What Is a Manifold in Plumbing? When and Where to Use One

Last Updated On November 19, 2022
What Is a Manifold in Plumbing When and Where to Use One

What is a plumbing manifold? You may have heard the term when talking about your home’s plumbing. A manifold is a plumbing distribution system in many homes that, when used properly, can contribute to the efficiency and comfort of your home. 

In this PlumbingNav guide, we will cover:

  • Plumbing manifold basics
  • Benefits of your manifold
  • Where to find your manifold

What's In This Guide?

      Plumbing Manifold Basics

      A manifold is a plumbing distribution system, or hub, generally placed in the middle of the household that transports water to two or more different locations using a loop effect that reduces the distance water must travel throughout your home. It can manage both hot water lines and cold water lines. 

      The manifold itself consists of a long pipe with numerous valves. You will use a dedicated hose to connect nearby plumbing fixtures to a fitting on the manifold. Each appliance or fixture has its own hose.

      There are two main types of plumbing manifolds; trunk and branch systems and home run configurations.

      In most cases, you find the plumbing manifold near the water heater, as putting it near the water heater allows for optimal efficiency. A tankless water heater can help keep the design compact. This is an example of a trunk manifold system.

      Your manifold doesn’t need to be near your water heater, though, especially if your water heater isn’t near your plumbing fixtures. The best placement for a manifold is where it allows the most amount of supply hoses to travel the least. 

      Some people place the home run manifold system in a discrete cabinet somewhere in a centralized laundry room or utility room. They may attach a point of use water heater to the remote system to provide more direct hot water. You can also find these in the garage in the southern states.

      While we will be talking about plumbing manifolds that solely transport water, manifolds can also be used to transport different gases, too. 

      To get a visual representation of how manifolds work, see the video below:

      Manifold Plumbing Material

      A manifold can use either metal pipe or plastic pipe. However, plastic pipe offers more flexibility, meaning fewer connectors and less chance of a leak throughout the water distribution system. Most plumbers recommend using plastic for a manifold system. 

      Remember, the plumbing system loops around, requiring flexibility.

      Metal pipes, such as stainless steel, will corrode over time. While stainless steel offers more flexibility than most other metal options, it’s much more rigid and difficult to work with than plastic piping. 

      Copper pipe is one of the strongest yet stiffest options you can choose, but we don’t recommend copper tubing for your manifold. 

      Benefits Of a Plumbing Manifold

      The main benefit of using a manifold in plumbing is that it helps to prevent corrosion and rusting of the pipes thanks to its leak prevention design. See, the shorter distance between the manifold and the appliance means there are fewer connection points. 

      This is helpful when using flexible piping, such as PVC pipe or PEX piping that won’t need a lot of connections to maneuver turns. Water doesn’t come into contact with as much of your plumbing, meaning it lasts longer. 

      Furthermore, it contributes to hot water efficiency since it helps deliver hot water to the desired fixture more quickly than with a traditional water distribution setup. Hot water gets to the shower faster, meaning you use less water waiting for it to reach the desired temperature. 

      did you know what is a plumbing manifold system (1)

      It also makes it easier for homeowners to identify any problems with their plumbing system and control individual fixtures. You can visually inspect all supply lines and valves at the manifold easily. If something does go wrong, the manifold helps contain the problem in one fixture.  

      However, if you need to cut the water supply to your home, you’ll be able to do it at the manifold instead of going to the main shut-off valve outside. 

      How to Design a Core Plumbing Distribution System

      Utilize these recommendations to help you design a plumbing distribution system that will function efficiently and meet WaterSense criteria.  

      You should plan your plumbing manifold at the very early stages in your home construction process since you will have the opportunity to make thoughtful placement choices that contribute to your water distribution system design. 

      However, if you want to create a plumbing manifold after the fact, you may still have viable options, depending on the placement and material of the existing plumbing. 

      The key to creating an effective manifold system is managing hot water usage with smart taps, careful planning of pipe sizes between fixtures or sources (such as tanks), and reducing peak demand on your heating source at night when few people are using it. 

      Frequently Asked Questions About Water Manifolds

      What is the purpose of a plumbing manifold?

      A plumbing manifold limits the distance water must travel to get from the water supply to the desired fixture, increasing efficiency and comfort while also reducing plumbing problems. 

      Where is the plumbing manifold located?

      Where you place your plumbing manifold is up to you. However, most people put the manifold in a centralized location near the water heater. 

      Does PEX make a good manifold?

      PEX pipe cannot withstand much heat, so you should be careful before selecting a PEX plumbing manifold, especially when it comes to your hot water lines. However, PEX tubing is extremely flexible and affordable, making a PEX manifold appropriate for cold water applications.

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      About Plumbing Navigator

      We write about "all things plumbing," helping you navigate common questions, repairs, and the best plumbing products on the market.

      About Plumbing Navigator

      We write about “all things plumbing,” helping you navigate common questions, repairs, and the best plumbing products on the market.

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