Unless you’re a plumber you probably don’t know much about plumbing pipes… what are my choices and what are the advantages or disadvantages of different types of pipe. The most popular types of water supply pipes used by plumbers today are PEX and copper. My goal is to educate and inform you about both types of pipes as you decide which pipe is best for your next plumbing project or to replace the old, rusty galvanized pipes in your existing home. Local or state plumbing codes may determine the type of pipe that is required in different parts of your home, which is another good reason to work with a licensed, professional plumber in making this decision.
Copper pipe is the #1 pipe material used for plumbing work in both residential and commercial applications. It is the same material that the Egyptians over 3,000 years ago! It has been the standard of plumbing industry for more than half a century but, plastics have dramatically changed the products we use and the way we live. Recently, competition has appeared in the plumbing industry in the form of PEX pipe. PEX pipe is made from cross-linked high density polyethylene (HDPE). PEX plumbing systems were first used in Europe in the 1970’s and introduced in the United States in 1980. The use of PEX pipe has grown over the years and the product on the market today is a result of improvements in the chemical composition and processing methods. Both PEX and Copper pipe are superior alternatives to older rigid plastic pipe (PVC, CPVC, ABS) systems.
Copper Pipe Advantages:
- Can be used outdoors, unaffected by sunlight (UV rays).
- It doesn’t release toxic gases into the air in case of fire.
- Copper is bacteria resistant.
- Copper is recyclable, making it a more sound environmental choice.
- Cooper is very durable, typically lasting over 100 years.
Copper Pipe Disadvantages:
- The average cost of copper pipe can be up to four to six times higher than PEX pipe. Since copper is a commodity item, prices change frequently.
- Copper pipes can freeze and are more likely to burst during cold weather.Copper can corrode if the pH of the water is too acidic and can give your water a metallic taste.
- Pipes damage more easily when bent or bumped.
- PEX Pipe Advantages:
Requires fewer fittings to install, easier to install, and less likely to have a leak. The fittings require no solder, glue, or adhesive, only a special crimping tool. No open flame torch is used in the installation of PEX pipe!
- The pipe itself is less expensive than copper and very cost effective to install, it requires less labor. A time-motion study found the installation costs of PEX was 28% less than copper.
- You can have long continuous runs of pipe without the need of a coupling fitting.
- It is able to expand and contract, making it less likely to burst in cold weather and durable for extreme temperatures up to 200°F.
- PEX Pipe is stiff, but flexible and can be bent around almost any corner without an elbow fitting. The benefit is saving the cost of the fitting.
- It is quieter than copper pipes, reduces “water hammering” sound inside the pipes.
- Can be used with other pipes, such as copper and CPVC with the proper coupling fitting.
- Has good chemical resistance.
- PEX pipe does not transfer heat as readily as copper… saves energy.
- Color-coded PEX pipe (blue for cold and red for hot) helps eliminate the crossing of hot and cold lines during installation and are easily identifiable.
- Electrolysis will be eliminated. Electrolysis can cause pin-holes in metallic pipes which lead to leaks.
- Thieves are far more likely to steal copper piping from a construction site than flexible PEX piping.
PEX Pipe Disadvantages:
- It cannot be used outside or exposed to UV rays.
- In underground applications, it is susceptible to damage by rodents chewing the pipes.
- PEX pipe cannot be recycled.
- Layers of biofilm, caused by bacteria inside the pipes, can develop plaque like layers and clog or close down the inside of the pipe.
Consider the advantages and disadvantages of both products for your unique situation. Weigh the cost, longevity, water characteristics in your area, and the type of application for your home. Make a good informed decision.
Once you have selected the piping for your project, it’s time to find a plumbing contractor. Most plumbers will give you a free written estimate for larger plumbing projects. Get at least three estimates for the work you want done. Make sure all estimates are for the same scope of work. Price is a major consideration; but look at how detailed and complete each estimate is, interview the plumbing company, and select a licensed, professional plumber to work with. Here is the contact information for a local Vancouver plumber we feel is honest and treats their customers fairly.
KC’s Plumbing and Heating
Vancouver, BC V5N 2S7