With most things plumbing related in this day and age, there are multiple options to choose from. Piping your home or commercial building is no different. Most people know about copper because it’s the old tried and true piping, but not many know about PEX. In most cases it’s a decision based on preference and upfront cost vs longevity, and in others there is clearly a better material for the job. As always, we will remain objective and give our opinion based on circumstances and experience.
Copper is the OG of piping. It has been around the longest, and with good reason. It lasts the longest. Copper piping is expected to last anywhere from 70 – 100 years. That’s quite a lifespan! Copper pipes are far less likely to get chewed through by rodents, and they can be buried or exposed to UV lighting without being encapsulated. All of this comes at a cost though. Copper requires a lot of fittings. Fitting installation adds up to extra labor cost, and also creates more opportunities for points of failure. Copper is also far more expensive than PEX.
PEX is definitely a newer technology, but still a well tested solution. Both the material and labor costs are lower with PEX. This flexible piping solution can make long runs without the use of fittings to change direction. Beyond the cost, labor and potential failure points associated with fittings, fittings can also reduce water pressure. So what’s the downside with PEX? The life expectancy of PEX is closer to 50 years than the 100 years that copper boasts. Also, PEX cannot be exposed to UV lighting. Sunlight will degrade it rapidly.
As always, we recommend consulting with your plumber to help weigh out the options specific to your needs.