What Advantages Does Using Pex Pipes Offer?

This article takes a look at the advantages and pros and cons of using PEX pipes for home plumbing projects.

PE-X or PEX pipes as they are usually called, are an alternative to traditional copper, chlorinated polyvinyl chloride (CPVC), or other pipes commonly used in plumbing. One of three methods is used to create the PE-X material, which cross-links the molecules in polyethylene, resulting in a superior product. This product, which was developed in the United States during the 1960s, has been used in Europe for many years. Although it has been available since the 1980s, it has only recently become a popular alternative in the United States.

The most common uses for PEX pipes are radiant heat in floors, under-floor piping, and potable hot and cold-water distribution lines for plumbing systems. PEX pipes are widely available and sold at many plumbing supply stores. PEX pipes meet the quality control standards of the American Society of Testing Materials (ATSM) and are an approved piping material for potable water in many municipalities.

PEX pipes are sized the same way as copper and other traditional plumbing pipes are, for example ¼" ½", 3/8", and 1" diameters. They are sold in 500 or 1000-foot length coils or in 20-foot long sections. Shorter lengths may also be available for home use. The pipes are joined together by brass couplings or fittings as supplied by the manufacturer. Special fittings are also available to join PEX pipes to copper, steel, PVC and CPVC pipes.

PEX piping systems consist of three components, a manifold, the pipes, and the fittings. The water main from outside the house connects to the manifold, typically located near the water heater. The PEX pipes are attached to the manifold and distribute potable water to the house. Often the pipes are color coded so it is obvious which lines are hot and cold.

PEX pipes are easy to install especially in old houses where there are many obstacles to overcome. Easy to cut and size, they are also used in many new houses. Costs and lifespan for PEX pipes are comparable to traditional copper, CPVC, metal or PVC piping systems.

Although PEX pipes can withstand extremes in temperature from below freezing to 200 degrees F, they are approved for interior use only. When installing PEX pipes, avoid placing them in locations where there is direct sunlight. Because PEX pipes expand and contract more than metal pipes, it is less likely that the pipes will burst. Although the PEX pipes themselves do not freeze, there is still a possibility that water will freeze in the pipes, the same as for other piping materials. If this happens, use a hair dryer on the low setting to thaw the frozen water and be careful not to overheat the tubing.

Other advantages of using PEX pipes are:

1. PEX pipes do not corrode because there is no chemical breakdown of the PEX material and nothing catches on the smooth interior of the pipes.

2. PEX pipes save money because their flexibility allows pipes to be installed in a direct line, rather than a circuitous route around obstacles. Hot water traveling shorter distances means that less energy is used, which reduces costs.

3. It is easier to make repairs because there are shut off valves at each supply line. This means whole system doesn't need to be shut down for repairs.

4. Because fewer fittings are required to join the pipes, there are fewer opportunities for leaks to occur. Before using the system always verify that there are no leaks in accordance with the instructions supplied by the manufacturer.

© High Speed Ventures 2011