When building a new home or making repairs and renovations to an existing piping system, many home owners are in a dilemma on the type of plumbing material that best fits their project. However, they all come down to the most popular types of pipe materials: Pex or Copper.
Now choosing between these two can be an uphill task.
We will dive into the advantages and disadvantages of each material and give outlines on the main differences to help you make that important decision.
The Differences : PEX vs Copper
Use over time – Historical Use Copper vs PEX
Over the years copper has been the most prominent plumbing material. Its use can be traced back to the ancient Egypt where it was the only material in use then.
The use of copper did not end with the Egyptians, it has found its way to modern buildings over the years. You will actually find copper in almost all houses throughout the country.
However, in the recent past, the use of copper and plastic PVC pipes is getting phased out by the use of PEX.
Housing experts estimate that there is an annual increase of up to 40 % in residential use of PEX to deliver drinking water to home faucets. This clearly points to a more PEX dominant future in the plumbing industry as the technology is taking the market by storm.
Number of connections required
Copper is very rigid which necessitates cutting it into small pieces and fitting elbow joints every time the plumber gets to a corner. This means you will need extra labor for the installation.
PEX runs smoothly and bends around corners. You will not need any connection right from the manifold to the fixture be it a sink or tub.
During a home remodel the flexibility that comes with PEX comes in handy as you can snake the pipe through the finished walls. For copper you might need to break through the dry walls to give the plumber access and make waterproof connections.
Product Durability between Copper and PEX
PEX beats copper in durability hands down as it can last for over 100 years. However this lifespan can be shortened greatly when you use extremely hot water 180 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. It is also prone to water with impurities or high levels of chlorine.
The lifespan of copper can be classified by their different types of pipes.
- M-Type : This is the thinnest copper pipes that is used in residential buildings and it has a lifespan of between 20 and 50 Years.
- L-Type : These are medium duty copper pipes. They are the most durable copper pipes available for home piping. They have a lifespan of between 50 and 100Years.
- K-Type : This is the thickest copper pipe available in the market. The pipes in these category are used to serve as Water Mains in cities and estates. The pipes can last more than 100 Years making them the most durable copper pipes. You however don’t need these class of pipes in your building as they are extremely expensive.
Overall Cost of Installation
While we all agree that copper has some great benefits, it is definitely extremely expensive compared to PEX. For a standard 1/2″ x 10 feet pipe the cost of the cheapest M-Type Copper is $15 compared to $3 for the same size PEX Pipe. This is five times more expensive.
Health Risks Involved Between PEX and Copper
Research has proved that PEX has absolutely zero or very minimal health concerns. Drinking water from PEX piping is very safe.
For copper, there are numerous cases of corrosion as water passes through the pipes. When ingested through the drinking water, copper can cause headaches, nausea, stomach complains, diarrhea, vomiting among other alimentary related ailments. Doctors warn that a long term exposure to copper in human bodies can cause failure of some organs like the liver which can ultimately lead to death.
Different Areas To Use PEX or Copper
PEX Pipe Installations,
- Pex can be used in the following areas comfortably,
- Portable distribution systems and City water supply lines.
- Hot water distribution to different applications for example radiators.
- Heat transfers in extreme weather floor needs including room warming, floor cooling , permafrost protection, melting snow among others.
- Water points for sprinkler systems and Residential fire.
Copper Pipe Installations
- Underground gas and water services.
- Fuel systems
- Oxygen transfer systems,
- Drainage and Vent Systems
- Non flammable gas systems
- Chilled water mains
Advantages and Disadvantages of PEX Vs Copper
Advantages of using PEX
- More Resistant to freezing breakages compared to copper
- PEX does not corrode
- Cheap installation and purchasing costs
- Conserves energy as it is a poor conductor hence very little heat is lost through pipe wall.
- Less leaks due to fewer connections.
- Highly resistant to scale build up.
- PEX is flexible and curves around structural framings easily for easier installations.
What are the Disadvantages of using PEX?
- It can be destroyed by high chlorine concentrations in the water.
- It requires approval before installation to keep it safe from damages
- It needs protection from UV light as it damages the pipe over time.
- It needs protection from extreme heats and flames.
Advantages of Using Copper
- The pipes are rust resistant.
- Copper can be recycled after use.
- The pipes are durable
- The pipes have antimicrobial properties that keep off viruses and microbes and kills bacteria upon contact.
The Disadvantages of Using Copper Pipes
- The pipes are expensive
- It corrodes giving water a metallic taste which turns many people off.
- Copper can be toxic
- The pipes have very low resistance to acidity.
- Installation is expensive.
All signs show that PEX is far much better than copper when it comes to piping. Apart from being extremely cheap to acquire, it is very easy to install require very little labor.
The PEX system is not only resistant to acidity it won’t corrode easily too.
If you are trying a DIY project at home then PEX is your best bet. You just need a few tools in your tool box and you are good to go. For Huge tasks you might need to get a PEX GUN to help you get the job done easily and within a short time.