Over the past 30+ years, the growth of PEX usage in the plumbing industry comes from its many benefits over traditional piping options like copper, PVC, CPVC, and galvanized steel.
Cross-linked Polyethylene (aka PEX piping) was invented in 1968 by German inventor, Dr. Thomas Engel and introduced in the United States in 1984 when Wirsbo (now known as Uponor) opened its operations in Rockford, Illinois.
This is where the birth of the Engel-method PEX for radiant floor heating occurred. It has revolutionized the plumbing industry in cost, efficiency, installation time, and service repair.
To understand why the usage of PEX has grown over 40% a year in new construction, you must know the benefits PEX piping has to offer.
The 3 Main Benefits of PEX
- Cost Effectiveness
PEX tubing on average costs 25% less than the price of copper! For plumbing contractors, cost can be the difference between winning and losing a job. Switching over to PEX has enabled many plumbing professionals to stay competitive.
PEX tubing comes in longer sections from 100’ to 1200’ coils if needed. Its lightweight content and easy fittings can drastically reduce installation times and increase productivity while driving down cost.
The installation of PEX tubing can be joined by using compression, crimp, or press fittings. This reduces material and labor costs since there are no soldering or adhesives to consider.
There are numerous online videos to help you learn how to work with PEX. Here is an example video to help you better understand how to join PEX in different ways.
- Versatility & Flexibility
PEX maneuvers through walls and corners much easier than PVC or Copper without multiple fixings or soldering. The tubing can go on longer runs with fewer turns and joints, reducing installation times. Also, its much quieter than copper pipes during temperature changes.
Its durability to withstand subzero to 180-degree temperatures allows it to expand or contract greatly from its original size. It is also light weight and color coded red and blue based on water temperature.
PEX does not corrode like copper and is more resistant to freezing with less chance of rupturing. It has a smooth interior which prevents restricted water flow from mineral deposits or pinhole leaks from corrosive buildup over time.
Speaking of time, PEX has a life expectancy of at least 50 years.
When it comes to installation and repair, PEX is easy to use since it is compatible with older types of plumbing materials such as copper, brass, PVC, and galvanized piping.
Types of PEX: Oxygen & Non-Oxygen Barrier PEX
PEX tubing is available in most common sizes from ¼ in to 2 in diameter and is color coded red, blue, black, and white to help differentiate hot and cold water lines. There are three types of PEX products as follows:
- Oxygen Barrier PEX is used for baseboard or radiant heat applications as oxygen is a main cause of many components in heating systems to rust and corrode. Oxygen barrier PEX prevents diffusion of oxygen molecules into the water through walls of the pipe. It is also commonly used for supply and return lines to boilers and fan coils.
- Non-Oxygen Barrier PEX is used in new construction for kitchen and bath fixtures as they involve potable water. The most common for indoor plumbing is PEX one half inch tubing which has greater water flow than copper tubing of the same size.
- Aluminum Barrier PEX (PEX-AL-PEX) is used in high-temperature heating systems. It is a three-layer tubing made up of PEX, aluminum, and then another layer of PEX hence the nickname “PEX-AL-PEX”. The aluminum layer acts as an oxygen barrier which allows for outdoor use. It also can be bent and doesn’t need to be tied down every few feet as the aluminum holds its shape.
Challenges of using PEX
While PEX has many advantages over copper tubing, it is not designed for outdoor use. Direct exposure to UV sunlight over time can breakdown its compound.
Unlike copper, PEX cannot be buried directly into the soil. Some metropolitan areas do not allow PEX in residential or commercial construction. Always check local codes before you proceed with any PEX installation on new construction or repairs.
Overall, the popularity of PEX will continue to grow as improvements are made. It has proven over the last 30 years to be a reliable, light weight alternative to traditional plumbing methods.
So, are your ready to use PEX on your next installation? Visit our PEX Products here Online Today!
If you wish to learn more about our PEX products, please call Plumbing Supply Now at 888-224-4495.