PEX piping is made from a high-density Polyethylene with cross-linked bonds in the polymers structure. This means that it has improved elevated temperature properties making it ideal for plumbing. PEX piping is the newest and greatest thing to hit the plumbing industry. Here is a general breakdown of PEX piping and how it compares to other plumbing options, including another plumbing favorite, copper pipes.
UP TO CODE
The Uniform Plumbing Code (UPC) was developed by the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO). PEX piping is approved according to their standards, although there may be specific restrictions on certain types of connections. Professional plumbers are aware of these requirements and can reduce the stress of plumbing fixes. Call Alvarez Plumbing for any of your re-piping needs.
Should you choose to embark on the project yourself or are just curious about PEX piping, then knowing what tools you will need for the job is important. Crimp rings and cinch clamps can be used with PEX piping, and the corresponding tools for tightening the connections will suffice. You may also need a cutting tool to trim the PEX pipe as needed. You could use stab-in or compression fittings to make the connections, but these may pose to be too expensive for the average DIY job.
WHY PEX PIPES
PEX vs. COPPER
- PEX piping is a third of the cost of copper, so re-piping your home can be done for the fraction of the price if you select PEX over copper.
- PEX does not corrode unlike its copper counterparts.
- PEX is much easier to install; it has been compared to running a hose from fixture to fixture, and connections do not require soldering.
PEX vs. CPVC
- PEX pipes are great for cold climates because they are unlikely to burst when frozen, unlike CPVC. Precautions should still be taken to cover up exposed pipes.
- PEX piping is also flexible, allowing you to snake it through the more difficult installation areas.
Although PEX piping has recently become popular in the States, it has been in use for decades in other countries. Most issues that arise in homes with PEX piping are from bad connections or poor installations. PEX piping can handle freezing temperatures and does not corrode when in use in areas with acidity in the water.
EXPANSION AND MOVEMENT
PEX expands and contracts more than copper does. Be sure to leave some slack when installing to prevent the stretching from pulling your piping from its connections. Also, PEX moves as it expands and contracts so be sure to use plastic straps, rather than metal ones, to keep it in place to prevent cutting into the pipes.
Manifolds are not required when installing PEX pipes; they can be installed just like any other type of pipe with pipes branching off a main line. This method isn’t an effective use of PEX piping because of all the connections. It is recommended to use the manifold method where the manifold is installed in a space close to the main line and water heater, then run a PEX pipe from there to each plumbing fixture. Although it may use more pipe, it only requires a connection at the manifold and at the fixture, and fewer connections means there is a reduced the risk of leaks.
PEX piping cannot be connected directly to a water heater. According to the Uniform Plumbing Code, you will need 18 ins. of clearance from the water heater before attaching PEX piping.
PEX is available in red, white, or blue. You can color code your hot and cold lines if you desire or use one single color for everything; there is no wrong or right choice. Color-coding can be easier to differentiate between the lines if an issue arises down the line involving only the hot or cold water.
ABC’s OF PEX
There are three grades of PEX piping: PEX-A, PEX-B, and PEX-C. They are manufactured a little differently, resulting in a slightly different grade, with A being the best and C coming in third. Grade-A PEX is slightly more flexible and a few cents more than the other two options. You can purchase whichever grade is readily available at your local home improvement store or go with whichever grade is commonly used by the plumbing company you have hired. No real reason to stress over the different grades.