PEX plumbing pipes

Professional plumbers use different types of plumbing pipes to provide efficient plumbing systems for homeowners and commercial facilities. One of the most efficient materials is PEX plumbing pipes.

PEX plumbing pipes are made of Crosslinked polyethylene, a form of flexible plastic. It is used in new building and renovation projects to replace traditional copper and galvanized steel water supply lines. You’ve seen rolls of blue and red PEX plumbing pipe in the plumbing section of your local home improvement store.

Still, you may not be aware that this colorful tubing allows passionate DIYers to replace faulty water lines rather than contact an expert. Continue reading to discover more about PEX—what it is, where it can be used, and all of the benefits and drawbacks of this popular plumbing material.

PEX, Past, and Present

Thomas Engle, a German scientist, developed a means to crosslink ordinary plastic (polyethylene) using radiation in 1968, resulting in a considerably suppler material.

The new plastic, in the form of flexible PEX plumbing pipes (also known as PEX tubing), debuted in the United States in the 1980s, originally for radiant floor heating systems.

old vs new PEX pipes and tubes

Hot water is pushed through the flexible tubing embedded in a concrete slab to heat the floor and radiate heat to the rest of the room. PEX pipe is used for radiant floor heating quite widely to this day.

Although PEX has been part of European water delivery systems since the 1980s, it was introduced in Canada less than 25 years ago.

When the fittings used to link the pipes broke and leaked, complaints regarding early PEX water systems arose. Improved fittings remedied the problem, and PEX’s popularity skyrocketed. PEX now has about 40 percent market share, with copper still in the lead.

PEX Plumbing Pipe Particulars

PEX comes in various lengths, from modest 10-foot pieces (for minor repairs) to rolls over 500 feet long, used to build a complete home’s water supply system. PEX plumbing pipe has a diameter of 3/8- to 1-inch and is color-coded to make it easy to recognize what each tube is used for.

Although there are three varieties of PEX pipes (see below), the varying colors have no use other than to make it easier for the installer to distinguish which pipe supplies hot water and which delivers cold water.

  • Hot water travels via the red PEX pipe.
  • Cold water travels through the blue PEX pipe.
  • Both hot and cold water may be utilized with the white PEX pipe.
  • Like white PEX pipe, grey PEX tubing suits hot and cold water (although not all DIY centers carry gray).

PEX Plumbing Pipe Particulars

Fantastic Flexibility

Traditional water systems of copper and galvanized steel have a central line and several smaller branches that go to each fixture. Every branch that connects to the main line needs its connector.

Due to its flexibility, PEX plumbing pipe has a significant advantage over conventional materials since it may connect to a PEX manifold (the primary water control system) on one end and then wind uninterruptedly through walls and floors to reach a specific fixture.

It is known as “homerun” plumbing because it avoids the possibility of leakage at many connection locations by employing a single piece of PEX plumbing pipe for each cold and hot water supply fixture in your home.

Benefits and Drawbacks of PEX Pipes

Every system has its pros and cons. We will discuss the Advantage and Disadvantages of PEX plumbing pipe next.

Advantages of PEX plumbing pipe:

  • Unlike installing copper and galvanized steel, installing PEX does not involve soldering.
  • Copper vs PEX Compared, PEX expands, making it more resistant to freeze-cracking.
  • PEX does not corrode, which may happen to steel and copper pipes and result in leaks and water supply pollution.
  • Water moves softly via PEX, which eliminates the “water hammer” sound that metal pipe makes.
  • Red and blue color coding make it easy to distinguish between hot and cold supply lines.
  • With the appropriate fittings, PEX may be linked to existing metal supply lines.

PEX pipes advantages

The Disadvantages of PEX:

  • Using PEX outside is not recommended at all. PEX degrades quickly when exposed to ultraviolet radiation; tubing outside can harden and split in less than a year.
  • Since PEX plumbing pipe does not melt like other recyclable polymers, it cannot yet be recycled. But if PEX becomes more well-known, there will undoubtedly be a greater need for a mechanism to recycle it.
  • Even though installation is do-it-yourself friendly, using PEX calls for specialized connectors and equipment.

PEX pipes drawbacks

Label Lingo

The manufacturing procedure utilized to create the tubing distinguishes the various forms of PEX. When shopping for PEX, you may come across rolls designated with an A, B, or C. Choose the tubing that best meets your requirements:

Peroxide is used in the production of PEX-A. This form of PEX plumbing pipe is the most adaptable of the three and may be used for all household water-supply plumbing demands.

It expands the most when exposed to freezing water, making it the most resistant to cracking in cold conditions. It’s simple to deal with but more costly than B or C. Aside from flexibility, PEX-A offers no substantial advantages over PEX-B.

The moisture-cure process is used to make PEX-B. PEX-B is somewhat stiffer than PEX-A and contains coil “memory,” which causes the tubing to try to return to its original coiled configuration. However, coil memory is not an obstacle to installation.

PEX-B is frequently used for home plumbing since it expands to prevent fracturing when water freezes, yet it is less expensive than PEX-A. PEX-B also has a higher chlorine resistance, making it a desirable choice in places where the water is heavily chlorinated.

PEX-C is created using an irradiation process. PEX-C is the hardest to work with since it is the stiffest; its rigidity makes it the most prone to kinking and splitting when water freezes.

Because of these drawbacks, PEX-C is best suited for brief repairs when bending around sharp corners is not required. The most cost-effective option is PEX-C.

Making PEX plumbing pipe Connections

You’ll need the necessary equipment and supplies to establish watertight connections using a PEX plumbing pipe. The fittings and connectors for each of the following joining methods must be a perfect match to the size of the PEX pipe.

Hundreds of brass fittings are available to connect PEX to existing copper or steel pipes and to make connections to fixtures. Fittings are also provided to connect pipes of various diameters. The five procedures listed below are utilized to make the connections waterproof.

Copper crimping: One of the most prevalent methods of joining PEX is with copper crimping rings, which necessitate using a particular PEX plumbing pipe crimping tool. The copper ring is slipped over the ends of the PEX pipe, and then a fitting is installed.

plumbing PEX pipe connections

The copper ring is then pushed to the end of the tube—over the fitting—and crimped securely in place with a PEX crimping tool.

Expansion connections: The expansion technique of connecting PEX includes stretching the diameter of the PEX tube using a special PEX expander tool before inserting the end of a fitting. The PEX tubing returns to its normal size, forming a watertight seal around the fitting.

Stainless steel clamps (SSC): The SSC technique of joining PEX includes tightening stainless steel rings around PEX connectors using a ratchet clamping tool. The steel ring is placed over the PEX tube before the fitting is installed, just like the copper crimping technique.

The ratchet clamping device is then used to tighten the ring around the tube and fit it by squeezing a tab on the ring.

Compression fittings: A threaded brass nut is slipped over the PEX tube’s ends, followed by a tapered plastic compression ring. The end of the PEX tube is then inserted with a hollow brass tube.

The entire assembly is then put into the end of a threaded fitting, and the threaded brass nut is fitted onto the fitting’s end. As the nut is tightened, the plastic compression ring presses against the end of the brass fitting to form a seal.

Push-fit connections: The push-fit method is the quickest way to connect PEX, which includes purchasing specific push-fit fittings that “grip” the end of the PEX plumbing pipe when fitted over the end.

Push-fit fittings do not require any special equipment to operate, but they require a specific removal ring to be removed from the end of the pipe once joined.

You can appreciate how push-fit attachment functions if you had played with one of those paper tube “traps” that snagged your finger when you inserted it into the tube as a child.

Conclusions

Only use the appropriate tools to make PEX connections for the best results. For example, using pliers to crimp a connecting ring will not result in the same tight fit as using a PEX crimping tool. Make clean end cuts using a PEX cutter to make it easier to deal with.

Because UV radiation destroys PEX piping, PEX is not recommended to be used outside; keep them inside and away from sunny windows. The lifespan of PEX pipe should be at least 50 years due to its adaptability and toughness.

If you are not sure about your plumbing pipes, it is best to call an expert residential plumber for an inspection. Home plumbers will inspect your system and provide the best solution to ensure your plumbing system works efficiently.

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