Better for Plumbing: Copper or PEX?
Posted on March 28th, 2018
A person who is having a new home built or is repiping an old home now has the option of installing copper or PEX for their water lines.
What are the pros and cons of each? Our professionals at Plumbing & A/C Medic work with our customers to determine which is right for them.
Benefits of Copper
Copper is by far the most popular type of plumbing pipe. Many plumbers and homeowners prefer copper simply because it has been used for so long and is a known quantity. Rigid copper tubes are used for water lines while soft copper tubes are also used for propane and natural gas. Soft copper tubing is allowed to be installed under concrete, and advantage when the house is built on a slab.
Copper tubing has antibacterial qualities that discourage pathogens from growing inside the pipe. It can be used outdoors because it is not damaged by the sun’s ultraviolet light.
Cons of Copper
One drawback to copper tubing is that it is expensive and can be affected by the pH of the water. If the pipes freeze, they can burst.
Benefits of PEX
PEX is cross-linked polyethylene plastic. It is flexible and comes in colors to distinguish hot water from cold water and water from gas. The tubes are easy to cut with a tube cutter and can be installed quickly. This alone saves money on labor.
PEX tubing can come with conversion fittings that allow it to be connected to the plumbing materials in an older home. The fittings only need to be barbed or crimped as opposed to soldered the way the are with copper tubing. Water flows through PEX tubes noiselessly and the tubes themselves never corrode or rust. PEX cost about a third of the price of copper tubing.
PEX resists damage from chlorine and limescale and doesn’t lose heat as quickly as copper. It also has the great benefit of being much less subject to bursting than copper because it expands greatly before it freezes.
Cons of PEX
There are still areas in the country whose plumbing codes disallow PEX piping, though it is becoming more popular. In some areas, the PEX needs to be connected to copper tubing, including copper manifold systems that send hot and cold water throughout the house. Since PEX is a new technology, some people are wary of how it will hold up after decades in service.