If you’re faced with a plumbing repair, plumbing renovation or are building a new house, you’ve probably heard about a product on the market called PEX tubing, or PEX pipe. It has become widely used by plumbers all over the country in recent years, and is quickly becoming the preferred material for indoor plumbing applications.
PEX is basically a form of plastic pipe (specifically, cross-linked polyethylene) that was developed in the 1960’s. It has been used in Europe since that time, and was introduced to the United States in the 1980’s. Over the years, the product has continually been improved, and is now expected to perform and last just as well as traditional copper pipes.
The Advantages of PEX Tubing
- Flexibility: PEX pipe can curve around corners (up to a point) and other tight areas, whereas copper pipes would have to be fitted with an elbow joint.
- Less Costly: Another advantage of using PEX is that it is less costly than copper, and it can be installed and repaired very quickly. It is sold in large spools, which allows it to be installed in long lengths. Therefore, plumbers don’t have to use as many fittings, which also reduces your labor costs on a plumbing project.
- Resists Corrosion: PEX is highly resistant to scale build-up and corrosion, and is equally resistant to any damage from common household cleaners and plumbing chemicals.
- Resists Freezing: While no plumbing product is entirely freeze-proof, PEX is considered to be more freeze resistant than copper. You can even find tubing that is pre-insulated. PEX also withstands very high temperatures as well (up to 180 degrees Fahrenheit for most applications). Tubing materials are often sold in convenient color coded spools – with red being used for hot water lines and blue for cold water.
- Safer to Install: Because there is no soldering involved, PEX is very safe to install. Just watch your head while you’re under that tight crawl space! Pipes are connected using either brass rings or steel clamps that hold the brass fittings in place.
If you decide to replace any plumbing yourself, be sure to buy only PEX tubing that is made specifically for potable water (it will be marked on the package). Other PEX products are used for radiant heat systems, and are slightly different.
If you’re having some copper pipes replaced, here’s how to put a few more dollars in your pocket. After your project is completed, tell your plumbing contractor you want to keep your old copper pipes. Then take them to a scrap metal company that will pay you for the copper.
For more information on using PEX tubing in your home, contact your local plumbing professional or home improvement contractor.