Sidebar: Plumbing

Plumbing and electrical wiring are the two most satisfying things for me to do. I've no idea why, but I know I'm not alone in my strangeness. Long ago, when I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do when I grew up (something I never actually did), I thought about being an electrician and/or plumber. Two things kept me from taking the plunge: the cost of insurance, and having to deal with the general public.

Unaware that I didn't need a licensed plumber, I hired one to do the waste lines, which had to be installed after the foundation was filled with aggregate, but before the slabs were poured. He also came prepared to run water lines under the slab as well. But the large coils of plastic water pipe weren't required, as I informed him I wanted to run copper for the water lines—whereupon a large grin of vicarious satisfaction spread across his face. He too disliked using plastic for the water supply; we shared a preference for a more "old fashioned" way of doing things.

Plumbing places me in "the zone." Long before groundbreaking, I was busily designing the system on virtual paper. For instance, from the beginning I wanted to install an on-demand water heater in the bathroom adjacent to the shower. Later I realized that a second, smaller unit located under the kitchen sink would be much more energy-efficient.

I spent weeks researching electric on-demand water heaters. I learned that performance and reliability varies considerably between various manufacturers, so I dug and dug until I found what were considered the best units on the market. Interestingly, they weren't the most costly.

The apparent plumber's nightmare below was quite satisfying to design and build, yet it's really not as complicated as it appears. What adds to the visual complexity is the valve and water line for the second shower head. Also, in order to couple the two valves together without applying excessive heat, I used a push-on copper union, further adding to the vague Rube Goldberg quality.

Of course, all of this will be covered up when the house is done, so I won't be able to show off my handiwork except via this website.

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