PEX Plumbing: The Bad Side | Is It Right For You?

PEX plumbing (cross-linked polyethylene) has become a popular choice for plumbing installations in recent years. Its flexibility, ease of installation, and affordability make it an appealing option. However, despite its advantages, there are some significant drawbacks to PEX plumbing that homeowners should consider before making the switch. In this blog post, we’ll delve into the reasons why PEX plumbing might not be the best choice for your home.

Potential PEX Plumbing Problems

  • Chlorine Sensitivity: Chlorine, a common water disinfectant, can degrade PEX piping over time. This degradation can cause leaks, brittle pipes, and potential water contamination. While newer PEX formulations are more chlorine-resistant, they are not a failsafe.

  • UV Light Vulnerability: PEX plumbing cannot withstand prolonged exposure to UV light. This limits its use in outdoor applications and even some indoor locations with substantial sunlight. UV exposure can cause the material to become brittle and crack, leading to leaks.

  • Rodent Attraction: Rodents, like mice and rats, are known to chew through PEX piping. This can lead to significant water damage and costly repairs. While not a widespread issue, it’s definitely a factor to consider, especially in areas with known rodent problems.

  • Permeability and Potential Leaching: While PEX is generally considered safe, there is some concern about its permeability. Certain chemicals in the water supply or surrounding environment could potentially leach into the water through the PEX material. This raises concerns about water quality and long-term health effects, although more research is needed in this area.

  • Limited Recyclability: PEX piping is not readily recyclable, unlike traditional copper piping. This raises environmental concerns for homeowners looking for more sustainable plumbing options.

Other Concerns About PEX

  • Taste and Odor Impacts: Some homeowners have reported changes in water taste and odor after switching to PEX plumbing. While this issue is often temporary, it can be off-putting and affect the overall water experience.

  • Fitting Failures: While not as common as other issues, there have been some reports of PEX fitting failures. These failures can be both sudden and quite damaging. It’s essential to choose high-quality PEX fittings and ensure proper installation by a licensed plumber.

When to Consider PEX (and When Not To)

PEX plumbing can be a good choice in certain situations. It’s a cost-effective option for new construction due to its ease of installation and material costs. Additionally:

  • Areas with less chlorinated water might find PEX more suitable.
  • Indoor or subterranean applications minimize the UV light concern.

However, PEX may not be ideal when:

  • Chlorine levels are high in the water supply.
  • Risk of rodent infestation in walls or under the house is a concern.
  • Outdoor applications are required, exposing PEX to UV light.
  • Environmentally conscious homeowners prefer recyclable materials.

Alternatives to PEX Plumbing

If the potential issues of PEX outweigh the benefits for your situation, consider these alternatives:

  • Copper Plumbing: Traditional copper piping offers superior durability, resistance to chlorine and UV light, and recyclability. However, it is more expensive and requires a higher level of skill to install.

  • CPVC Piping: Chlorinated polyvinyl chloride (CPVC) is a durable plastic piping that can withstand chlorine and UV light. It is less expensive than copper but requires special fittings and joining techniques.

Conclusion

PEX plumbing offers undeniable advantages, but it’s important to weigh them against its potential drawbacks before choosing it for your home. Careful consideration of your water chemistry, environment, and long-term goals will help you make an informed decision. Choosing the right plumbing materials ensures safe water, lower maintenance, and ultimately, peace of mind.

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