Copper Pipes vs. PEX: Which Piping Material Is Better?


Copper Pipes vs. PEX: Which Piping Material Is Better?

Do you have a plumbing fix or renovation project coming up? You probably have a choice between copper pipes and PEX piping, two common choices with a lot of advantages. Here's what you need to know.

Copper Piping

While other metals come and go, copper has always been a mainstay for the plumbing profession. Copper piping has several qualities that make it excellent for running water throughout a home. First, it is highly resistant to corrosion and does not rust like steel does. The elemental qualities of copper also make it inhospitable for algae, bacteria and other undesirable things that you really don't want living in your pipes.

Copper also has some incredible durability: High-quality copper piping will easily last as long as your house does, and repairs are usually quite simple. For high-flowing piping moving in one direction (with few corners or turns), copper piping is very dependable.

However, not everything about copper pipes is perfect. It's still a metal, which means it's pretty heavy. This extra weight can affect some plumbing installation projects. It's also inflexible, which means looping the piping around in tight spaces can be difficult. Copper may struggle with corrosion in some areas with more acidic water, and in cold weather it can crack if water freezes (a problem all metal piping shares). With the soldering and careful joining that copper pipe requires, it's best left to the professionals.

PEX Piping

PEX is shorthand for crosslinked polyethylene, a form of thinner plastic piping that can be used in a variety of plumbing projects. That plastic material can be easily color-coded for water temperature, and curved around small spaces without needing complicated joint work. The PEX material is also easy to install with simple tools and fewer necessary pieces.

PEX can also insulate water better than metal, which means hot water will lose less heat than it would in copper. PEX piping also doesn't suffer from scale buildup or chlorine damage the way copper can, and it can resist freezing conditions that would crack copper. If you have a complex plumbing project to complete or retrofit in a tiny space, PEX is the piping that can get it done. It's also recommended for climates where winter temperatures are frequently freezing.

However, even this versatile piping has its downsides. It cannot be used outside like copper can, and it does not have the same century-long durability of copper. There's also an environmental impact to consider: PEX plastic cannot be recycled.

The Final Word

For repairs and renovations, it's best to use PEX piping where possible. However, for extra durability and warranties, or for matching your old plumbing, you may be better off with copper pipes, at least in areas without frequent freezing temperatures. When in doubt, always ask a plumbing professional.

For answers to your piping questions, contact The Pink Plumber today!

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