Copper Piping Vs. PEX: Which Is Best For Your Home?
When living in a big city, it can sometimes be best to not think about where the water coming out of your faucet has come from. Of course, it’s clean and safe, but what about the pipes the water has passed through in order to arrive in your kitchen? Queen Victoria ruled the British Empire from 1837 until 1901 and it was during this time of prosperity that the fast growing city of London needed a lot of new infrastructure, including pipes to supply water to its rapidly swelling number of citizens.
Around 30% of water pipes still in use in London date from this era, and while the water meets the highest of safety standards, it can still be a little disconcerting to think that water in your drinking glass has passed through pipes more than 150 years old. While the case of London’s water pipes is an extreme example, all cities have to deal with old pipes, and to ensure that they’re still capable of delivering clean water to the population.
Fortunately, the city fathers of the day made the right decision when it came to selecting construction material, otherwise the pipes would no longer be able to do their job.
But what about the pipes a little closer to home? When it comes to pipes needed in your home, whether you’re renovating, building a new home or simply need to replace faulty plumbing, copper pipes are still very common, and can be considered the norm.
Advances in plumbing technology means that it’s not the only option, and many times the decision comes down to copper piping vs. PEX piping. But what is best for your home?
What is PEX?
PEX, or as it’s formally known, cross-linked polythene, is piping that has been constructed from polythene (plastic) that is highly durable due to the fact that has been formed with extraordinarily strong cross-links. PEX has been around since the 1930’s, but it wasn’t until improved production methods in the 1980’s that it became a viable alternative to its copper counterparts.
Since PEX is a synthetic material, it doesn’t have as many environmental implications as copper piping, which is constructed using a non-renewable resource. While many newer copper pipes are made from recycled copper, they are still far more costly than PEX. Copper prices have gone up in recent years, and as a result, PEX has become increasingly common when it comes to residential and commercial plumbing.
A key benefit of copper piping is its longevity, and in many instances, the manufacturer will offer an amazing 50-year warranty on newly installed copper pipes. While PEX also has a long shelf life, copper is the clear winner when it comes to durability. If you live in an area prone to natural disasters, copper is also the front-runner, since even in the event of severe damage; your copper pipes will often come through the incident unscathed.
Copper Piping Vs. PEX
It’s never an easy decision, but your options will vary depending on your needs. If you need to install new piping, ask your contractor or plumber about the benefits of both options. Most homeowners will opt for the ease and reduced cost of PEX, and it can also result in stronger water pressure than copper, since PEX is usually installed with less abrupt turns inside the wall, meaning that the water doesn’t have to slow down so much when it’s making its way to your shower.
PEX is also advantageous in parts of the world that suffer from harsh winters, since it’s less prone to cracking from frozen water than copper.
No matter which type of piping you decide to install in your home, it’s unlikely that it will still be there in 150 years time, so you really need to consider what’s best now for you and your family, as well as your bank balance. Both options have their advantages, but with soaring copper prices and increased environmental concern about the ongoing supply of the material, it’s little wonder that PEX will likely become the most used material in a few short years.
Although 150 years from now, there will no doubt be some amazing new type of pipe technology and both copper and PEX piping will only be able to be found in a museum… next to other artefacts like Queen Victoria’s throne and the iPhone.