Copper vs. Pex Plumbing

PEX is a good plumbing material because it is flexible and easy for plumbers to install. PEX is also resistant to breaks in cold weather and has fewer joints, bringing your costs down.

Since copper piping has been around for decades, we know that the metal is durable and flexible, making it easy to install – especially compared to iron pipes. Copper piping also provides a biostatic atmosphere, making it difficult for bacteria to grow inside of it, which is an important health consideration.

Copper also resists corrosion and is unaffected by ultraviolet rays, which means it can be used for outside needs. This is unlike PEX pipes, which are affected by ultraviolet rays and therefore should not be used outside. However, copper can corrode due to the pH of thewater if it is too acidic or too basic for the pipes. But just because it corrodes doesn’t mean that the water is bad for you. Try to think of it like this: the Pacific Northwest region of the US and, of course, Canada, has some of the best drinking water in the world, but that very same water has a corrosive effect on the pipes.

Advantages of PEX:

  • Adaptable and easy-to-use plumbing system
  • Can be used with hot and cold water
  • Can also be used with metal and PVC piping
  • PEX has fewer fittings, making it faster to install and with less of a chance to leak
  • PEX is more burst-resistant due to its flexibility to expand and contract
  • It has a shutoff valve at each supply line, making it more convenient for you when you have to get repairs done
  • PEX can have a pressure balanced system
  • Since it is flexible, the pipes can be bent around most corners and usually won’t need a coupling or fitting

Disadvantages of PEX:

  • It cannot be used outside
  • Cannot be recycled, due to its shorter life use
  • It provides an impermeable membrane that may allow the possibility of water contamination
  • The pipes may be damaged if left outside for a long period of time

Advantages of Copper:

Durable and flexible, making it easy to installSafer in natural disastersWeather and bacteria-resistantResists corrosion, more so than other metalsUnaffected by ultraviolet rays, so it can be used outsideCopper does not release toxic gases in a fire because it resists burningIn earthquakes, the slightly elastic pipes flex so that they don’t snapCopper is recyclable, making it a more sound environmental choice

Disadvantages of Copper Piping

  • Can corrode
  • Has become expensive
  • With higher levels of copper from corrosion, water can have a metallic taste
  • Copper can freeze and break during cold water

Compare the prices of PEX and copper piping to help understand the

differencesbetween the two:

PEX Prices
3/8″ – $0.38
1/2″ – $0.40
5/8″ – $0.62
3/4″ – $0.76
1″ – $1.26

Copper Prices
3/8″ – $4.87
1/2″ – $5.67
5/8″ – $7.31
3/4″ – $10.21
1″ – $13.38

Below is a list of important areas of a PEX plumbing system to inspect after installation. Keep in mind that this list doesn’t include every area, so always refer to the PEX manufacturer’s instructions as well.

  • Make sure fasteners hold the piping in position and prevent strain on the fittings when the piping is bent. Pipes should be fastened as they enter the bend and as they leave the bend.
  • Make sure vertical runs are fastened at every floor level.
  • Make sure piping is fastened every 6’ in attics.
  • Make sure horizontal runs in floors are fastened every 32” o.c.
  • Make sure long runs have a 12” horizontal offset or a loop in the piping for expansion and contraction. If the piping is looped, make sure the loop’s radius is at least 8 times the pipe’s diameter.
  • Make sure the piping has enough slack for contraction. PEX expands or contracts 1” for every 100’ of pipe with every 10°F of temperature change.
  • Make sure fasteners are firm but loose enough to allow the piping to move.
  • Make sure a nailing plate is installed to protect pipes run within 2” of the face of a stud or joist.
  • Make sure all PEX piping is protected with plastic sleeves where it penetrates the slab.
  • Make sure a pipe support is installed where piping exits a framed wall.
  • Make sure a rigid sleeve protects piping that penetrates a structural wall below grade.
  • Make sure the central manifold  is installed near the water heater but not closer than 18”. Installing the manifold close to the water heater will improve the response time of hot water. Ensure that piping is at least 6” away from the exhaust vent of a gas-fired water heater.
  • Make sure all valved manifold runs are labeled, so they can be readily identified and shut off in case of a leak.
  • Make sure all valved remote manifolds  are accessible by a removable panel, so they can be maintained and shut off as necessary.
  • Make sure all fittings hidden in a floor or wall cavity are installed and joined correctly.
  • Make sure all lavatories and sinks have a shutoff valve at the fixture and are prepared to receive a small diameter feed pipe.

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