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Domestic Cold Water Piping

Buildings are built with piping that aids in delivering cold water to the appropriate places in the building, whether that be to the fixture itself or to the unit that will make it hot water. Buildings, both residential and commercial, will have hot water heaters, boiler systems, or another type of heating system to turn cold water into hot water for the occupants of the building. Piping that brings water from the main supply lines into a building regardless if the structure is residential or commercial in nature is referred to as domestic cold water piping.

There are a few water piping materials that are considered to be standard industry use materials. Those include the following:

  • CPVC
  • Copper
  • PEX tubing (cross-linked polymers)

Domestic water piping previously was also installed using galvanized steel, ABS plastic piping, and black iron pipe. These materials are no longer approved under the International Building Code (IBC) as of the date of publishing. Galvanized steel and iron piping may still be found in many older homes but CPVC, copper, and PEX tubing are the go-to industry standard.

Lead piping was used extensively in domestic water piping systems before it was banned after it was discovered that it was infusing lead (a toxic poison to humans and animals) into the water supply. PVC is not currently allowed in domestic water piping supply systems but is often used in waste piping applications.

As with everything else in construction, each piping material type has its own strengths & weaknesses, characteristics, and applications. Each type is used in different applications and building types because of its characteristics etc.

Knowing the specifics of each material type will go a long way in selecting the correct piping material for your project or project design. Engaging the services of an expert mechanical engineer at the early design and planning stages will help avoid problems later in the project.


Copper is one of the more expensive options for domestic water piping supply currently available on the market. This is due to the supply and demand of the material in addition to other environmental and economic factors. Copper is estimated to last a minimum of 50 years based on industry research. Building codes vary in each area and they may require different pipe types depending on the existing ordinances and code requirements. Copper is available in three basic types; Type M, Type L, and Type K. The three different copper pipe designations are differentiated by the strength of the pipes.

  • Type M - a thin-walled pipe. This is the most common type of copper pipe sold in the industry and is used mainly behind the walls inside of residential units to route water from the main service line and water heater system to the fixtures.
  • Type L - (hard or soft) thicker-walled pipe. It is considered standard piping for water services both inside of structures and outside of structures. Wherever the copper piping will be exposed, only type L should be used to stand up to current building codes.
  • Type K - (hard or soft) thickest-walled pipe. It is used generally between water mains and the water meter, for underground lines, and heavy-duty vacuum pump lines.

Copper will not interact or mix with the water it carries. However, copper should never be connected to black steel. If this connection is unavoidable, then it is recommended that a properly sized dielectric coupling or fastener must be installed. This coupler separates the two metals to keep them from coming into contact with each other. When this occurs, both pipes rot due to, what is known as, galvanic action. In addition, for this reason, water heaters should usually have dielectric couplers due to the fact that water heaters are usually steel and the piping is copper.


CPVC (Chlorinated polyvinyl chloride) is a popular choice in domestic water piping applications because of its cost savings over other metal piping such as copper. CPVC is also lighter than copper pipe because of its composition. This leads to faster installations, although it should be noted that sagging during installation can occur so extra should be taken when using CPVC in installations.

CPVC is generally installed with a solvent cement. Using solvent cement also adds to faster installation times when compared to using copper in installations because soldering is not needed. Additional advantages of CPVC pipe are its resistance to scale buildup, immunity to corrosion, and its freedom from electrolysis (due to the CPVC's plastic composition).


PEX tube may be a viable answer to the rising price of installation piping installation as a result of it's less costly and easier to put in than copper. Typical installations don't need elbows. Instead, the PEX tube is just bent around the corners with a sleek bend. PEX is additionally a forgiving product to figure with. as an example, if it ought to become kinked, applying heat domestically to the kink can, in most cases, cause it to come to its original form. different benefits over copper and CPVC piping embody resistance to scaling, chlorine, and corrosion, still as no want for fastening.

Domestic Water Piping Considerations

In all cases, whether or not CPVC, PEX, or copper piping is employed, the manufacturer’s recommendations ought to be followed. If copper piping is employed, care should be taken to make sure that unleaded solder is employed to attach the fittings with the piping.

Minimal maintenance is all that's needed unless the piping is incredibly recent. If this can be the case, then there may well be blockages or restrictions in flow thanks to the buildup of deposits on the within walls of the piping. CPVC and PEX are less seemingly to own deposits.

When the piping system does not serve the building’s demands, or there are multiple failures, then the system ought to be thought of for replacement. For a localized failure, merely replace the section that is failing.

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