20 Jun My House Needs to be Repiped: Should I Choose PEX or Copper Pipe?
If you’re faced with the prospect of repiping, whether for just one room or your entire home, it’s important to look at the options available for piping materials. Different pipe types perform differently, and while cost or convenience might seem like the most important aspect, there could be other features that might also be critical to consider. Two of the most popular piping choices are copper pipes and PEX pipes. In order to choose the best option for their home’s unique needs, it’s important for homeowners to thoroughly understand the differences and benefits of these two piping types.
PEX stands for cross-linked polyethylene, a type of plastic that is what PEX pipes are made of. PEX pipes became popular in the 1980’s for radiant heat flooring but are now also used for plumbing. These are often favored by DIYers because they are easy to install and are color-coded (blue for cold and red for hot), which makes them easy to use and install.
Because PEX pipes are easy to install and the plastic material is inexpensive, PEX pipes are much cheaper in both materials and labor costs. PEX pipes are also resistant to corrosion and mineral buildup and are able to expand and contract with variations in temperature and water pressures.
However, there are a number of disadvantages to using PEX pipes, including that:
- PEX is sensitive to UV rays and so can’t be used outside.
- PIEX pipes are made of a plastic compound that many homeowners prefer to avoid despite PEX being regularly tested for safety with drinking water.
- It is unable to be recycled and will likely end up in a landfill after use because they are plastic.
- PEX piping is susceptible to rodent damage if installed underground.
- It is vulnerable to bacteria buildup on the inside, which may end up blocking and obstructing the pipes from functioning over time.
Copper is a material that is naturally ideal for plumbing because of the properties inherent in the metal’s makeup. For example:
- Copper is naturally resistant to bacteria as it creates a bio-static atmosphere that makes it hard for germs and bacteria to stick on.
- It is naturally corrosion resistant, and so stays cleaner and more effective for your plumbing applications.
- Copper piping is resistant to UV rays, and so unlike PEX it can be used outside.
- Copper is a valuable commodity so the piping in your home can be recycled and reused.
- Unlike plastic, copper pipes won’t release potentially toxic fumes in the event of a fire.
- Copper creates one of the most durable piping types, easily lasting for over 100 years, which also means they are more sustainable and environmentally friendly.
However, there are several disadvantages to using copper pipe, too. They require soldering to join, and so usually need to be installed by an expert. They’re also not suitable in very cold climates where pipes often freeze, the expansion of frozen pipes can cause copper to break. Also, the actually copper piping and the installation of those pipes will be more expensive than a comparable system using PEX; however, these additional costs are offset by the value of copper as a material. If in doubt, talk to an experienced plumber about whether copper piping would function well in your local climate.
Choosing the right material for repiping a room or a whole home is essential for the best long-term results. By understanding the qualities of PEX and copper piping, you can decide which option best matches your preferences and needs. For help making this decision, contact a trusted plumber to schedule a consultation.