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Move Over Copper Pipe, PEX Plumbing is Here to Stay


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A home plumbing system should meet the needs of the homeowners. If the homeowners want hot water on demand or leak-free connections, then the system should be able to handle it. The longer someone waits for hot water to reach the faucet or shower head, the more water goes down the drain. A typical homeowner loses 12,000 to 38,000 gallons of water per year waiting for hot water.

A plumbing system should also be both durable and reliable. No one wants to discover water stains on the first floor ceiling or mold growing underneath the carpet in the master bedroom. In many instances, water has been leaking for a while before the damage is discovered. A plumbing system that can provide peace of mind is essential.

Today, most homes have copper pipe plumbing systems for water distribution. Copper pipe is easier to work with than other metals like lead and iron, and it's relatively non-toxic. The availability and water-resistant properties of copper have made it the first choice for most homebuilders for the past century. But as new materials are developed and the price of copper increases, copper piping is no longer the first choice for plumbing systems. A relative newcomer, PEX, is quickly gaining popularity as an excellent material for water supply systems.

Copper pipe plumbing systems

The conventional copper pipe method of plumbing requires that the water supply line branch at the water heater, with the hot water line running through the water heater and then running in tandem with the cold water line throughout the home. Smaller-diameter lines branch off from the main lines to serve water-using fixtures and appliances. This plumbing system requires more fittings, and pipe sizes vary according to the loads they carry. With this system, the water supply is subject to pressure loss if several fixtures on a branch are used at once.

Copper pipe also has to be run around obstacles, so more connections and intersections are required. Sweating and connecting the joints of a copper plumbing system takes time. Furthermore, after construction, the pipe connections are inaccessible. Since many of the joints are hidden behind finished walls, if there's a leak, the homeowner may not realize it until substantial water damage has been done to the home. Repairs from water leaks can be costly and difficult.

PEX plumbing systems

A new method for water distribution in residential homes is gaining popularity among homebuilders. Known as PEX plumbing, cross-linked polyethylene (PEX) is a flexible plastic piping composed of individual molecules that have been permanently linked together. Cross-linking the molecules creates a durable, stable plastic that can't be melted and reshaped. The unique features of PEX allow it to be configured in a number of different ways that can increase the performance and water savings associated with the plumbing system. Copper and CPVC are both reliable materials for plumbing systems; however, PEX tubing has several important advantages that make it the best choice for water distribution:

* PEX requires fewer connections. The tubing is available in long coils and is flexible enough to bend around obstructions without the use of connections. Fewer connections mean fewer opportunities for connections to leak and cause water damage.

* PEX is easier to install. Fewer fittings and a lightweight, flexible nature mean PEX tubing can be easily run around and through obstacles in the home and can be installed more quickly - resulting in lower labor costs.

* PEX reduces maintenance and repair costs. Service is relatively simple, since manifolds are corrosion-resistant and the connections are visible. PEX is plastic, so it doesn't experience pitting, either.

* PEX improves energy efficiency. It reduces the amount of heat lost from water in the piping, increases the response time of hot water, and decreases the amount of energy the water heater uses to deliver hot water.

To ensure a comfortable living environment, a plumbing system should meet the demands of the homeowner. PEX offers homeowners too many advantages to ignore. Although copper and CPVC have good track records in the plumbing industry, PEX's reliable, flexible nature - as well as its ability to increase energy efficiency and reduce installation time - make it the best choice.

BuildIQ specializes in providing best practice information for the residential homebuilding industry. On BuildIQ's Jobsite website, builders can find information to help keep them abreast of current and cutting edge technology, such as insulated concrete forms , PEX tubing , and CFL bulbs For more information about BuildIQ, visit


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