Having good pipes in your home is important no matter where you live, but having quality pipes is a big deal in Hawaii due to some unique differences in Hawaii’s water and home owners.
One of the reason homes need high quality pipes in Hawaii is the prevalence of highly corrosive water. We have never measured water as acidic or as salty as the water in some of the public water systems on the Island of Hawaii. Water is collected from streams on the slopes of the Volcanoes fed by snow pack and rain. The rain gets acidic as it falls through the thick volcanic sulfuric gasses and this acidic water is tough on pipes and faucets. The other source of water on the island is from wells that pump fresh water “floating” above the sea water that saturates the porous lava under most of the island. When it stops raining, the depth of floating fresh water is thin and sea water mixes in when it is pumped out. The water can sometimes get so salty that local media will advise people avoiding salt for health reasons to not drink the water. Salty, acidic water is hard on any pipe, but low-quality pipe installations are more likely to fail.
Another reason a home in Hawaii needs high quality pipes is that so many are used only sporadically by their owners. It is not uncommon for people to leave their home unattended for six months at a time and leave the water turned on. With so many vacant homes and condos, a leak can go undetected for a long time and do a tremendous amount of damage before being discovered. In a multi-unit condo, leaking water will keep oozing through walls and floors until it finally reaches a unit that is occupied. We know of a leak in an unoccupied house that was discovered by the pool guy when he noticed that the furniture in the living room was floating in several feet of water. We have heard so many water damage horror stories that when we travel, even for a few days, we shut off the water.
We check the visible pipes in a house or condo as one way of assessing the quality of the construction and we are surprised at how much the installation and materials vary in upscale communities. Below are photos of two pipe installations in Hawaii condos.
This installation uses one inch copper pipes to and from the water heater.
In contrast, this installation uses ¾ inch copper pipes with a multi-directional connection to the water heater and cold water. The copper portion of the pipe is suspended by a cord secured to a board with a notch carved into it to make room for an elbow coupler from copper to CPVC SDE 11 pipe.
On the upside, leaking pipes are such a common problem in Hawaii that there are thriving businesses on the island that have a lot of experience and equipment to fix major water damaged homes. Unfortunately, having the repairs done is expensive as drying out walls and floors in the tropics is a difficult task.