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Copper versus Pex Plumbing

PEX plumbing is being used more frequently in today’s construction, tell us about your experience with it. Have you used it in existing construction or new construction and does its advantages outweigh copper pipe?  From a cost perspective, which is less expensive.

I have used it in vacation homes that have experienced freezing problems in the past. And yes we know to drain pipes, but homeowners don’t always flush  their systems and how often have we heard a homeowner explain that they really had planned on winterizing but it got cold quicker than normal or some other reason as to why the pipes weren’t drained before closing the house up for winter. It happened to me many years ago. I hated draining the system in the old house. The basement was muddy and cold. I thought I would just set the heat to a low setting and that would protect the pipes.  Two things happened, the power went off during an ice storm our interior pipes froze and the pipes that were in the basement, froze due to homeowner stupidity.

I was more comfortable using copper until the past year. I replaced an existing copper plumbing installation with PEX.  Several things I liked about the PEX system, not the least was the manifold I built and installed that allowed me to control flow to each  outlet.  The other benefit was using the  home-run system. I don’t know that the hot water gets to the spigot any faster, but I do have better water pressure and flow in the baths and showers.  Also by using the flexibility of PEX  pipe I cut down on the number of fittings used. However in a professional job I am observing now, I see where the plumber used 90 degree elbows at every turn where I used tracks that didn’t require any fittings.

One drawback of PEX is its inability to withstand UV, and that means it should not be used where sunlight may reach it and certainly should not be used outdoors unless steps are taken to prevent exposure to sunlight. I avoided leaving PEX where even light coming in from a basement window could reach it.

Have you experienced rodents chewing through PEX?  Did you have any problems crimping the rings onto the fittings? Have you used PEX in areas where using a torch to solder copper would have created dangers?

Whatever material you make decide to use,you can measure how much water is moving through them by installing a flow meter.

— Hal Jones

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