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Supply Pipes: Copper vs. PEX

When it comes to tubing and supply pipes, copper and PEX are two of the best – and most debated – materials on the market. Copper is the classic choice but PEX (cross-linked polyethylene) is becoming increasingly more desirable. At SUPPLY.com, finding the perfect tubing for your project is more than just a pipe dream – we offer a wide selection of both materials.

What do you think – does copper deserve more credit, or is PEX the way to go in 2018? Below we discuss some of the most important factors of supply pipes, and the benefits or disadvantages that come with copper and PEX.

Supply Pipe Factors

Effectiveness, durability, and cost will be the deciding factors in your purchase decision. Both copper and PEX are good for certain uses – your environment and individual needs will determine what type of supply pipe you need.

Effectiveness

The most important factor of any pipe is its effectiveness. The good news in the copper vs. PEX debate is that both are excellent options – neither are particularly prone to leaks as long as they are installed properly. We’ll discuss ease of installation and other external factors later on, but as for the pipes themselves, both materials are high quality. Copper is strong and solid while PEX is flexible and easy to move around. 

Durability

As far as longevity, there’s no question that copper lasts longer. It’s good to keep in mind that PEX has been around for a shorter period of time, so its life span over a hundred years is still unknown territory. That being said, it’s safe to assume that copper will last up to 70 years or more and PEX will last up to 50 or more.

However, other factors aside from the initial material’s makeup may cause PEX to be a more viable option. Copper is more prone to acid corrosion, something that can become an issue with widely used water like the kind distributed in city systems.

Environment can also play a huge role in which pipes to purchase. Though it may work well in mild climates, copper bursts easily when frozen. Due to its expansive nature, PEX piping is more likely to stretch out when frozen and not break. And in warmer climates, especially states like Florida, concrete slabs underneath homes are more common. The concrete can rub against the copper and cause it to degrade quickly.

Though PEX is a better universal choice, it can be prone to damage of its own, especially from critters that like to eat up the material. And PEX should not be used when it will be exposed outside – UV rays will damage PEX pipes, making copper the better choice for the outdoors.

Ease of Installation

PEX is typically easier to install. While this may not be an issue for seasoned pros, newbies will be more comfortable using PEX. It bends, joins togethers, and cuts easily. 

As far as adding to pipes that are already installed, the fittings and crimping tool really come into play. Most PEX pipes can fit to pre-existing copper pipes as long as the size and fittings align. We offer a wide range of fittings, including many copper and PEX options.

Cost

Almost as important as the overall effectiveness of the pipe is the cost. PEX is generally a cheaper option than copper. Depending on the conditions of your project, however, PEX may need to be replaced more often, which means it may not have as great of a payoff in the end.

Pros and Cons

It can be tricky to weigh which of these factors are most important for your project – do you have a customer who insists on copper but lives in an extremely cold climate? Do you have limited tools for PEX but an apprentice who isn’t ready to install copper? Below is a side-by-side chart with the pros and cons of copper and PEX to summarize the main points and help you compare the two.

 ProsCons
Copper• Lasts longer
• Can be used outside
• Looks better when exposed
• High resistance to chlorine
• More expensive
• Prone to corrosion
• May add metallic taste to drinking water
• Bursts easily when frozen
PEX• Less expensive
• Doesn’t corrode as easily as copper
• Easy to join together
• Easy to cut
• Less likely to crack when frozen
• More likely to be eaten / damaged by animals
• Shorter life span than copper
• Not up to code in every area

Pipe and Tubing on SUPPLY.com

Ready to make a decision between PEX and copper? Find both now on SUPPLY.com. And though we didn’t cover other types of tube in this article, we also offer tubing accessories and materials like plastic. Shop all pipe and tubing here.

Shop all PEX tubing

Shop all copper tubing.

 

Have any questions? Give our product experts a call at 888-426-2323 for additional information on the PEX vs copper debate!

SHOP ALL PLUMBING SUPPLIES HERE

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