PEX plumbing, aka cross-linked polyethylene, is a great application for both residential and commercial radiant and hydronic systems.
Q: We’re getting ready to take on our home’s plumbing. Should we stick with copper or go a different route?
A: When you think of your in-home plumbing, rusty copper pipes in dark crawl spaces usually spring to mind. To the average homeowner, plumbing isn’t something to worry about until it becomes a problem. And I think it’s fair to say that most of us are not well-versed in the language of plumbing. And so it goes without saying that whenever I mention PEX to the average homeowner, a blank stare typically follows.
So, what is PEX?
PEX plumbing, aka cross-linked polyethylene, is a great application for both residential and commercial radiant and hydronic systems. To the common eye, it looks like generic plastic piping with some flex to it, but the science behind it is much more interesting. To achieve that high-density polymer that makes PEX so reliable, cross-linking of polymer bonds takes place during production. This allows PEX in many cases to last longer than both copper and CPVC plumbing. PEX first entered the market in 1993 but has only started to become an industry standard the last decade.
And when it comes to in-house plumbing, it has been a total game changer.
Besides the material properties of PEX, there are quite a few other benefits to using it.
PEX is much faster to install than traditional plumbing applications, and fewer resources are used in the installation process. With some simple tools and a couple of adapter pieces, working with PEX can be a plumber’s dream. Copper and CPVC pipes offer no flex, so expect many junctions and minutes wasted soldering or connecting pipes.
Traditional copper piping is close to three times the cost of half-inch PEX tubing. Both homeowners and plumbers save on material costs as well, because fewer junctions are needed, resulting in fewer adapters. When compared to CPVC, the ability to fish PEX through walls allows less frustration when navigating the home’s structure. PEX’s stronger properties also give it a higher freeze resistance compared to both copper and CPVC, so instead of bursting the tubes have some leeway to expand in case of that scenario.
The versatility of PEX is changing the in-home plumbing market. With new tech coming to homes each year plumbing is sometimes an afterthought, but the impact that PEX has had on the industry is nothing short of impressive. PEX was able to enter and instantly fit in with other cool technologies such as the versatile Sharkbite fittings and the reliable Aquor House Hydrant. With innovation hitting all facets of the home building industry, it’s time to take a look at the cool things that are touching the plumbing side of things. After all, it is one of the most important parts of your home.
Now that you know all there is to know about PEX, you’re ready to confidently and collectively talk to your plumber about it. They’ll be impressed. You will be, too.
Cash Walcome is the president of Aquor Water Systems and a member of the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties, and HomeWork is the group’s weekly column. If you have a home improvement, remodeling or residential homebuilding question you’d like answered by one of the MBAKS’s more than 3,000 members, write to firstname.lastname@example.org.