Major plumbing innovations tend to get adopted in waves, much like smartphones or any other technology. First, only the early adopters embrace the new product. Months, years, or decades may pass before the mainstream crowd catches on. More than 30 years after the invention of solderless press joining, we’re approaching the time when every plumber has accepted and begun using press fittings.
Here’s a basic timeline of how press technology has been adopted in the USA:
- 1989: Press fitting technology invented in Germany.
- 1990s: Press fittings become common throughout Europe, first in industrial applications and then in residential.
- Early 2000s: The USA, Australia, and more countries begin switching to press technology.
- 2003: New York City updates its plumbing code from the 1968 version, bringing it up to date with international standards.
- 2000s to Present: USA-made press fittings roll out. Tools and fitting options expand and innovate rapidly, making press fittings more common and applicable to more types of jobs.
Press fittings will never reach 100% market use, given the necessity of soldered joints in many situations and the popularity of alternatives such as push fittings. However, press fittings keep getting more and more popular for several reasons. Press tools are getting better and more widespread, and the selection of fittings has grown.
Many American plumbers remain skeptical of press joining and are hesitant to make the inital investment of a press tool. It's certainly true that sweat fittings require more difficult, skilled labor and are sure to satisfy the more outdated local plumbing codes. For a while, some even wondered whether the airtight seal on a press fitting would really last for years.
At this point, time has proven the success of press fittings that have been professionally installed by technicians. Press fittings cut down a job from hours to minutes. No worries about flux, fumes, deposits, or fire hazards. The press connection is watertight and permanent thanks to the O-ring inside, and it’s safe a variety of applications. There are press fittings for water, gas, and industrial piping. The fittings themselves are available in more sizes and shapes than ever.
Informal studies suggest that most plumbers have adopted press fitting or at least accept its place as a quality option. Press technology creates an opportunity to do the job more efficiently, more safely, and may well be what you need to stay competitive in your market. In the near future, we may see the industry accelerate towards peak adoption of press fittings in the USA.