Hire a contractor to remodel a kitchen or bathroom these days and there’s a good chance they’ll use plastic “PEX” pipe for the water supply lines instead of the copper they were using just a few years ago. Ask them about it, and they’ll probably say that PEX — short for “cross-linked polyethylene” — is better and more affordable than copper. It’s universally accepted by building codes and comes with a 25-year warranty. But if you Google it, you’ll see numerous blogs and chat rooms questioning whether PEX could leach toxic chemicals into the drinking water that flows through it.
Best for longevity: Copper
- Strengths: Copper is unquestionably the premium choice, simply because it has such a long and proven history. Copper piping has been used for 80 years — and many of those original lines are still going strong.
- Environmental concerns: Copper plumbing pipe won’t pollute your drinking water, and old pipes can be recycled. However, copper mining and manufacturing are so environmentally damaging that despite its longevity and recyclability, copper plumbing pipe is nowhere close to a green product — so if that is something that concerns you, you might want to look elsewhere.
Best for tricky retrofits: Cross-linked polyethylene (PEX)
- Strengths: PEX can be snaked into walls easily, so it’s great for retrofitting. One piece of PEX can extend across the entire house, curving around corners and obstructions, without any seams. And where a joint is needed, there’s no soldering involved. The pipe — and the joints — have held up well throughout the product’s 30-year history, though PEX wasn’t widely used until about 10 years ago.
- Environmental concerns: There’s research linking the process used to make PEX with methyl tertiary butyl ether, a toxin found in gasoline. That leaves some environmentalists worrying that PEX pipes could contaminate the water that runs through them. But the state of California — known for having some of the toughest environmental regulations in the country — recently approved PEX for use there. Some people think that today’s product is safer than the first generation PEX used a couple of decades ago. If you were an early PEX adopter and you’re concerned, run the water for a few minutes to flush out what’s been sitting in the pipes before filling a drinking or cooking vessel.
Best for water safety: Polypropylene pipe (PP)
- Strengths: It doesn’t get a lot of attention in the U.S., but PP has a 30-year history in Europe, where it enjoys an unblemished record for durability and health safety. It’s a rigid plastic pipe, like CPVC, but it’s not joined together with chemicals. Instead, heat is used to melt the mating ends and fuse them permanently together.
- Environmental concerns: If you want to go green, this is the best option! There are no safety concerns about chemicals leaching from polypropylene, and there’s no reason the pipes shouldn’t last practically forever.
As you can see, there are a lot of options out there. If you are need of repiping your home, give your local Cape Coral and Fort Myers plumbers at Avis Plumbing & Air Conditioning a call. We have the expertise and experience to provide advice when deciding on the right pipe materials for your home.