George Fox University Dorms
Newberg, OR 

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Updating Old Radiators with PEX Hydronic Distribution Piping from Uponor

George Fox University, the oldest Christian university in Oregon, has a rich history with roots in the Quaker movement. Originally named Pacific College, the school is a nationally recognized Christian institution that provides students with global opportunities to learn and serve.

Starting as a very small college back in 1881, George Fox has grown over the last 150 years to include more than 3,700 students. In the last few decades, new dorms have been built, and old dorms have been retrofitted to allow for modern accommodations and energy savings.

School officials decided, while upgrading outdated dorms, to prioritize energy savings by adding new PEX hydronic distribution piping to outdated radiators. “PEX is a very strong solution for re-piping old hydronic systems,” said Casey Hollabaugh, vice president of Hollabaugh Brothers and Associates, a Portland-based Uponor rep firm. Hollabaugh worked closely with Hydro-Temp Mechanical, a local installing contracting firm, to provide the best solutions to a challenging project.

“We have a longstanding relationship with Hydro-Temp that allowed us to discuss product performance and installation parameters,” Hollabaugh said. “We brainstormed several possible solutions, but because of the complexity of the remodel, PEX piping became the only viable long-term solution.”

Specifically, the pre-existing construction (mostly concrete walls) made other alternatives (like copper) cost prohibitive because, in order to install, excessive demolition would be needed. PEX piping is flexible and easy to bend so installers could easily insert the piping through hole penetrations in the existing framing; eliminating the need for unnecessary teardown.

Daniel Jeffrey, project manager with Hydro-Temp, said that using PEX in the retrofit provided his company with an almost 50% savings compared to a mechanical joint system. But more importantly, according to Jeffrey, is the safety that PEX provides by allowing installers to reuse existing penetrations in block walls.

“Soldering in existing buildings can be very dangerous,” he said. “But using PEX allowed us to make ProPEX connections using one simple tool and eliminating the need for torches and glues.”

They reused the existing penetrations in the block walls in over 200 locations and this helped save significantly on both labor and time.

“Our goal was to reuse the old galvanized piping penetrations, but with window upgrades and other architectural considerations, the old routing didn’t line up exactly in a straight line with the layout of the rooms,” said Jeffrey. “But the flexibility of PEX allowed us to adjust the offset in the 200 existing wall penetrations, saving us both time and money.”

Jeffrey estimates that, if the crew had used rigid pipe, they would have had to offset each wall penetration (over 100 pairs) with eight 90-degree fittings. “That would have been around 800 more fittings to install,” he said.

Hydro-Temp also saved money using fewer installers for the installation. Jeffrey said that using anything but PEX would have doubled the amount of labor hours needed to complete the job. “We ended up using only two installers for the entire re-pipe job; significantly less than we would’ve if we had installed hard pipe,” he said.

Project Highlights:

• George Fox University Dorm re-pipe project
• Installing contractor: Hydro-Temp, Wilsonville, OR
• 50 percent savings compared to mechanical joint system

Project Data:

• System: Hydronic re-pipe to radiators
• Product: ¾" Wirsbo hePEX™ tubing
• Amount installed: 5,000 feet