We’re here for part two of our “How Not to Call the Plumber” – Water Pipe Edition! This week we’re going to talk about PEX – Cross-Linked Polyethylene. If your home was built or renovated within the last 20 years, you will most likely have had the older copper pipes replaced with PEX!
PEX piping was first produced in the 1960’s and initially brought into use in the home in the 1980’s as a method of piping primarily for hydronic heating (piping for radiators, in-floor heating, etc.). It wasn’t until the early 2000’s that PEX piping started to be used for more highly pressurized plumbing systems. Today, we use it for a wide variety of purposes including water piping, heating and cooling systems, chemical and oil transportation, and even natural gas. It has come a long way since it’s introduction!
We see a number of advantages to using PEX piping, primarily in it’s ability to transport liquids more efficiently than it’s more “rigid” counterparts. The flexibility of PEX allows it to be bent around corners, which means fewer fittings. Fewer fittings means less turbulence inside the pipe (which means a higher flow of water to the fixtures), as well as a lesser chance that there will be a leak in the future!
Another major advantage to PEX piping is the lower chance of bursting when frozen, compared to older, copper pipes. When the water inside PEX piping freezes, the pipe tends to expand with the newly formed ice, rather than burst in the way copper typically would. This (hopefully) means that you’re less likely the have a surprise flood in the spring when you open up those outdoor faucets. With that said, it is still very important to prevent freezing of ANY pipe, whenever possible.
While there are many advantages, there are also some disadvantages to this newest method of piping. First is it’s higher likelihood to be punctured by things such as that nail you used to hang a picture, or even rodents (yes, I’ve been called more than a few times to houses where mice have chewed through the pipe!).
Lastly, we are also still unsure about longevity, as it is a relatively new material. It is projected to last 50 years, but things like temperature and potential exposure to UV lighting can lessen that lifespan. Only time will really tell!
That’s it for this week. While a history lessen in PEX piping may not be the most exciting topic, it is very important that you know and understand what is going on behind the walls of your home. Knowing the limitations of your home will allow you to make smarter, more educated decisions in the future; maybe we’ll even avoid a flood or two!
Have a great weekend and we’ll see you next week for the last part of this series – the dreaded Kitec pipe!