PEX Piping or Traditional Materials?
One of the newest debates in the vast world of pipes is whether or not PEX piping is more efficient than copper piping. As construction begins to shift to the greener side of things, professionals are searching mercilessly for the answer to high quality, economically efficient, and environmentally friendly materials.
PEX piping, or crosslinked polyethylene, is a sturdy plastic pipe used for both plumbing and radiant and cooling markets. It comes in sizes as big as 4 inches and is steadily growing more popular. For 40 years, it has been used in residential applications. It wasn’t until the last ten years that it became present in commercial uses as well.
As more and more people become aware of the many benefits that come from using PEX piping, copper, steel, and CPVC materials are using their subtle monopoly on the piping industry. The debate has recently intensified as the focus has shifted to the sustainability of structures, materials, and environments. Does PEX piping meet the environmental, economical, and expert quality standards being set by professionals?
Ask the Experts
The question of whether PEX is the newest material to dominate the piping industry comes down to the answers from the experts. The Plastic Pipe and Fittings Association, The Plastics Pipe Institute and The European Plastic Pipe and Fittings Association were requested to research whether PEX was the smarter choice over copper. When it came time to look into the pros and cons of each material, researching had to keep in mind certain factors including the use of natural resources, potential pollution during manufacturing, over-fertilizing of soil and water, how the ozone layer is effected, global warming as a whole, and photochemical oxidation.
After much research, it was found that plastic piping has less of an effect on the environment compared to that of metal, or traditional, materials. Lightweight plastic piping is the more “green” option for the simple fact that plastic requires less manufacturing, transportation, and removal. PEX requires minimal energy to process and the extrusion process is clean and has a small effect on the environment.
On the other hand, copper must first be mined, then refined and then transformed into the final product that will eventually be used by consumers. This process in its entirety is immensely energy consuming and requires a lot of non-renewable resources. Therefore, as far as the environment is concerned, PEX is the smarter choice.
PEX is also known for having a longer lifetime than copper materials. Research shows that it can last more than a century, while copper needs to be replaced every 10 years or so. Because of unfortunate, but common, happenings such ass corrosion and pinhole leaks, copper piping’s lifetime can essentially be cut a lot shorter than that of PEX piping. PEX is extremely durable and does not pit, scale, or corrode. Thanks to its flexible material, it is very unlikely to acquire heat or freezing damage. Copper is a conductor, while PEX has the ability to expand up to three times its size, and then shrink back down to its original size. Because of all this, PEX piping is able to last about 10 times longer than copper piping.
Lifetime and Pollution
Because of the fact that it is made of nonrenewable resources, many feel as though PEX isn’t the most environmentally material to use as a piping structure. However, PEX piping is a longer lasting alternative and doesn’t require constant replacing. Crude oil and gas are often used and put into the environment through processes such as vehicle consumption. It makes more sense to use these resources for a long term application rather than burning them once. Using crude oil and gas for PEX piping is the smarter alternative and can be used over 100 years rather than in a matter of hours in a vehicle.
The flexibility of PEX compared to the lack thereof in copper comes in handy when it comes to the mass amounts that essentially need to be used. Rather than using more metal to turn corners, PEX piping can simply bend around twists and turns without an issue. This provides a sincere reduction in materials and improves water flows as well.
Whether it is being used for plumbing, piping, radiant heating/cooling, or fire safety, PEX’s ability to maintain extreme water temperature consistently comes in handy. Its thick walls and low thermal conductivity make it less likely to give in to condensation on cold water lines. It also has a larger internal diameter than copper does, allowing an increased water flow, and won’t waste as much water during the time you’re waiting for hot water in the tap.
PEX is used to transport warm or water during the process of hydronic radiant heating and cooling. This process increases environmental quality indoors and decreases any need for HVAC systems which are not as conservational and demand a large amount of energy, especially compared to any process using PEX piping. Radiant systems are ideal for conserving energy, and can even be paired with renewable energy sources including geothermal and solar processes.
Thanks to dedicated research, it is clear that PEX piping is better the environment, better for your bank account, and better for your home or commercial space. After looking at the various factors to be considered when debating a piping material, PEX piping proved to be the better option compared to the more traditional materials, such as copper.