I was looking at replacing some of the plumbing in my house and was looking around at the different options. I came across PEX pipes as being a great option. However, I wanted to know how long they last. So I did a little research, and here’s what I found.
Generally, PEX pipes last for 25 to 40 years before they need to be replaced. By comparison, copper pipes last for around 50 to 70 years. PVC pipes also last 50 to 80 years. CPVC pipes last 50 to 75 years. Many plumbers prefer PEX pipes because they are much easier to install than PVC, CPVC, or copper.
It’s good to know how PEX compares with the other options. In this article, I will explain the disadvantages of PEX, whether PEX can deteriorate, and if PEX plumbing is reliable.
What are the Disadvantages of PEX?
Now that you know how long PEX lasts, it’s good to get an idea about whether there are any disadvantages to using PEX. Here’s what the disadvantages of PEX are:
As a whole, the disadvantages of PEX are that it can’t be left in direct sunlight and is susceptible to rodent damage. It also has one drawback compared to copper in that it doesn’t last as long as copper. Copper typically lasts 80 to 100 years, whereas PEX lasts about half that.
In my opinion, the fact that PEX can’t be left in direct sunlight is only a minor drawback as plumbing is typically concealed within the walls or under the floor. However, in hot climates, PEX pipes are susceptible to rodent damage.
If rodents are particularly thirsty, they can sense there’s water in the PEX pipes in your home and chew through them to get a drink. Rats can easily gnaw through plastic like PEX.
Therefore, if you are aware that there is a rodent issue in your area or are concerned it might be a potential problem, you should go with copper to don’t have to worry about repairs down the line.
What are the Advantages of PEX?
PEX also has some major advantages over the other types of plumbing materials. They are:
PEX is Flexible
PEX is flexible, unlike copper, which is rigid. PVC and CPVC are also pretty much rigid. But, PVC and CPVC have a bit more give than copper pipes. PEX, on the other hand, is so bendy that it comes in a circular roll.
Because it’s bendy, it can be maneuvered into tight spaces, making it far easier to work with, especially for renovations.
For new builds, it’s in theory easy to coordinate with the builder so that there is enough space to get in rigid plumbing pipes like copper or PVC as easily as possible. However, before parts of the house are built, that could make it challenging to get the pipes in.
But for a renovation, using copper or PVC typically means more joins so the pipes can go in the best location. And more joins means more work.
The fact that it’s bendy also allows PEX to move a bit as the water passes through it. And that absorbs the force of the water, causing it to slosh around less. Because of that, it isn’t as noisy as copper or PVC. In copper and PVC, water splashes around more inside the pipe and therefore makes more noise.
PEX is Lightweight
Because it’s made of plastic it’s much lighter than copper. Therefore, when you’re moving it around a building site it’s much easier to handle.
PEX has different colors for hot and cold water
PEX pipes have two different colors, one for hot water and one for cold water. Overall, it makes the plumbing system much easier to install and repair because it’s easy to identify which pipes are hot and which pipe is cold, rather than mark it with a pen or tape.
PEX Doesn’t Require Soldering
Copper pipes need to be soldered together. The process of soldering requires a blow torch with an open flame. Unfortunately, a blow torch is difficult to work and is a safety hazard.
With proper training, though, the risk of fire is quite low. And the fact that you don’t need to use an open flame when installing PEX is a major plus.
Does PEX Deteriorate?
So, PEX is easier to install than copper and PVC but how does it hold up over time?
Generally, PEX does not deteriorate. But, PEX will deteriorate if it’s left in the sun.
PEX has an expected life of 25 to 40 years. Therefore, it is expected that it will need to be replaced 40 years after it has been installed. During that time it will experience minor wear and tear – but is unlikely to leak or rupture.
Because PEX can not be left in direct sunlight, it can not be used on the house's exterior. Care also needs to be taken when delivered or when you pick it up from the hardware store not to leave it in the sun. For example, you might leave it in the yard while you go and do something else.
Or, you might leave it in a bedroom that has a large amount of natural light that shines. And as a result, sunlight is shining directly on the PEX when it’s laying on the floor. Of course, sunlight will dramatically degrade the PEX, so you should always store it in the shade. But, again, this is a minor logistical issue that you don’t get with copper or PVC.
Is PEX Piping Reliable?
I was interested in how people find PEX performed after getting it installed and whether it’s trusted to be used for the plumbing?
Generally, PEX is reliable. It will fail for the same reasons as other pipes such as copper or PVC. However, it is much easier to install. The main concerns when using PEX pipes are that they can not be used on the exterior of the house or be installed where it will get direct sunlight.
While, PEX piping will expand and contract with temperature, in frigid areas where PEX piping is left exposed it needs to be insulated to prevent rupture.