Why Is PEX Plumbing Bad? (7 Reasons Why Plumbers Refuse to Use It)

Are you considering a plumbing project and wondering which type of pipes to use? There’s one particular type that’s been a topic of debate: PEX plumbing. Although it has some benefits, not everyone in the industry agrees.

This piece will explore the reasons behind this hesitance.

Why is PEX plumbing bad?

PEX plumbing is generally considered a reliable and efficient plumbing system, but it does have a few potential drawbacks.

One of the main concerns with PEX plumbing is its susceptibility to UV degradation, which means that if exposed to direct sunlight for prolonged periods, the material can deteriorate and become brittle.

There have been occasional reports of PEX pipes leaching chemicals into the water supply, although these instances are relatively rare.

Another criticism of PEX plumbing is that it may not be as durable as traditional metal pipes, especially in high-temperature environments, which can lead to potential leaks or bursts.

However, it’s worth noting that advancements in PEX manufacturing and installation techniques have addressed many of these issues, and with proper installation and maintenance, PEX plumbing can be a reliable and cost-effective option for residential and commercial applications.

7 reasons why plumbers refuse to use PEX plumbing

1. Concerns about long-term durability

Some plumbers may be hesitant to use PEX plumbing due to concerns about its long-term durability.

While PEX is known for its flexibility and resistance to corrosion, some professionals argue that it may not be as durable as traditional metal pipes in certain conditions.

They believe that over time, PEX pipes could become brittle, especially when exposed to high temperatures or harsh chemicals, which could lead to leaks or bursts.

2. Potential for UV degradation

PEX pipes are susceptible to UV degradation, which means that if they are exposed to direct sunlight for extended periods, the material can weaken and become brittle.

Plumbers who work on outdoor plumbing installations or in areas with significant sunlight exposure may be reluctant to use PEX because of this vulnerability.

They may prefer other materials that are more UV-resistant or opt for additional protective measures when using PEX in such conditions.

3. Concerns about chemical leaching

Although rare, there have been reports of PEX pipes leaching chemicals into the water supply.

This is a significant concern for some plumbers who prioritize water quality and safety.

While PEX is typically considered safe for drinking water applications, there have been instances where certain compounds from the pipes, such as methyl tertiary-butyl ether (MTBE) or volatile organic compounds (VOCs), have entered the water.

Such occurrences have raised doubts among some plumbers regarding the long-term health effects of PEX plumbing.

4. Limited compatibility with certain fittings

PEX plumbing systems require specialized fittings and tools for installation.

Plumbers who are accustomed to working with traditional metal pipes may find it challenging to adapt to the specific requirements of PEX systems.

This includes using crimp or expansion fittings, which can be time-consuming and require additional training or investment in new tools.

Some plumbers may prefer to stick with materials that are more familiar and have a wider range of compatible fittings.

5. Perception of lower quality

Despite being widely used and accepted, there is still a perception among some plumbers that PEX plumbing is of lower quality compared to copper or other metal piping systems.

This bias may stem from the belief that traditional metal pipes have withstood the test of time and have a proven track record of durability.

Plumbers who hold this viewpoint may simply prefer to work with materials they trust and believe to be superior in terms of longevity and performance.

6. Concerns about future repairs and replacements

Plumbers may be cautious about using PEX plumbing because of concerns about future repairs or replacements.

While PEX pipes are relatively easy to install, they can be more challenging to repair if a problem arises.

Some plumbers prefer materials like copper that are more straightforward to work with and have a long-established infrastructure for repairs and replacements.

7. Limited experience and training

Finally, some plumbers may resist using PEX plumbing due to a lack of experience or training with the material.

If they have primarily worked with traditional metal piping systems throughout their careers, they may feel more confident and efficient using what they know best.

This lack of familiarity and comfort with PEX can be a significant factor in their decision to avoid using it. Please don’t let me watch this

What are the benefits of using PEX plumbing?

  • Flexibility: PEX pipes are highly flexible, allowing for easy installation in tight spaces and around obstacles. They can be bent and maneuvered without the need for excessive fittings or joints, reducing the risk of leaks and simplifying the installation process.
  • Resistance to corrosion and scale buildup: Unlike metal pipes, PEX is highly resistant to corrosion and scale buildup. This makes PEX plumbing less prone to blockages and ensures a consistent water flow over time, improving the overall performance and longevity of the system.
  • Freeze resistance: PEX pipes have the ability to expand and contract, making them highly resistant to freeze damage. When water freezes inside the pipes, PEX can expand without bursting, reducing the risk of costly repairs and water damage.
  • Reduced noise transmission: PEX plumbing systems tend to be quieter than metal pipes as they absorb and dampen sound vibrations. This can be particularly beneficial in buildings where noise reduction is a priority, such as residential properties or hotels.
  • Cost-effectiveness: PEX plumbing is often more cost-effective than traditional metal piping systems. PEX pipes themselves are relatively inexpensive, and the installation process can be faster and require fewer fittings and connections. Additionally, the lightweight nature of PEX reduces labor costs associated with transportation and handling.
  • Resistance to chemical and electrolysis damage: PEX pipes are resistant to chemical degradation, making them suitable for various water conditions and pH levels. They are also less prone to electrolysis, a process that can cause corrosion in metal pipes due to electrical currents passing through the plumbing system.
  • Longevity: When properly installed and maintained, PEX plumbing can have a long lifespan. PEX pipes are not susceptible to rust, scale buildup, or corrosion, which can significantly extend their durability. This longevity contributes to reduced maintenance and replacement costs over time.
  • Energy efficiency: PEX plumbing can contribute to energy efficiency in buildings. Due to their low thermal conductivity, PEX pipes help to minimize heat loss from hot water lines, resulting in reduced energy consumption and lower utility bills.

Are there any good types of PEX plumbing?

There are several types of PEX plumbing that are commonly used and considered reliable in the industry. These types include:

PEX-A (Cross-linked polyethylene, Type A)

PEX-A is considered the most flexible type of PEX plumbing. It is manufactured using the Engel method, which results in a more uniform and consistent cross-linking of the polymer chains.

This enhances its flexibility, resistance to freeze damage, and durability. PEX-A pipes can also be repaired easily by using a heat gun to reshape and reseal the damaged section.

PEX-B (Cross-linked polyethylene, Type B)

PEX-B is manufactured using the Silane method. It is slightly less flexible than PEX-A but still offers excellent durability and freeze resistance.

PEX-B pipes are commonly used in residential plumbing applications and are known for their affordability and ease of installation.

PEX-C (Cross-linked polyethylene, Type C)

PEX-C is manufactured using the electron beam method. It is less flexible than PEX-A and PEX-B but still possesses good resistance to freeze damage and corrosion.

PEX-C pipes are often favored for their affordability and suitability for both residential and commercial plumbing systems.

How long does PEX plumbing last?

The lifespan of PEX plumbing can vary depending on various factors, including the quality of the PEX material, installation techniques, water conditions, and maintenance practices.

However, PEX plumbing systems are generally expected to have a lifespan of 20 to 50 years or more.

PEX pipes themselves are highly durable and resistant to corrosion, scale buildup, and chemical degradation.

They do not suffer from the same issues as metal pipes, such as rust or pinhole leaks. This inherent durability contributes to the longevity of PEX plumbing systems.

However, it’s important to note that the fittings and connections used in PEX plumbing can have a significant impact on the overall lifespan of the system.

Proper installation techniques, including the use of quality fittings and secure connections, are essential to ensuring the longevity and reliability of the PEX plumbing system.

Also, water conditions can affect the lifespan of PEX plumbing. Factors such as pH levels, water temperature, and the presence of certain chemicals or contaminants can potentially degrade the PEX material over time.

However, PEX pipes are generally designed to withstand a wide range of water conditions and are resistant to most common water-related issues.

Regular maintenance and inspection of the PEX plumbing system can also help extend its lifespan.

This includes identifying and repairing any leaks or damage promptly, ensuring proper insulation to protect against freeze damage, and monitoring water quality.

Are PEX pipes safe to use for drinking water?

PEX pipes are generally considered safe for use in drinking water applications.

Numerous regulatory organizations, including the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), have thoroughly tested them and approved their use in potable water systems.

PEX pipes are manufactured using cross-linked polyethylene, which is an inert material.

This means that it does not introduce harmful chemicals or substances into the water supply. PEX plumbing systems have undergone rigorous testing to ensure that they meet strict standards for water quality and safety.

However, it is important to note that the safety of PEX pipes for drinking water depends on several factors, including proper installation, compliance with building codes, and adherence to manufacturer recommendations.

It is crucial to follow the manufacturer’s instructions and use approved fittings, connectors, and installation techniques to maintain the integrity of the system.

Occasionally, there have been reports of certain compounds, such as methyl tertiary-butyl ether (MTBE) or volatile organic compounds (VOCs), leaching from PEX pipes into the water supply.

However, such instances are relatively rare, and the levels of these compounds are typically well below the established safety thresholds.

What should I consider before installing PEX plumbing?

  • Building codes and regulations: Familiarize yourself with the local building codes and regulations pertaining to plumbing installations. Ensure that PEX plumbing is approved and accepted for use in your area, and familiarize yourself with any specific requirements or restrictions.
  • Water quality and compatibility: Assess the quality of your water supply and determine if there are any specific water conditions or contaminants that may impact the performance or longevity of PEX plumbing. Some water conditions, such as high chlorine levels or acidity, may require additional considerations or treatments.
  • System design and sizing: Plan the layout and design of your PEX plumbing system, considering factors such as the number of fixtures, flow requirements, and hot water distribution. Proper sizing and design are crucial to ensuring optimal performance and efficiency.
  • PEX type and quality: Select a reputable brand and type of PEX plumbing that suits your specific needs. Consider factors such as flexibility, durability, and resistance to UV degradation. Ensure that the PEX material is certified for potable water use and meets the necessary standards and approvals.
    Fittings and connections: Choose appropriate fittings and connections that are compatible with the PEX type you are using. Follow manufacturer recommendations for fittings, crimping or expansion methods, and tools required for installation. Use high-quality fittings to ensure leak-free connections and long-term reliability.
  • Installation techniques: Understand proper installation techniques for PEX plumbing, including methods for securing pipes, maintaining proper expansion and contraction allowances, and protecting against freeze damage. Ensure that the installation is performed by trained professionals, or follow manufacturer guidelines if doing it yourself.
  • Maintenance and insulation: Develop a maintenance plan for your PEX plumbing system, including regular inspections for leaks, proper insulation to protect against freezing, and periodic flushing or treatment if necessary. Adhere to manufacturer recommendations for maintenance and cleaning procedures.
  • Professional consultation: If you are unsure or lack experience in PEX plumbing installation, consider consulting with a professional plumber. They can provide guidance, ensure compliance with codes and regulations, and offer expertise in designing and installing the system.

What are better alternatives to PEX plumbing?

While PEX plumbing is widely used and generally considered a reliable option, there are a few alternative materials that can be considered depending on specific needs and preferences. Some common alternatives to PEX plumbing include:

  • Copper: Copper pipes have been a traditional choice for plumbing systems for many years. They are highly durable, resistant to UV degradation, and have a proven track record of reliability. Copper pipes are also compatible with a wide range of fittings and have excellent heat resistance, making them suitable for both hot and cold water applications. However, copper plumbing can be more expensive and requires specialized skills for installation.
  • CPVC (Chlorinated polyvinyl chloride): CPVC pipes are made from a thermoplastic material that is more rigid than PEX. They are known for their excellent resistance to high temperatures and chemicals, making them suitable for hot water applications. CPVC pipes are relatively easy to install and are less expensive than copper. However, they may be more prone to cracking or bursting if exposed to extreme cold temperatures.
  • PVC (Polyvinyl chloride): pipes are commonly used for drain, waste, and vent (DWV) systems. They are rigid, affordable, and resistant to corrosion and chemicals. PVC pipes are not typically used for potable water supply lines due to concerns about the leaching of certain chemicals into the water. However, they can be a suitable alternative for non-potable water applications.
  • Stainless steel: Stainless steel pipes offer excellent durability and corrosion resistance. They are commonly used in commercial and industrial applications where high-pressure or extreme temperature conditions are present. Stainless steel pipes are more expensive than other options and may require specialized tools and skills for installation.
  • Polypropylene (PP): Polypropylene pipes are a newer alternative that is gaining popularity in some regions. They are known for their excellent resistance to chemicals and temperature fluctuations. PP pipes are often used in hydronic heating systems and radiant floor heating applications. They are lightweight, affordable, and relatively easy to install.

Is PEX good for indoor plumbing?

PEX is considered a good choice for indoor plumbing applications. It offers several advantages that make it popular among homeowners and plumbers.

PEX is flexible, allowing for easy installation around obstacles and in tight spaces, making it particularly suitable for retrofitting or remodeling projects.

It is resistant to corrosion, ensuring the longevity and durability of the plumbing system.

PEX is also freeze-resistant, reducing the risk of pipe damage in colder climates.

It is cost-effective, as PEX pipes are generally more affordable than traditional metal pipes, and the installation process is often faster and requires fewer fittings.

PEX is compatible with both hot and cold water systems, making it a versatile option for various indoor plumbing needs.

Is there PEX that’s made for outdoor plumbing?

There are specific types of PEX that are designed and approved for outdoor plumbing applications. These types of PEX are typically labeled as “PEX-AL-PEX” or “PEX-UV” and are suitable for outdoor use where the pipes will be exposed to sunlight or other environmental factors. Here’s a brief explanation of each type:

PEX-AL-PEX

A layer of PEX (cross-linked polyethylene) surrounds an aluminum layer in the composite pipe known as PEX-AL-PEX.

This design provides enhanced strength, durability, and resistance to temperature changes.

PEX-AL-PEX pipes are commonly used for outdoor plumbing, such as buried water lines or radiant heating systems installed in concrete slabs.

PEX-UV

PEX-UV is a type of PEX that has an additional layer of ultraviolet (UV) protection.

This layer shields the pipe from the damaging effects of sunlight exposure, preventing degradation and potential failure over time.

PEX-UV pipes are suitable for above-ground outdoor plumbing applications, such as water supply lines for irrigation systems or outdoor showers.

While PEX-AL-PEX and PEX-UV are designed for outdoor use, they still need to be installed and supported properly according to manufacturer guidelines and local building codes.

This may involve burying the pipes at the appropriate depth, providing insulation where necessary, and protecting the pipes from physical damage.

Can you use PEX on an indoor water heater?

PEX can be used on an indoor water heater. PEX is a suitable material for both hot and cold water applications, including connecting water heaters to the plumbing system.

It is commonly used in residential and commercial settings for water heater installations.

When using PEX with a water heater, it’s important to select PEX pipes and fittings that are rated for the temperature and pressure requirements of the specific water heater system.

Proper connections and adherence to building codes should be followed.

Considering insulation for the hot water lines can help improve energy efficiency.

Overall, PEX offers flexibility, durability, and ease of installation, making it a suitable choice for connecting indoor water heaters.

When should PEX piping be used?

PEX piping is a versatile plumbing material that can be used in various applications. Here are some scenarios where PEX piping is commonly used:

  • Residential plumbing: PEX is widely used in residential plumbing systems, both for new construction and remodeling projects. It is often used for water supply lines, including both hot and cold water distribution, connecting fixtures, and running pipes within walls and ceilings.
  • Potable water systems: PEX is approved for use in potable water systems, making it suitable for delivering drinking water within homes, apartments, and commercial buildings. It meets rigorous standards for water quality and safety.
  • Retrofitting and renovations: PEX’s flexibility makes it an excellent choice for retrofitting or renovating existing plumbing systems. It can be easily snaked through existing walls, ceilings, or floors without the need for extensive demolition.
  • Radiant heating systems: PEX is commonly used in radiant floor heating systems, where hot water circulates through PEX pipes embedded in the floor. PEX’s flexibility and resistance to temperature changes make it ideal for this application.
  • Commercial applications: PEX is also used in commercial buildings for plumbing installations, including offices, hotels, schools, and healthcare facilities. It provides an efficient and cost-effective solution for water distribution.
  • Frost-prone areas: PEX’s resistance to freezing makes it suitable for use in areas with colder climates or where pipes may be exposed to freezing temperatures. PEX pipes can expand and contract without bursting, reducing the risk of freeze-related damage.
  • Water service lines: PEX can be used for water service lines connecting the main water supply to the building. However, local codes and regulations may have specific requirements regarding the use of PEX for this purpose, so it’s important to consult with local authorities or a professional plumber.

Has PEX been banned?

PEX tubing is allowed in all 50 states, but installation guidelines and codes may vary by municipality.

PEX was temporarily banned in California due to concerns about toxic materials, but this was later disproved by laboratory tests. PEX is banned from pool water use in the United States and Canada.

PEX cannot be taken outside the house, where it is exposed to UV for a long period of time. The synthetic material of the pipes can slowly disintegrate due to the light of the sun. Even light bulbs have been known to affect the lifespan of PEX water lines.

Some PEX pipe manufacturers use cost-cutting processes that lead to pipes that aren’t uniform in composition and are defective.

Defective PEX pipes will not last 50+ years as advertised and will quickly degrade and become brittle when exposed to hot chlorinated water.

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Logan
Author: Logan

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