PEX Piping vs. Copper Piping
If you are like the rest of us non-plumbers, then there is a good chance that you don't know which plumbing pipe is better. You may not even know what a PEX pipe is. Relax: Not many of us do. We're not plumbers, but maybe it's time that increase our basic knowledge so that we know what we are getting and whether it is something we truly want. Once you know the basics, you'll feel more comfortable to find a plumber to help you with your piping needs.
Now you're probably wondering what PEX piping is. Well, it is cross-linked polyethylene pipe. After going through several processes, the material becomes durable for extreme temperatures (hot or cold), creep deformation which happens from long-term exposure to stress, and chemical attack from acids, alkalies and the like. All of this makes PEX an excellent piping substance for hot and cold water systems, especially since PEX is flexible and well adapted for temperatures below freezing all the way up to 200 degrees Fahrenheit.
As mentioned above, PEX is a good plumbing material because it is flexible and easy for plumbers to install. PEX is also resistant to breaks in cold weather and has fewer joints, bringing your costs down.
Since copper piping has been around for decades, we know that the metal is durable and flexible, making it easy to install - especially compared to iron pipes. Copper piping also provides a biostatic atmosphere, making it difficult for bacteria to grow inside of it, which is an important health consideration.
Copper also resists corrosion and is unaffected by ultraviolet rays, which means it can be used for outside needs. This is unlike PEX pipes, which are affected by ultraviolet rays and therefore should not be used outside. However, copper can corrode due to the pH of the water if it is too acidic or too basic for the pipes. But just because it corrodes doesn't mean that the water is bad for you. Try to think of it like this: the Pacific Northwest region of the US and, of course, Canada, has some of the best drinking water in the world, but that very same water has a corrosive effect on the pipes.
The choice between PEX and copper is solely yours, but keep in mind a few of the advantages and disadvantages of each system before you decide.
Advantages of PEX:
- Adaptable and easy-to-use plumbing system
- Can be used with hot and cold water
- Can also be used with metal and PVC piping
- PEX has fewer fittings, making it faster to install and with less of a chance to leak
- PEX is more burst-resistant due to its flexibility to expand and contract
- It has a shutoff valve at each supply line, making it more convenient for you when you have to get repairs done
- PEX can have a pressure balanced system
- Since it is flexible, the pipes can be bent around most corners and usually won't need a coupling or fitting
Disadvantages of PEX:
- It cannot be used outside
- Cannot be recycled, due to its shorter life use
- It provides an impermeable membrane that may allow the possibility of water contamination
- The pipes may be damaged if left outside for a long period of time
Advantages of Copper:Durable and flexible, making it easy to install Safer in natural disasters Weather and bacteria-resistant Resists corrosion, more so than other metals Unaffected by ultraviolet rays, so it can be used outside Copper does not release toxic gases in a fire because it resists burning In earthquakes, the slightly elastic pipes flex so that they don't snap Copper is recyclable, making it a more sound environmental choice
Disadvantages of Copper Piping
- Can corrode
- Has become expensive
- With higher levels of copper from corrosion, water can have a metallic taste
- Copper can freeze and break during cold water
Compare the prices of PEX and copper piping to help understand the
between the two:
3/8" - $0.38
1/2" - $0.40
5/8" - $0.62
3/4" - $0.76
1" - $1.26
3/8" - $4.87
1/2" - $5.67
5/8" - $7.31
3/4" - $10.21
1" - $13.38
We Asked Plumbers: What do you think about PEX piping when compared to copper piping?
Master Plumber Rick Marquette answered: "There really is no comparison. I like my copper pipe because with PEX pipe, you have to have the right tools. It's convenient if you have all the tools...and that really matters when on a job site. I find copper easier to install because of this, and that is the main difference."
Carol Jones said: "It [PEX] is obviously superior, and easy to install. Copper will break, and then there are all the elbows that must be installed. Every spring, with copper, I have breaks from the cold winters. The polyethylene pipe (PEX) will give a little, so it's not as likely to break as copper. And PEX is faster and easier to install and it is easier to drain the system since each line is independent to the incoming source of water. You can turn off each segment. Copper runs all together and is a lot harder to install since you have to know how to solder, and not everyone knows how. With PEX, the only thing you have to do is buy the expensive crimper, which pays off after having to have the copper fixed every spring because of breakage. PEX is more for do-it-yourselfers and it isn't hard to splice, plus it is cheaper to install."
We hope this gives those non-plumbing homeowners or business owners a basic knowledge and understanding of the difference between PEX piping and copper piping. If you have any other plumbing issues, feel free to visit our online plumbing forum.