cited the UPC understand that it is not at all "Universal".  For example, in my state we use a modified IPC.  Likewise, Canadian providences may likely be under different plumbing codes. So when someone asks a question "what is the code" the answer is always going to be "it depends...".

So to find out what the code is in force in Michigan you need to check with local sources.  Sometimes libraries have copies of code books. 

BTW - new or innovative products that aren't code compliant is not surprising.   Having the necessary testing done isn't inexpensive.  Getting double talk from material mfgs is nothing new either.  I'd say that maybe 50% of the time that I can't find product info via the normal channels (mainly the Internet) and I have to call a mfg I end up getting lip service only.

All that said it sounds like your inspector has done his homework and you are SOL...  To say that most inspectors aren't doing their job is no more than an unsupported accusation at this point.  Further for all you know this Powerpipe company might be well aware of this situation, but obviously they may likely not volunteer that.  Understand that I'm not a BI and like you I am the one concerned with passing inspections.  Being on the cutting edge of building technologies is often a good thing but you can easily find yourself on the bleeding edge...  Sorry dude.


MikeathomeUser is Offline
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16 Jan 2011 11:04 PM
Matt G,
Thank you for your advice!
I think it is pretty obvious why the inspector will not certify my Powerpipe renovation.

- The Powerpipe does not comply with Michigan's and Ontario's building codes for NSF61 or ASTMB88 potable water compliance, therefore no acceptance by the building inspector
- The Powerpipe is only UL certified for a pressure test, not for potable water safety or code compliance.

Why is Powerpipe allowed to sell a product that is not certified for use with potable water in Michigan and Ontario? Am I missing something here?

All I need to do is find the same loop hole that Ontario is using so I can get the inspector to accept my installation.

Still entertaining suggestions.
Thanks!
Mike


MikeathomeUser is Offline
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16 Jan 2011 11:10 PM
Posted By vkykam on 16 Jan 2011 09:23 PM
Mike,

I'll ask tomorrow with my rep and see how he responds.

But to be a devil's advocate, if I used standard copper tubing for any plumbing project, how is that "certified"?  I guess from my uneducated perspective, I don't see any difference between this and any copper piping that's been used for pretty much most of the latter part of last century.

Victor
www.ecobuilthome.ca
A 4350sqft Net Zero Energy initiative

Thank you Victor!
The header in question is the problem. He has no idea what it is and he is not about to guess. That is "my problem" I was told. Guilty until proven innocent as it appears!

Mike


Renewability EnergyUser is Offline
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17 Jan 2011 04:59 PM
Hi Mike,

It is unfortunate to hear about the problems that you have been having, and even more upsetting to hear that you did not receive the assistance that you required when you tried to call.

The point that your building inspector made is simply uneducated, as contrary to Matt's point, he did not do his homework.

The header that manifolds the 4 coils together is made from C12200 and is manufactured according to ASTM B75 with a wall thickness of 0.250 which is actually above the standard ASTM B88 under which the coils and 3/4" connection is manufactured. The DWV pipe is also made to ASTM B306 for reference.

The UL certification that is listed for the Power-Pipe does also verify this based on the approved manufacturing and QC procedures that are followed here at the manufacturing facility. Rest assured, the Power-Pipe is safe for potable water.

In order to help put this issue behind you, please call us again at 877.606.5559 and ask for the technical manager. I should be able to help you with any other concerns that you may have. Also, when calling could you please have the contact information for the building inspector? Or at the very least have him contact me? I would like to ensure that he has a better understanding of the Power-Pipe in an effort to avoid any future issues.

I hope that you have found this helpful and look forward to hearing from you soon.

RenewAbility Energy Inc.


Matt GUser is Offline
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17 Jan 2011 05:24 PM
ASTM B75 is general purpose copper tubing.  ASTM B88 is specifically meant for copper water tubing applications.

From this web page, the bottom of page 1:

"There are a number of times where tubing manufactured to ASTM B 68 and B 75 will meet the dimensional and mechanical requirements of ASTM B 88. The example above is typical. However, there are requirements in ASTM B 88, most notably the marking called out in Section 19, that are not called out in the other specifications. The customer must be certain that the end user and his certification authority will allow the exceptions to the specification before using tubing that is not specifically fabricated to ASTM B 88."


Dana1User is Offline
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17 Jan 2011 06:13 PM
Reads to me like the local inspector maybe did an internet search, read a competitors complaints, and bought into them hook, line & sinker. (Without reading up on what's actually behind the ASTM or UL alphabet-soup, or the history of the claims/counterclaims regarding the intellectual property & patent issues on this type of heat exchanger.) The US & Canada being first-world countries with closely coupled economies and first-world legal systems, I'd prefer that these issues were resolved by the relevant courts rather than web-forum innuendo and web-page assertions putting customers and local inspectors in the middle. Short of chasing or making statements by their detractors in a potentially expensive legal setting, players in this industry seem bent on playing whack-a-mole & trial-by-internet. (Renewability seems to be a popular target for competitors web-smears, likely due to their success at garnering market share, but they're not alone.)

It would seem the offending sub-assembly is instance is in peril of condemnation for lack of a marking-stripe on a section made from more-substantial-tubing than is covered by B88 (but probably necessary, for making the mini-manifold reliable). Is it really that silly (yet that expensive, if the inspector demands it)? Were it a bronze casting, would that have proved satisfactory? Since competitors' designs have no comparable part, I'm sure they love to try to stick it to Renewability for that very component, since it's an essential for part of their performance edge. Egad!


MikeathomeUser is Offline
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17 Jan 2011 06:33 PM
Posted By Renewability Energy on 17 Jan 2011 04:59 PM
Hi Mike,

It is unfortunate to hear about the problems that you have been having, and even more upsetting to hear that you did not receive the assistance that you required when you tried to call.

The point that your building inspector made is simply uneducated, as contrary to Matt's point, he did not do his homework.

The header that manifolds the 4 coils together is made from C12200 and is manufactured according to ASTM B75 with a wall thickness of 0.250 which is actually above the standard ASTM B88 under which the coils and 3/4" connection is manufactured. The DWV pipe is also made to ASTM B306 for reference.

The UL certification that is listed for the Power-Pipe does also verify this based on the approved manufacturing and QC procedures that are followed here at the manufacturing facility. Rest assured, the Power-Pipe is safe for potable water.

In order to help put this issue behind you, please call us again at 877.606.5559 and ask for the technical manager. I should be able to help you with any other concerns that you may have. Also, when calling could you please have the contact information for the building inspector? Or at the very least have him contact me? I would like to ensure that he has a better understanding of the Power-Pipe in an effort to avoid any future issues.

I hope that you have found this helpful and look forward to hearing from you soon.

RenewAbility Energy Inc.
Renewability,
Thank you for clearing this up. I will print this off and give it to my building inspector.

Cheers!
Mike



MikeathomeUser is Offline
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17 Jan 2011 06:44 PM
Posted By Matt G on 17 Jan 2011 05:24 PM
ASTM B75 is general purpose copper tubing.  ASTM B88 is specifically meant for copper water tubing applications.

From this web page, the bottom of page 1:

"There are a number of times where tubing manufactured to ASTM B 68 and B 75 will meet the dimensional and mechanical requirements of ASTM B 88. The example above is typical. However, there are requirements in ASTM B 88, most notably the marking called out in Section 19, that are not called out in the other specifications. The customer must be certain that the end user and his certification authority will allow the exceptions to the specification before using tubing that is not specifically fabricated to ASTM B 88."

Interesting! Not sure what to make of this........

Mike


Matt GUser is Offline
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17 Jan 2011 07:15 PM
I really think the plumbing inspector just wants to verify that plumbing pipe has been used for a plumbing application.    That's his job.

The notion that an inspector is going to go do research on some unusual device/application/material every time he encounters the same is unrealistic.  In this case he just looks for the appropriate astm marking on the pipe and if he doesn't see it he puts the ball back in the "customer's" court.    Here our inspectors preform scores of inspections a day.

I'm just speaking from a practical standpoint of someone who does this stuff for a living.  I have 5 inspections scheduled for tomorrow.  Three plumbing finals, 1 electrical final and 1 HVAC final.  Hopefully we (my subs and I) will pass all 5.

With a little luck the mfg will supply you with what you need in writing and your plumbing inspector will accept it.  Don't let the mfg try and pass the responsibility to you though through some explanations.  Regarding more of the big picture, since the pipe appears to not actually be code compliant I'd think it is to be up the MFG to petition the AHJ (the local/state/whatever code enforcement department) for a ruling (approval) of the product.   I have a few such letters for other products - Superior Walls comes to mind as it is a footingless foundation wall.  Once the state department of insurance was educated they wrote the acceptance letter and that was that.  Here that takes months.

Another way around these types of things is to get a  stamped engineer's letter, which obviously in this instance isn't cost effective for you to do, but perhaps that is what the MFG will do.

Let us know how it turns out.


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17 Jan 2011 08:16 PM
To this consumer (me) it sounds like "Renewable Energy Inc." has made a claim that their product is "better than the applicable standard" but has not backed it up with simply getting the product approved to that correct standard. I do not think that what Dana says is relevant at all, and I'm frankly surprised that he has brought this up. It is not the iinspector's job to research patents and the legal system and do internet research - it is the inspector's job to ensure that the house is to code - whatever that is - for not only the present owner, but future owners as well. Period. All houses should be built to code - period - and alterations should be explained.

It is (again, to this consumer) unfortunate that Mike has purchased and installed an apparently non-approved product, and worse, has probably made alterations to his plumbing system to accomodate said product. This is a big deal, and frankly, I'd be furious. In fact, I also looked at installing a Renewable Energy product, but did not. In hindsight, I'm only 75% sure that I would have passed, but the concessions I would have had to make to install the product would have been, if not major in scope, at least significant in order to accomodate my (also not approved) grey water plumbing.

Jeff


Gerald Van DeckerUser is Offline
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17 Jan 2011 11:54 PM
Hello Everyone,

We have no record of calls from Mike and no email about the situation. Instead we have this posting, which also quote other websites that direct the reader to our competitors and the incorrect claims on their websites about the copper we use and our approvals. And yes, as someone else mentioned it is odd that the issue claimed is that the the inspector has is with the header, one very unique component on our units.

Please contact us/me
Mike, I have just sent you a separate email with my full contact info. Please send me your full info including phone number and email address. Also please send me your inspector's full info. I have communicated with inspectors about drain water heat recovery for about 10 years now. It is our FULL RESPONSIBILITY to work with a local inspector on your behalf. We have always done this the few times that it is needed and will continue to do so. I am not saying this because you have posted this but rather it how we would treat any customer. If I do not receive this information from you then I will have to assume that this complaint is a fabrication.

B75 vs B88
Joel's email stated that the header is B75 compliant. It is actually both B88 and B75 because it is manufactured with one of the alloys that is allowed for both plus it is made in the exact same way as all other B75 and B88 tube. However, it is not a Type L or Type K....it is much thicker at 1/4". We require this thickenss for the proper braizing joining joint with the coils. For the record, the header stock is made in London, Ontario at Great Lakes Copper (formerly Wolverine Tube Canada)....one of the largest and long standing copper tube mills in North America. All of the copper tub and components that we use has always been made in North America. We have never imported one bit of copper (to my knowledge) for outside. Most of our copper comes from the US.

UL Listing and the Power-Pipe
The Power-Pipe is a UL listed heat exchanger, not just a bunch of parts; while the standards that it are listed against are not specifically for Drain Water Heat Recovery it is more than sufficient for the needs according to reviews by several standards experts. Our UL listing is very detailed requiring 4 unannounced visits and inspection of our production facility per year. The copper quality, type and thicknesses are checked as well as our quality control measures and records. We have always done it this way because we want to have a high quality product.

In closing, the Power-Pipe is an excellent energy saving devise and it the top product in the class of drain water heat recovery systems. We have been in business for a long time; I founded the company in July 2000. Our products serve thousands upon thousands of residential and multi-residential units as well as commercial and industrial applications. We stand behind our product and support our customers. Sears Canada and HomeDepot.ca both sell the Power-Pipe as well as many dealers and distributors in North America.

We look forward to further interest in the Power-Pipe and serving our customers. If anyone has any further questions I would invite you to contact us; you will see how responsive we are. I personally get involved with higher level needs such as communicating with inspectors or special design considerations.

Sincerely,
-Gerald Van Decker

Gerald Van Decker, M.A.Sc., P.Eng.
President and CEO
RenewABILITY Energy Inc.
60 Baffin Place, Unit #2
Waterloo, Ontario, CANADA
N2V 1Z7
Tel: (519)885-0283
Fax: (519)885-4475





Gerald Van DeckerUser is Offline
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18 Jan 2011 12:17 AM
Dear Mike,
In continuation of my previous posting, you used one of our photos but have cropped and rotated for the section that you have wanted to explain. You have not credited Renewability Energy Inc. for this so it is a violation of Copyright. Why did you not use a photo of your own installation? Do you have an installation? Of course I am more than happy to assist you, if indeed you are either a customer or are considering to be a customer.

Everyone Else,
This photo can be found on our website and downloaded with several other images. It is found at: http://www.renewability.com/news/index.html
Please understand that for a few years now we have been harassed on the internet from time to time by a specific person or company. False and unsubstantiated claims are always made. I honestly have responded very little to these because it can be a full time job and I have much else to do. It seems that the purpose of these postings it to steer potential customers away from the Power-Pipe and to competitor's product.

I wish the best to all of you in your projects and/or careers. Again if you need any assistance please let us know.

Sincerely,
-Gerald Van Decker

Gerald Van Decker, M.A.Sc., P.Eng.
President and CEO
RenewABILITY Energy Inc.
60 Baffin Place, Unit #2
Waterloo, Ontario, CANADA
N2V 1Z7
Tel: (519)885-0283
Fax: (519)885-4475



MikeathomeUser is Offline
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18 Jan 2011 09:04 AM
Posted By Gerald Van Decker on 18 Jan 2011 12:17 AM
Dear Mike,
In continuation of my previous posting, you used one of our photos but have cropped and rotated for the section that you have wanted to explain. You have not credited Renewability Energy Inc. for this so it is a violation of Copyright. Why did you not use a photo of your own installation? Do you have an installation? Of course I am more than happy to assist you, if indeed you are either a customer or are considering to be a customer.

Everyone Else,
This photo can be found on our website and downloaded with several other images. It is found at: http://www.renewability.com/news/index.html
Please understand that for a few years now we have been harassed on the internet from time to time by a specific person or company. False and unsubstantiated claims are always made. I honestly have responded very little to these because it can be a full time job and I have much else to do. It seems that the purpose of these postings it to steer potential customers away from the Power-Pipe and to competitor's product.

I wish the best to all of you in your projects and/or careers. Again if you need any assistance please let us know.

Sincerely,
-Gerald Van Decker

Gerald Van Decker, M.A.Sc., P.Eng.
President and CEO
RenewABILITY Energy Inc.
60 Baffin Place, Unit #2
Waterloo, Ontario, CANADA
N2V 1Z7
Tel: (519)885-0283
Fax: (519)885-4475

Mr. Gerald Van Decker,

Your 2 postings and your offensive and accusatory private messages were the straws that broke the camels back. I called your company 3 times regarding this matter looking for assistance and the minute I go public with my problem, you defend your company by publicly calling me a liar.

In reference to the so called copy-right picture and the copy-right act that I am in violation of;
I do not have a digital camera or scanner and found a picture on the internet that I could use to convey my message in hopes of getting a solution. The image I found was not on your Powerpipe website as you clearly indicated in your posting. I found it on the HomeDepot website. Click here for link

I found the perfect solution to my problem with no head aches attached.
Today, I
am removing and returning the Powerpipe and replacing it with a section of DWV pipe.


Thanks to all the rest of you who tried to help.

Cheers!
Mike





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