If you have copper plumbing pipes in your home, you’re sitting on a gold mine. That’s because it’s one of the most expensive materials used in residential and commercial plumbing installations.
Thieves like copper too. So much so that the Department of Energy says copper theft has grown into a $1 billion per year problem.
When homeowners need to replace copper piping, it comes at a cost. To repipe a home using copper costs between $8,000 and $16,000.
In this article, we’re sharing an alternative to copper—Uponor PEX—and if you’re expecting to start a plumbing project this year, you’ll want to consider using this material. Read on to find out what it is and how to use it.
What Is PEX?
Cross-linked polyethylene (PEX) is a type of flexible plastic used in plumbing installations and repair jobs. It’s not a new material, but it’s growing in popularity for use in new construction and remodeling.
PEX made its debut in 1968, and by 1970 plumbing professionals throughout Europe were using it in water distribution systems. North America didn’t see PEX until the mid-1980s when it arrived for use in residential radiant floor heating installations.
Today, you’ll find PEX used for potable plumbing, domestic hot water, and hydronic heating as an alternative to copper and galvanized steel. Commercial plumbing specialists also use it for radiant heating and cooling applications.
If you’ve visited the plumbing section of your local home improvement store, you’ve seen PEX. You can’t miss the blue and red tubing.
Benefits of Using PEX
Both residential and commercial plumbing applications can benefit from using PEX plumbing materials. The advantages include:
Copper and galvanized steel water systems have central lines and smaller branch lines. Branch lines lead to each fixture, and each line requires a separate connection. The flexibility of PEX means you can use one piece of tubing that connects uninterrupted from the central water control system to your fixtures.
When comparing the durability of PEX pipe to copper piping, PEX is more durable. It’s not susceptible to corrosion or mineral build-up. And unlike copper piping, PEX isn’t impacted by electrolysis. Electrolysis can cause copper piping to develop pinhole leaks.
PEX pipe also holds up better in freezing conditions. Metal pipes split. PEX pipe expands, which minimizes the risk of costly repair jobs.
PEX pipe costs less than copper pipe. You’ll pay roughly one-third of what you’d pay for copper. Not only that, but copper prices fluctuate. PEX prices are fixed.
When using copper piping, you’ll need more parts than in a PEX pipe installation. For example, you need elbows since copper doesn’t bend easily around corners. Fewer parts results in less money spent.
Don’t forget about labor costs. Copper requires soldering, which takes time. PEX connections don’t take as long to construct.
How to Decode PEX Letters and Colors
PEX pipe comes in three different types—PEX A, B, and C. While they’re the exact dimensions, each type is made using a different manufacturing method.
- PEX-A – Peroxide, or Engle
- PEX-B – Silane, or Moisture Cure
- PEX-C – Electronic Irradiation, or Cold
PEX-A and B are the most common types used in residential plumbing. The best plumbers in Pinellas County consider PEX-A preferable over the other types.
Earlier, we mentioned red and blue PEX pipes. There are two more colors used by manufacturers—white and gray. The color of the pipe indicates its application.
- Red carries hot water.
- Blue carries cold water.
- White and gray carry either hot or cold water.
The color of the PEX pipe doesn’t mean a difference in size or function. Colors simply make it easier to identify whether the pipe carries cold or hot water service.
What Is Uponor PEX?
Uponor isn’t a type of PEX pipe. Instead, Uponor manufactures PEX piping and many other plumbing products. They specialize in PEX-A.
If you’re looking for plumbing solutions that work better with Florida’s hard water, the best plumbers choose Uponor PEX over copper or CPVC (another type of plastic piping).
As mentioned earlier in this article, the superior pipe for replumbing or pipe repairs is PEX. It’s more durable and handles hard water better.
The flexibility of PEX, especially PEX-A, results in less kinking. Kinked water lines restrict water flow; once they kink, they’re unusable. Because it’s flexible and uses fewer fittings, installing PEX helps maximize water flow.
Earlier, you learned that copper theft is a significant problem. While thieves generally don’t break into occupied homes to steal copper, their greed still impacts your wallet.
Uponor PEX provides a durable, cost-effective solution to your repiping or repair job.
Is There Anywhere You Cannot Use PEX?
While PEX plumbing pipe is durable, there are limits to where you can use it.
For example, it’s not suitable for outdoor use. PEX breaks down quickly when exposed to ultraviolet rays. If you leave it outside, it can harden and crack.
Even indoors, you should store it away from a sunny window to prevent it from degrading.
Another precaution you’ll want to take is protecting PEX from excessive heat. Installing it in high heat areas, such as near recessed lighting, may damage the tubing. Make sure to install it at least 12 inches from a lighting fixture.
If you’re researching PEX, you’ll likely read that you can’t connect PEX pipe directly to a water heater. While there is some truth to that, your plumber is the best resource to answer questions you may have about this specific issue.
The International Plumbing Code (IPC), which applies to plumbing work done in Florida (IPC), requires plumbers to follow not only the product manufacturer’s guidelines, but also the water heater manufacturer’s installation instructions.
Some manufacturers of tankless water heaters specify not to directly connect PEX to their product. You need to use the appropriate connection.
This is another reason why it’s best to let your plumber take care of installing PEX plumbing pipe.
Is PEX Better than CPVC?
If you only evaluate plumbing materials based on cost, PEX and Chlorinated Polyvinyl Chloride (CPVC) run around the same price.
PEX is the better choice for other reasons. First, installation doesn’t require using glue. CPVC does require glue, which means installing it in a well-ventilated area.
CPVC is more likely to burst if it freezes. This may not be a huge issue in Florida, although Pinellas County residents do experience freezing temperatures.
PEX may work better than CPVC in applications where you need to “fish” plumbing pipe through walls. This typically happens in remodeling projects, not new construction.
One Precaution When Using PEX
We’ve shared several compelling reasons why PEX pipe makes an excellent plumbing solution. As with every product, there is one precaution you’ll want to consider.
Rodents can’t resist plastic tubing. If you end up with rodents inside your home and they chew through your water supply line, you could have a disaster on your hands.
Nearly every home has a mouse or two visit at least once. You can prevent damage to your PEX pipe by keeping an eye out for signs of rodents.
If you find droppings, chewed paper or wood, or shredded materials, you likely have a rodent problem. The solution is to set traps or contact an exterminator.
Those are the only two actions you can take to protect anything in your home, including PEX tubing.
Where to Buy Uponor PEX Pipe
Uponor is a leader in PEX pipe manufacturing. Their status means you won’t have a problem sourcing their products.
If you’re a DIYer, you can find Uponor PEX at a local plumbing supply company or home improvement store. You can also order it online.
The best way to buy PEX pipe is through your plumber, but you don’t want just to buy it. You want a professional to install it for you.
Many Florida plumbers get certified through the manufacturers of their preferred products. Uponor offers certification to plumbing professionals.
Regardless of the materials used, repiping does require skill and, like many other plumbing repairs, isn’t the best DIY project. While PEX pipe isn’t overly difficult to install, why not save time and peace of mind knowing the installation is done correctly?
Need Help with Plumbing Repairs?
We’ve covered the benefits and uses of PEX pipe in this article. You’ve had a brief introduction to Uponor PEX and where to buy Uponor PEX pipes.
Now it’s time to call Home Team Plumbing to get your plumbing project started. Whether you need pipe repair or replacement or have another plumbing issue, you want the best plumbers in Pinellas County to handle the job.