PEX is the Future of Plumbing
The quality of the water we drink has gotten a lot of attention lately, but there’s been little said about the plumbing materials used in the past to supply that water to our homes. When liquids sit dormant in plumbing lines, metals and other substances leach into the water, creating potentially unhealthy conditions.
PEX tubing is an innovative product that addresses those problems associated with traditional plumbing systems that use rigid pipe, like CPVC and copper.
PEX tubing is:
- More sanitary; it doesn’t require adhesives or acid flux
- Corrosion-resistant; its smooth interior does not encourage the mineral build-up like copper pipe and is resistant to other common chemicals found in systems that use traditional plumbing materials.
- Easy to install; PEX can be installed by using conventional branch and tee methods or using a manifold system, which provides a dedicated water source to each fixture in the house.
- Energy-efficient; PEX has a higher R-value than CPVC or copper, meaning less heat loss so hot water lines stay hot longer.
- Quiet; Unlike rigid pipe, the flexibility of PEX tubing allows it to expand to absorb the “water hammer” effect heard in traditional plumbing systems.
- Freeze resistant; when rigid pipes, like CPVC and copper freeze, it usually results in multiple breaks in the system. PEX tubing expands, allowing it to escape those damaging effects from freezing. Typically, when a PEX plumbing system thaws out, it’s as good as new.
- Cost-effective; PEX is the most cost-effective plumbing material on the market today, in both time and money. Fewer fittings mean more money in your pocket, and a lower risk of potential leaks, and it’s flexibility drastically cuts down the time it takes to complete installation or repairs.
- Durable; the ability of PEX pipe to expand and contract with changing temperatures makes it resistant to bursting. And, unlike rigid piping material, there is no risk of corrosion or pitting.
The Advantages of PEX Plumbing your house
The popularity of PEX has steadily increased in the U.S. since its introduction here in the 1980s.
Plumbers and homeowners alike are finding that PEX is ideally suited for potable water plumbing and hydronic heating applications. Its flexibility and strength make it superior to rigid pipe, whether you’re installing radiant heating systems or snow melting applications. Its flexibility also makes it easy to fish up through walls on remodeling projects, making it possible for homeowners to tackle a once difficult job and install PEX plumbing themselves.
PEX, or cross-linked polyethylene, has several advantages over a rigid pipe of copper, iron, or plastic. It can withstand temperatures from below freezing to 200° Fahrenheit. It’s resistant to both the scale and the chemicals found in the typical plumbing environment. It won’t corrode and it won’t develop pinholes. It is faster to install than the rigid pipe and uses fewer connections and fittings, meaning a lower cost installation over traditional plumbing materials. And since most plumbing problems will occur at joints, fewer fittings will also reduce the possibility of leaks.
- Flexible pipe can make many directional changes without the need for elbow fittings
- It can be installed in long runs without the necessity of coupling fittings
- Fittings do not require soldering, eliminating the health hazards of lead-based solder and acid fluxes
- No torch is needed to make connections, making it safer to install
- There is no cure time waiting for fittings to dry or cool down
- PEX tubing conserves energy because it does not transfer heat as readily as copper
- Water flows quietly through PEX pipe, eliminating that characteristic “water hammer” noise of copper pipe systems
- Tubing systems typically run to a central manifold, allowing homeowners to shut off a single fixture for repairs, instead of shutting off the water supply to the entire room or house
- It’s is less expensive than traditional rigid pipe
PEX Tubing vs Copper and CPVC
Developed in the 1960s, PEX tubing is a fairly inexpensive flexible material that is durable in extreme temperatures ranging from below freezing to 200° F. PEX is freeze-resistant, won’t corrode, and is resistant to pitting and scaling. It’s easy to install, and has fewer joints than traditional plumbing pipe, bringing down costs and reducing the chance of leaks. PEX fittings don’t require soldering (or solvents), so no torches or soldering skills are needed to make connections.If you’re not a plumber, chances are that you have questions about which plumbing material is better; PEX, copper, or CPVC. And even if you are familiar with traditional rigid pipe, you might not be too sure about what PEX tubing really is. So here is some general information that can help you determine which pipe is best suited for your next plumbing project.
Copper pipe has been around for decades. It’s durable, resists bacteria, is not affected by UV light, and is resistant to mineral scaling. But, as we all know, the price of copper has risen considerably over the past several years, making copper the most expensive choice for your plumbing project. However, because copper is a valuable metal it can be recycled, which isn’t true of PEX or CPVC. Fittings are soldered.
CPVC has been used in both residential and commercial applications for almost 50 years. CPVC is lightweight and is the least expensive of these three options. It resists corrosion, pitting, and scaling. Fittings, which are also made of CPVC, are bonded in place with solvent. It tends to become brittle with time or exposure to UV light.
|Resistant to Scaling||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Resistant to Pinholes||Yes||No||Yes|
|Withstand UV Light||No||Yes||No|
|Withstand Temperatures up to 200°||Yes||Yes||No|
PEX Plumbing Installation
Before you buy your PEX plumbing supplies, draw up your intended layout. As you plan your layout, remember that because of its flexibility, PEX allows for designs that are just not possible with traditional rigid pipe. For example, PEX tubing can be pulled through holes drilled in your floor joists, keeping your pipes tucked neatly up into the floor frame and out of the way. Note the locations and types of any fittings you’re going to need, taking into consideration any major obstacles you may encounter in the framing.
To get started with your PEX Plumbing Installation, you’ll need;
- 90° Angle drill
- 1-1/4″ – 1-1/2″ Spade bit
- PEX Pipe
- PEX Fittings
- PEX Crimp rings
- PEX Cutting tool
- PEX Hangers
- Metal stud plates
- Expansion tank
Note; before you begin, make sure that your project complies with local code and that you’ve acquired any necessary permits.
If you encounter a problem while installing PEX, just Ask Our Certified Plumber.
PEX Plumbing Installation Steps:
- Drill holes in the studs or joists where you plan to run the PEX pipe. Apply metal stud plates where the holes have been drilled to prevent screws and nails from accidentally puncturing the PEX pipe and any other vulnerable pipes. Pipes and wires can be hit easily when drywall and moldings are installed. Tip; you can reduce the need for metal plates by drilling your holes high enough in the joists that a nail or screw can’t reach them.
- Feed the pipe through your drilled holes while someone else is pulling it from the coil. Keep in mind that PEX tubing is very flexible and it expands and contracts as it heats and cools. This is more common on the hot side because, as the hot water travels through, the pipe heats up rather quickly. To prevent too much linear expansion in vertical runs you can make a loop or a – bend up inside the floor joist. You can also reduce linear expansion by adding a piece of copper in every fifty feet of PEX. For all domestic water systems with storage type or on-demand hot water tanks, we recommend an expansion tank. When water is heated it expands, creating additional pressure on the system. The expansion tank has a bladder inside that helps take that expansion out of the system. This also reduces pipe noise and prevents your relief vents from blowing off.
- Use PEX hangers to secure the pipe to studs or joists and near any bends to reduce the strain on fittings. Be sure to use hangers made of plastic and are made for use with PEX. Some hangers made of metal were not intended for use on PEX or copper. Use a hanger every 32” on a horizontal run. On vertical runs, the pipe will need support at every floor level. Apply the supports firmly, but do no tighten them around the pipe to allow for pipe movement.
- Apply your fittings by sliding a crimp ring over the pipe. A good square cut on the end of the PEX pipe is essential before you insert any fittings into it. Be sure that the pipe butts the fitting shoulder. Slide the crimp ring over the end of the pipe leaving 1/8” – ¼” of the pipe exposed. Use the crimping tool to crimp the ring tightly into place.
- Once all of your pipes are installed in this fashion turn the main water supply on and check for any leaks in the joints. Redo any leaking joints and test again. If you’re working on a new build you can also do a leak check with an air test. Just put an air gauge in line with your system. Pump it up with air and watch to see if pressure drops on your gauge. We recommend leaving the air in the system for at least two hours and check your gauge for a pressure drop. Tip; if the pressure does drop you can make a solution of liquid soap and water. Apply this solution to your fittings; if they blow bubbles then that connection is leaking.