When working with push fit ball valves, you may have noticed the stiffener insert. In certain situations it might be necessary to remove the stiffener insert, and yes, it is possible. You may not require a stiffener as it actually provides an optimal flow rate. Removing the insert should only be done when working with copper or CPVC pipe.
In this blog, we will go over why you may not require a stiffener, how to properly remove it and in what situations should you never remove the stiffener.
Why do Copper & CPVC connections not require Stiffeners?
Some installers decide to remove the stiffener when making a push fit connection because it ensures that there is no unnecessary flow restrictions and that it provides optimal flow rates. Many push fit valves contain the stiffener insert installed for the convenience when making PEX connections to ensure that the stiffener does not get lost on the job site.
When working with copper and CPVC piping, use of a stiffener is completely optional. Copper and CPVC pipe are ridged enough, and do not require the stiffener to retain their round profiles. Some installers choose to leave the stiffener in the fitting as it could take a bit of time to get the stiffener out. No harm will be made to the connection if you want remove it. If you choose to remove the stiffener, keep in mind that if you are installing a large number of valves and fittings without stiffeners, the flow restriction will be reduced, potentially reducing the efficiency of the system.
Removing the Stiffener
Although removing the stiffener is an easy task, you must do it properly. First, you will need to grab needle nose pliers and clamp onto the stiffener, pushing on the collar of the fitting with a disconnect tool to expand the gripper ring, just like disconnecting a connection.
Note: This process should not take much effort. Avoid pulling hard if it does not easily come out, it most likely caught on the gripper ring teeth and more pressure will be required than just the pliers. Too much force could potentially damage the gripper ring.
PEX Connections Must have Stiffeners Installed
If you are installing PEX pipe (Type A,B or C), the stiffener must be installed at the end of the PEX pipe because the stiffener eliminates any out of roundness from the PEX pipe. When PEX is packaged, it is coiled which tends to cause some out of roundness. The stiffener not only corrects that issue, but it also supports the PEX in a round profile so that the O-ring seal can make a water tight seal.
Since there is no need to remove the stiffener, you can simply follow the proper tube preparation procedure and push the PEX pipe into the fitting.
If you ever run across a stiffener that is loose in the carton or bag, no need to worry. Quite often a stiffener will come out of the valve or fitting. To reinstall it you can insert the stiffener into the PEX pipe and push the pipe and stiffener into the push fit valve together.
Important note: It is much less of a problem to use a stiffener where it is not needed than to not use one in a PEX connection. Without the stiffener in the PEX pipe, the connection will most likely leak.
When using Copper or CPVC, it becomes a preference of whether you will keep the stiffener in the fitting or valve or if you will remove it. But, if you are using PEX in your system, there is no choice. Unless of course you don't mind having leaks.
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