Making a good connection

Sept. 11, 2012

Installing fittings and connectors the right way can lead to a lasting bond between dealers and customers.

After spending the time and money to put together the right water system for a home or business, it can be easy to forget the simple things, such as finding the right fittings and connectors that piece the whole system together. Making sure you have the right fittings and connectors is vital when factoring in the amount of repairs and related costs that come along when pipes are not connected properly. Furthermore, if water treatment dealers do not include education on installing the proper fittings and connectors during their sales pitches, uneducated customers will make costly errors to save in the short-term.

There are various applications for different types of connections and it is important to understand which one is best for your customer’s situation. Many dealers recommend the STAMP method, which stands for size, temperature, application, media and pressure. These are all critical components that come into play when deciding what fittings and connectors are best to use.

For dealers, it is important to stress the need to install the proper fittings and connectors the right way and to educate customers on how they are constructed and manufactured. With stricter regulations on pipes, especially lead restrictions, installation and repair become even more critical.

We recently spoke with some industry leaders to find out what they are doing to educate customers on these key issues as well as some of the issues and trends they are currently seeing in the fittings and connectors market.

Issues around fittings and connectors

During the installation process, and after, several problems and challenges can arise that can become costly and irritating. Many pipes that are not fitted correctly will eventually cause leaking problems. Also, over time, fittings can become loose or rusted, causing potential contamination problems in your customer’s water. Make sure customers know to constantly have pipes tested, especially before installation, to figure out if there are any contaminants in the water that could cause concern.

Emily Harris, product manager for Sea Tech, a Watts Water Technologies Company, says, “The pipe should be burr-free and needs to have a straight clean cut when inserting into the fitting.”

Removing burrs from the ends of pipes can be done with a file or sandpaper, but it is important to make sure the ends are clear to form a smooth connection. Any loose ends could cause a leak or lead to costly repairs.

Harris mentions that the majority of the calls her company receives are about water leaks and most of the time the pipe is not pushed in past the internal O-ring, which is there to create a seal to prevent leaks.

Wally Gentry, sales manager at John Guest, shares the same concerns when installing fittings and connectors. “When installing these products it is best to make sure there is a good, clean cut on the end of the pipe, whether it is PEX, CPVC or copper, without burrs or sharp edges. Also, make sure the cut is reasonably square and that the pipe is fully into the fitting.”

Fortunately, adds Gentry, many fittings manufacturers have advanced equipment and problems associated with poor installation are minimized as a result. In fact, any issue with advanced fittings and improper installation would surface right after pressurization. “Generally, if the pipe is not fully inserted you will have a leak at the fitting and it is easily fixed without cutting out the fitting,” adds Gentry. “If the pipe has not been cut clean and has a sharp edge you can cut the O-ring on insertion of the pipe and cause it to leak, but it will not be a catastrophic failure.”

Installation the right way

The best way to prevent future leaks and water contamination is to make sure fittings and connectors are installed properly from the beginning. While it is recommended that a professional install all plumbing fixtures in a house or business, many educated do-it-yourselfers (DIY) have also had success.

There are many websites that offer video instructions for how to install fittings and connectors. “The (Sea Tech) website also includes an installation and training video of how to make a connection. Our sales staff is also trained and can offer on-site training with our customers,” adds Harris.

During the purchasing of these products it should be the dealer’s duty to instruct customers on how to properly install fittings. Not only will this help in making a great connection, but it can establish great customer service skills and help build a reputation as a reliable expert in the community.

Educating customers

Something that is becoming more stressed throughout the industry as people try and do more home maintenance themselves is the importance of educating customers. Not just solely on what they’re buying, but also how parts are used correctly and how to make sure they function properly for years to come.

This is certainly vital when selling fittings and connectors. Especially to those who plan on installing the fittings themselves. Home improvement has grown in popularity during the recent economic crisis and dealers should be able to capitalize on that fact. But, to ensure the safety and respect of those customers, giving them good, sound advice can help bring in even more business.

Installing connectors and fittings can be tricky, but there are several steps a customer can take before calling in a professional. “First, check to make sure the pipe is pushed in all the way,” reminds Harris. “The fittings [should] include an insertion depth mark molded on the outside of the fitting body. The installer can use this to mark the pipe so when inserting the pipe they get a visual that it is all the way in. After using the fittings just a few times, the installer will get a ‘feel’ for when the pipe pushes past the O-ring and makes a leak-free seal. Also, make sure the pipe is clean and cut straight and check the inside of the fitting to make sure there is not any debris that could compromise the O-ring.”

Dealing with regulations

Both experts interviewed for this story say regulations have not changed the installation process for their companies because their products already met the new standards and new regulations have had minimal effect on the sale of connectors and fittings.

But, before making any installations involving water, it’s best to check guidelines and regulations, which can be found online through the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or NSF websites. There you can find safety tips on what products are certified and how to improve the quality of your water.

On January 4, 2011 President Obama signed an Amendment that will reduce the amount of lead allowed in a drinking water system to less than 0.25 percent. That bill is set to be enforced in 2014. As a result, many dealers and manufacturers have been working to develop products to help meet these new standards.

Moving forward it is imperative that these restrictions be considered when selling and purchasing fittings and connectors. Capitalizing on educating the public on all aspects of water treatment systems can help build a strong relationship and lasting connection with customers.

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