People lacking soldering skills and plumbers facing an unusually difficult job of joining copper pipe have long been looking for a method to join copper tubing that was fast, easy and reliable. In the past such joining methods were limited to various compression fittings and the plastic John Guest push-on connectors. Compression fittings are prohibited by code from being used in concealed locations such as inside walls and ceilings, and require bringing together three parts and the tubing, then wrench tightening to install. John Guest push-on connectors being of plastic construction were often rejected by both DIYer’s and Plumbers alike as being weak and likely to leak from being damaged.
Plumbers and DIYer’s alike were often found struggling to make sweat joint connections on copper tubing. The DIYer’s were struggling with a lack of skill, knowledge, experience, and the same problems that experienced plumbers often faced. Plumbers often struggled with water in the pipes, and making joints in tight difficult to access locations often in locations that made torch use unsafe. Not being able to able to eliminate water from the work area is a tough obstacle to overcome. With water boiling at 212 Degrees F and solder melting in the 400 Degree F range it was a simple case of you can’t get there from here. DIYer’s resorted to the old “stuff bread in a pipe” tale which has clogged many a faucet and the plumbers resorted to devices like Jet-Sweats and larger torch tips. If the main water valve would not fully close the options were pretty much limited to having the water shut off at the curb stop by the water company and replacing the main water valve before the work could be done or, resorting to Jet Sweats with a water bypass and pipe freezing equipment. Now it can be as simple as shutting off most of the flow, cutting the pipe, then pushing on an open valve with a SharkBite connector closing the valve and reopening the Valve that wouldn’t fully close. Water in the pipes being joined has probably contributed to more bad solder joints, over heated joints, and leaks than any other cause for both DIYer’s and Pro’s, once water or steam invades a joint in the process of being sweated it becomes contaminated and must be taken apart cleaned and fluxed, before attempting to sweat the joint again.
Fortunately Cash Acme has stepped up to the plate and manufactured SharkBite Push-Fit fittings. Unlike the previously available John Guest Connectors, SharkBite Push-Fit are constructed with a heavy DZR Brass body. The DZR Brass is a dezincification resistant brass alloy. Other robust components include a stainless steel locking ring and an EPDM “O-Ring” which offers excellent resistance to water and chemicals used in sanitizing water. The brass body has a tight fitting socket referred to as the second stage that firmly grips the tube holding it in alignment. There is even a ramp type guide referred to as the o-ring protector to help keep the tubing from damaging the o-ring. I feel it is a well designed product will prove to work very well. In spite of all this many plumbers reject their use which seems to stem from a feeling that it is a threat to their job security by making plumbing too easy while other plumbers have grabbed onto them as yet another tool in the box of tricks. Plumbing has evolved a lot over the years with each new material facing this same rejection. While SharkBite’s may be very easy to use they are not inexpensive and to plumb a whole house with them would be cost prohibitive. But they are great for the hard conditions listed above, especially with torch safety issues or, transitioning between dissimilar types of tubing. They are also invaluable for temporary use during remodeling.
SharkBite’s are allowed to be used in concealed locations and even underground. They are rated for 200 PSI and 200 Degrees F. They can be used with “CTS” (copper tube size) tubing such as Copper, CPVC, and PEX when used with the plastic stiffeners enclosed with each fitting. They have been certified to ANSI/NSF-61 and ASSE 1061standards and meet IPC, UPC, and cUPC requirements for potable and hydronic heating water distribution (note: Glycol mixture for hydronics is not to exceed 50% concentration).
Recently Cash Acme introduced several SharkBite fittings which are designed for use with Polybutylene Tubing. Polybutylene Tubing was used extensively in plumbing homes and manufactured homes throughout the 1980′s and 90′s before it’s use was discontinued due to many failures, and the subsequent Class Action Lawsuit. The original SharkBite fittings were not designed or, rated for this application as the stiffening insert was sized for PEX tubing which is SDR-9 tubing and has a different inside dimension than Polybutylene Tubing which is SDR-11 tubing. The SharkBites rated for Polybutylene Tubing have a grey plastic 1st stage guide & release collar, and support sleeve instead of the brown color used on the copper, CPVC, and PEX models to distinguish them from the others. Home Depot carries the Polybutylene Sharkbites in addition to the ones for copper, CPVC, and PEX tubing.
To use SharkBite Fittings it is as simple as selecting the proper size and type of SharkBite fitting then cutting the tube to size. You then use the SharkBite Deburring Tool to bevel the end of the tube and mark the tube with a pencil. The bevel protects the O-Ring from damage due to burrs that may be on the tube from the cutting operation. The pencil mark serves as a guide to let you know when the tube has reached the proper insertion depth. You then align the tube with the SharkBite and push it into the fitting. Verify the mark has reached the release collar and the SharkBite has been installed. The tube may spin in the connection but it will not release or, leak.
To release a SharkBite it is as simple as making sure the water supply has been turned off and the pressure bled down, then using the Sharkbite Removal Tool to depress the release collar then pull the tube out of the fitting. The fitting is both releasable and reusable which makes it ideal during remodel projects where they may be used as connections on temporary water supplies bypassing and area under construction, or, for capping supplies or, stub outs so that water supply can be restored to a building while work is ongoing.
Since the successful début of SharkBite Fittings many other companies have introduced similar products. Watts the maker of John Guest connectors has introduced a line of metal push in connectors, Lowes is selling “Gatorbites” and there are several other companies making and selling similar products. A word of caution to those purchasing brands other than “SharkBite” not all of them are releasable and they may not carry the same approvals. One thing for sure, when Cash Acme introduced SharkBite Push-Fit Fittings they had made enough innovative improvements to the line that virtually all fittings of this nature used in the plumbing industry are now referred to generically as SharkBites.