Pex vs. Copper: How to make the right choice

Now, you’re probably wondering what PEX piping is. Well, it is cross-linked polyethylene pipe. The material is durable for extreme temperatures (hot or cold), creep deformation (which happens from long-term exposure to stress), and chemical attack from acids or alkalies . All of this makes PEX an approved piping substance for hot and cold water systems, especially since PEX is flexible and well adapted for temperatures ranging from below freezing all the way up to 200 degrees Fahrenheit.

Since Copper has been around for so long, most people are familiar with what it is. It is also relatively easy to install. Recently Copper has become somewhat cost prohibitive depending on how you look at it.

In the interest of full disclosure, we are definitely pro copper water supply system. We will outline why and in what instances Pex is a superior product, which applications it is a superior product for, and why in general we feel copper supply systems are superior.

PEX

Picture of a cross section of PEX piping

Advantages:

  • Very quick to install
  • Can be used With hot cold water supply
  • Transitions easily two other piping systems for partial applications
  • Far more cold tolerant than any other system making it ideal for freeze risks
  • The homerun system with manna block allows for a pressure balance system
  • It’s flexibility allows for less fittings
  • The best choice for hard water

Disadvantages:

  • Cannot be used in an area exposed to sunlight
  • Cannot be recycled
  • Allows for the growth of microbes inside the system
  • Cannot remove contaminants from outside the system
  • Less data is available on long term performance and effects
  • Joints rely on steel rings that under any sort of damp conditions will corrode leaving the joint prone to failure

Copper

Picture of a bundle of copper pipes

Advantages:

  • Durable time tested performance
  • Anti microbial
  • Safe in sunlight
  • No gases released in a fire
  • Recyclable
  • 60-80 year lifespan
  • If installed correctly provides adequate pressure to all fixtures

Disadvantages

  • Cost
  • Freeze prone
  • Can corrode in some applications(hard water)

Let’s be clear, if cost is king then Pex is your product. We also believe Pex is a great product if there is any chance of freezing or if lines need to be added to an existing application that is very difficult to access. It’s flexible nature allows for it to be installed in very difficult locations without the need for soldering. It is, without a doubt, the best choice for hard water.

If however you’re looking for a superior product for general application and the best water quality for your family, hands-down copper is your product. It has had a positive track record for years. You never notice your copper pipe, it just quietly does its job well. If you cut open a pex line, you’ll see why it should be used in the right situation, but always with copper as a main source in our opinion.

We believe both systems have their place knowing when where and why you are using them allows for an informed decision. This will lead to a satisfactory end result and happy and user.

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