PEX tubing is becoming a popular alternative to copper or cast iron in the plumbing industry. Not only is it cheaper than its counterparts, but it is also more flexible, making it easier to work with and install in already completed homes. It is also more popular than most other plastic options. Its flexibility also means that it generally requires fewer joints than rigid options. Also, unlike PVC, it can generally handle higher water temperatures and unlike CPVC, it is not so flexible that it requires extensive support. However, if you are considering installing a PEX system in your home, or updating part of your plumbing system to PEX, there are several considerations that you should be aware of.
Sound Can Be An Issue
PEX is often touted as being a silent or near silent water delivery option. However, in reality, people living in homes with PEX have discovered that it can be just as noisy as its metal counterparts. You may notice the sound of a water-hammering at the end of a long run of pipe and you may also notice the sound of crackling or popping as the pipe expands and contracts based on the surrounding temperature.
To minimize these noises, you should consider professional installation instead of completing it yourself. Additionally, you should be sure to provide proper noise-insulation around the pipes, which can consist of double-layers of drywall or insulation material.
Heating Frozen Pipes Can Take Time
Frozen pipes can be a problem for any plumbing system, and the best solution is to not allow your pipes to freeze by keeping them well insulated and allowing a constant flow of water in extremely low temperatures. However, if your pipes do freeze, you will need to carefully unfreeze them before any splitting or cracking occurs.
One common way to unfreeze metal pipes is to apply direct heat from a blowtorch. However, this extreme heat can crack PEX pipes. It is a better idea to slowly heat the pipe using space heaters or a blow dryer or to send unfrozen water to the ice dam inside the pipe via a water jet.
PEX May Affect the Quality of Drinking Water
There is a large debate over whether PEX and other plastics provide safe drinking water. While PEX in general has been approved for use in residential systems, there are still a few safety concerns, like leeching chemicals, that depend on the quality and type of the PEX that you use in your system. To avoid problems, you should install high-quality PEX that your plumber recommends.
You may also want to flush your system regularly to prevent any bacteria or chemicals from building up in it and, if you have concerns, use a point-of-use water filter for your drinking water.
Expansion and Contraction Issues
PEX expands and contracts during temperature changes. If it is installed without enough extra material between contact points, it can break or come loose when it contracts. To avoid this, it is important to install the PEX with extra tubing. This is usually accomplished by adding a loop of PEX into the system. It is also important that the holes that the PEX runs through are not tight against the tube but allow room for movement. A plumber who is experienced with PEX can make sure that the system has enough give to accommodate expansion and contraction without any major issues.
If you are considering installing a PEX system in your home, it is important that you consult with a professional to understand the best solutions for your particular situation and to make sure you maintain your system properly.