Anytime you are going to install a new piping system, whether it be at home or somewhere else, you will deal with a few choices. You will see some of these choices a lot, enough to make you wonder what makes them so popular and suitable.
Two of these very used systems are the PEX and Copper piping systems. Both of these have really good qualities that make them so popular.
But at the same time, different people prefer one over the other, sometimes because of personal preferences, but mostly because of their properties which match different scenarios.
To get a good idea of what these differences are, and if you had to pick one, which should you pick and why, check out this little showdown here. We compare PEX vs Copper, highlighting everything you need to know, and of course, declaring a winner too!
What Is a PEX Piping System?
PEX, or cross-linked polyethylene piping system is used for supplying water and is made from a plastic material. PEX pipes are flexible and highly durable.
They typically come in a few sizes, starting from ¼-inches, up to 4 inches, in diameter. The sizes one is most likely to find are 1-inch, ½-inch, and ¾-inch.
Advantages Of PEX Piping System
• Good Memory
PEX piping systems have a good memory. Meaning, even after being stretched, it will go back to its initial position. Thanks to its high flexibility, it returns to its original shape, retaining pressure inside the pipes over time.
• Low Risk Of Leaks
PEX piping systems do not leak, which is a big advantage when dealing with water supply.
Since PEX piping is made from plastic, it is very flexible. The pipes can be curved or bent when installed, which makes them easier to work with.
This also makes them a suitable choice when working with spaces with lots of obstacles, as these pipes can bend around them without receiving damage.
• Energy Conserving
Unlike most metal pipes, PEX pipes do not transfer heat. Therefore, when transferring warm water through the pipes, you will get the actual temperature without much of the heat being lost.
• Low Health Hazard
When working with PEX pipes, soldering or torching is not required as these pipes are attached to fittings. This makes the process safer for workers as they don’t have to deal with acid fluxes or lead-based solders.
• Corrosion Resistant
PEX piping systems do not catch as much scale build-up as other traditional pipes, and it does not corrode either, making them very strong and efficient.
• Cheap Installation
PEX tubes are fairly cheap to install, for various reasons. Given they are made from plastic and are flexible, they do not require a ton of fittings. They also take less manpower to install, which helps in reducing fees.
Overall, they tend to be cheaper in general for many reasons too, one of them being, PEX tubing is easy to store and ship, thanks to its flexibility.
Disadvantages Of PEX Piping System
• Expensive Fittings
Installing fittings is pretty easy with PEX pipes, but it is the type of fittings that tend to be expensive. They are called SharkBite Push-Type Fittings, which don’t require tools while installing, making it easy to do so, but at the same time making it costlier.
• Rodent Damage
PEX pipes are very durable, but due to their plastic and flexible nature, they are susceptible to rodent damage. So if you have rodents in your area, PEX pipes are at high risk of being cut, resulting in a leakage.
• Heat Damage
Exposure to UV rays can cause damage to PEX tubes, so the user has to be careful not to expose the tubes to sunlight for too long. This also limits their uses, as they cannot be used outdoors.
These pipes should also be kept away from extreme heat or any kind of flames, which can damage them.
• Selective Usage
PEX pipes can be very limited in usage, as you cannot use them in areas that have contaminated soil, oil-based or mineral-based products, water with high chlorine content, petroleum, or hazardous waste.
All of these substances contain chemicals that can alter the characteristics of the PEX pipe.
What Is A Copper Piping System?
The copper piping system is one of the oldest piping systems in the world, dating back almost 5000 years, and has been very popular until plastic pipes were introduced in the 1970s.
But they are still widely used, and contractors and plumbers will still recommend them given that they are of good quality.
Advantages Of Copper Piping System
Copper pipes are very durable, which is one of the main reasons why they have been used for so many years. The average copper pipe can last up to 70 years, depending on other factors such as climate, operations, water quality, etc.
• Low Reactivity Rate
Copper pipes have low reactivity, which makes them resistant to corrosion. This saves them from hard water, or water that is contaminated, and does not affect the pipes.
• No Contamination
Most metal pipes tend to contaminate water by fading out. This includes common metals like lead, galvanized steel, or iron. Copper pipes, however, do not contaminate the water, as they do not fade out or corrode.
• Environmentally Friendly
Copper pipes do not release dangerous emissions or chemicals through their manufacturing process. And after being discarded as pipes, they can be recycled and reused as other materials.
• High Resistance
Copper pipes are fire resistant, and they will not burn, nor release hazardous gases upon coming into contact with fire. They are also resistant to extremely cold temperatures. Moreover, copper pipes can be used indoors and outdoors, as they are not affected by UV radiation.
Disadvantages Of Copper Piping System
• Pricy Installation
Unfortunately installing copper pipes are somewhat expensive, as they require some fittings, and more labor for those fittings, increasing the expenses.
And given their rigid structure, copper pipes are more expensive to transport as well, which is another factor that adds to the cost.
• Adds Little Flavor To Water
While this is rare, and only happens sometimes, copper pipes can add a slightly metallic flavor to the water. And this can be unpleasant for a lot of people when drinking the water.
• Not Resistant To Acidic Water
While copper pipes are resistant to a lot of things, they are unfortunately not resistant to acidic water. This means if you are sourcing your water from a well, or any water that has high acidity levels, it will affect the pipes in a few years.
Copper Vs PEX: Which Piping System Should I Use?
PEX pipes can be in general used for water supply lines, hot water lines, floor heating applications, for residential or fire sprinkler systems. Copper Pipes can be used for water supply lines, gas lines, fire sprinklers, medical uses, home heating, air conditioning systems, and many more uses.
PEX pipes are more flexible, which lowers their risk of leakage. They do not degrade over time either. Copper pipes on the other hand degrade with usage, which can result in leakages along the line.
Read Also: How To Stop Brass Fittings From Leaking?
• Withstanding Freezing Temperatures
When the temperature drops under zero, water pipes freezing becomes a big hazard, as they risk bursting. PEX pipes can handle this pressure when the water freezes and recoils back to its shape after the ice melts.
The case is the opposite with copper pipes, which end up bursting under pressure, as the water freezes in the pipes and expands.
Installing PEX tubing accumulates to lower costs than installing copper pipes. And this is because it is simply easier to install PEX tubing, while installing Copper pipes takes more labor, hence increasing the bills.
Bottom Line – Which One is For You?
The bottom line is, if you wish to have a piping system at home that is specifically made for the water supply, the PEX piping system is the winner.
It does not react, release contaminants, waste energy, and it is easy to install and very flexible too.
However, if you want a piping system for everything in the house, ranging from water to gas, then copper is the better choice, even though it has some other downsides to it.
Weighing by their pros and cons in PEX vs Copper comparison, PEX is what we would recommend for general usage in the home, as it has a lot more advantages, and also one of the reasons why most homes are shifting to PEX systems for their home’s piping system.