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Thread: Using more unions when plumbing pool equipment.

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    Using more unions when plumbing pool equipment.

    After running into some potential design issues with a pool re-plumbing project, it occurred to me that using unions on a number of key connections (rather than gluing directly) would really help solve some problems, both with the installation itself and with various issues that could come up in the future. I really don't see many unions, however, when I look at other people's equipment decks. I sometimes see unions on the pump connections, but that's about it. Are unions problematic when used on pool plumbing -- i.e. are there issues with leaking, for example? I would think that quality unions would work fine indefinitely, and would be relatively easy to fix should they ever develop problems (i.e. lube or replace o-rings.) There are cost considerations, but it seems like the extra cost would be far outweighed by the advantages of making installation easier, and making any future fixes VASTLY easier. Other than cost and a bit of extra time, are there any reasons not to use unions for all the major connection points?

    On a related note, are there any specific types or brands of unions that are particularly good for pool plumbing?

    Thanks,

    Larry

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    Mod Squad Bama Rambler's Avatar
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    Re: Using more unions when plumbing pool equipment.

    I think unions are a good idea, especially in critical locations (i.e. before pump, between pump and filter, after filter, on waste line, after other equipment that may need to be removed for winterization, etc.). When plumbing, I may not always use a union but I certainly make sure there's enough room to add one later if I ever have to remove a piece of equipment for replacement or repair.
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    Re: Using more unions when plumbing pool equipment.

    Unions should be installed to every piece of equipment can be removed without cutting pipe...pump, filter, heater etc.
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    Re: Using more unions when plumbing pool equipment.

    I'm in the no unions camp. PVC plumbing is very easy to do and very easy to change. Unions add to both expense and plumbing work, while lowering reliability. They also make tight situations even tighter. It is simple enough to leave straight runs long enough to patch in changes later without bothering with unions.

    Of course none of these issues are huge issues, so it ends up being more of a personal preference than anything.
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    Re: Using more unions when plumbing pool equipment.

    As I see it many / most new pool owners and pool builders think that an ultra compact pad is a good thing, unions take up space and cost extra money. I therefore think unions use tends to be a good thing from a maintenance point of view as it may mean that many expensive fittings like never lube valves, etc, may not have to be cut out and thrown away when a small leak occurs just because they were installed with no room left between them for a splice to be made.

    Ike

    p.s. sorry for all the double negatives, but it is early and I am not really awake yet, so I hope this post makes sense later
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    Willi's Avatar
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    Re: Using more unions when plumbing pool equipment.

    Quote Originally Posted by Isaac-1 View Post
    As I see it many / most new pool owners and pool builders think that an ultra compact pad is a good thing, unions take up space and cost extra money. I therefore think unions use tends to be a good thing from a maintenance point of view as it may mean that many expensive fittings like never lube valves, etc, may not have to be cut out and thrown away when a small leak occurs just because they were installed with no room left between them for a splice to be made.

    Ike

    p.s. sorry for all the double negatives, but it is early and I am not really awake yet, so I hope this post makes sense later
    I concur, cant imagine having to cut and replace pipe and fitting every time you need to do maintenance or repair.
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    Re: Using more unions when plumbing pool equipment.

    I've got unions on the connection points to equipment. Its been 1 year and I have a slight leak on the one going into the filter. Suspect I wil have to take it off and try to reseal it.
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    Re: Using more unions when plumbing pool equipment.

    I wouldn't dream of plumbing a pad without unions. It makes fixing things later on extremely easy and it looks nicer than cutting and patching it back together IMHO.
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    Re: Using more unions when plumbing pool equipment.

    Unions for me......I end up changing stuff more than the average pool owner and the unions help me a lot.
    Dave S.
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    Re: Using more unions when plumbing pool equipment.

    Thanks for all the feedback.

    I'm totally in favor of the advantages that unions give, both in terms of installation and for future repairs. The thing that I'm still fuzzy about, however, is the question of reliability. Are there certain types or brands of unions that are more reliable than others? Does using CPVC vs regular PVC offer any advantage (other than, I assume, using CPVC next to the heater to withstand higher heat)?

    I've been reading about three types of unions -- regular, swivel, and self-aligning. The regular type uses a flat surface to compress the o-ring and are used on straight connections. The swivel type uses a beveled "ball" type surface to compress the o-ring, which allows the pipe to swing a bit in order to accommodate misaligned pipes. The self-aligning type, however, is a bit of a mystery to me at this point. I have not yet been able to confirm how the self-aligning type works or what it does differently. I called a couple pool places, but they were totally unaware of what "self-aligning" meant. Waterway Plastics makes all three types, but even they were unable to tell me what the differences were. I got the impression that the self-aligning types were like the swivel types but with less swing, but I can't confirm this. I also can't confirm if one type is any more reliable than any other, or if there are certain brands that are better. It seems like "self-aligning" would always be advantageous, but I'm unclear if the seal on this type offers any better or worse reliability.

    If anyone has any more detailed knowledge of this subject, the input would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks again to everyone for the help here.

    Larry

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    Re: Using more unions when plumbing pool equipment.

    Regular PVC is the norm and would be fine. I have never had a bad experience with any manufacturer nor any union.

    I have had old ones leak but cleaning and lubing the O-ring usually takes care of the leak.

    The self-aligning and swivel could be used in special applications.

    I take care of large commercial waterfalls and fountains so I deal with unions on a daily basis.
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    Re: Using more unions when plumbing pool equipment.

    Quote Originally Posted by Willi View Post
    I have had old ones leak but cleaning and lubing the O-ring usually takes care of the leak.

    The self-aligning and swivel could be used in special applications.
    Other than cost, are there ANY reasons to not just use the self-aligning unions all the time? From what I've seen, they aren't appreciably more expensive, and it seems like they'd be a little less likely to have problems given that they (if I understand correctly) allow for slight pipe misalignment issues. In other words, if cost is not an issue, do the regular unions offer any advantages over the self-aligning types?

    Do you just use silicone grease to lube the o-ring?

    Thanks,

    Larry

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    Mod Squad jblizzle's Avatar
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    Re: Using more unions when plumbing pool equipment.

    I wish i would have used the self aligning ones ... I did not know about them and just got the regular ones locally.
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    Re: Using more unions when plumbing pool equipment.

    Quote Originally Posted by lalittle View Post
    Other than cost, are there ANY reasons to not just use the self-aligning unions all the time? From what I've seen, they aren't appreciably more expensive, and it seems like they'd be a little less likely to have problems given that they (if I understand correctly) allow for slight pipe misalignment issues. In other words, if cost is not an issue, do the regular unions offer any advantages over the self-aligning types?

    Do you just use silicone grease to lube the o-ring?

    Thanks,

    Larry
    To be quite honest I have never used the self-aligning and not sure if my supply house even carries them.

    Give them a try and let us know how you like them.

    Yes, silicone or teflon, stay away from petroleum based like Vaseline. Most pool or plumbing supply shops carry it.
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    Re: Using more unions when plumbing pool equipment.

    Side note..when you start your project keep the unions together as long as possible before you glue...as I can bet about every person in this forum has glued a union and forgot to put on the #%&$ nut. It is the worst feeling when you realize what you have done lol

    Also dont over-tighten the nut. Hand tighten then using a rubber strap wrench tighten about a half turn. If there is a drip you can tighten a little more.
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    Mod Squad jblizzle's Avatar
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    Re: Using more unions when plumbing pool equipment.

    Jason, TFP Moderator
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    Re: Using more unions when plumbing pool equipment.

    Quote Originally Posted by jblizzle View Post
    Lol I remember the thread and your post, made me chuckle.....I think we have all been there
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    Re: Using more unions when plumbing pool equipment.

    I'm in the middle of re-plumbing in a new pump and this thread comes up at a great time One other thing about unions, is that, for "difficult" plumbing situations (joining multiple pieces at multiple angles, hard to explain but you probably know what I'm talking about), where everything needs to be aligned ahead of time before gluing takes place, a union-ized end lets you dry fit perfectly, so you know if everything else is sized and positioned properly so no tweaked piping is necessary.

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    Mod Squad jblizzle's Avatar
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    Re: Using more unions when plumbing pool equipment.

    As long as you remember that dry fitting generally does not seat the pipe all the way so you have to take that into account.
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    Re: Using more unions when plumbing pool equipment.

    Yup- so you need to be glued into each side of the union, it's just the non-glued union joint itself that you can dry fit.

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