What is PEX pipe? Before we answer that question, let's take a look at history before we are doomed to repeat it. Look at the water lines in any old house. You may find that one consistent material is used: bright, shiny copper. Excuse me, did I say brilliant and shiny? start from scratch. Look for copper pipes with dull blue-green crusting.
Table of contents
- Why PEX Tubing Sounds Appealing
- Why use PEX pipe in plumbing
- What is PEX pipe or pipe? third grade
- PEX-A (main manufacturer: Uponor)
- PEX-B (main manufacturer: Viega)
- What is PEX-C tubing?
- 4 Ways to Install PEX Pipe or Pipe
- SSC – Stainless Steel Clamps
- push fit
- Tools for installing and extending PEX pipe
Why PEX Tubing Sounds Appealing
Before talking about PEX, it's helpful to step back and discuss what led to its creation. For us, that means talking about "what it used to be." We're referring to a popular solution historically available to most plumbers prior to 2009 or so.
For the longest time, plumbers and builders installed copper only in residential and commercial settings. These provide adequate and efficient access to the water distribution system. It also required (and still requires) a lot of torch time for plumbers. Professional plumbers must weld every copper pipe joint in a building. If you miss a solder joint or have a problem with it, you won't find out until you pressurize the system.
If (and when) you encounter a leak, you must drain the system (after many choice words that don't fit this article). Then you would re-separate the problematic connection, dry it, re-clean it, and solder it again. All this takes a lot of time. Manufacturers set out to find an easier, more cost-effective way to distribute water throughout buildings. Did I mention that copper is really expensive! ?
PVC, although introduced earlier, really took off in the 1970s and beyond. However, PVC requires the use of glue to join for each change of direction and can also become brittle over time. PVC remains a very popular choice, but PEX offers some unusual and unique advantages.
Why use PEX pipe in plumbing
So why use PEX pipe or pipe over PVC or copper plumbing installations? First, this alternative to copper and PVC water lines offers quick installation—often cutting the time in half. Technically, PEX has been around for about 50 years, and it's gaining momentum in residential plumbing.
In this pursuit, PEX pipe (also known as cross-linked polyethylene for the nerds in all of us) makes running water pipes easier and cheaper than copper pipe. But to make life more interesting, the developers came up with three different grades of PEX – PEX A, PEX B and PEX C.
What is PEX pipe or pipe? third grade
The different grades you see on PEX (A, B, and C) refer to the manufacturing process rather than the thickness grade. PEX-A uses peroxide method, PEX-B uses silane, and PEX-C uses electron irradiation process. But these processes produce different characteristics, and each manufacturer has to choose what they want to use.
PEX-A (main manufacturer: Uponor)
PEX-A offers the highest flexibility of all available PEX types and offers the highest degree of crosslinking. Users can also use a heat gun to fix kinks in the tubing. PEX-A has no coil memory, which means it won't try to return to its original shape while in the coil. One of the disadvantages of PEX-A is the price. PEX-A costs 100%-160% more than PEX-B. It can also burst at lower pressures than PEX-B. This type of wall thickness tends to lack consistency, and PEX-A tends to exhibit higher rates of chemical leaching due to the manufacturing process. This can be a concern in plumbing applications.
PEX-B (main manufacturer: Viega)
PEX-B exhibits high resistance to chlorine and oxidation and offers the highest burst pressure. Because of these qualities, PEX-B can last up to 40 years, making it a reliable choice for plumbing applications. It costs less than PEX-A and PEX-C and has the lowest dimensional tolerances. However, it is stronger than the other two PEX types and exhibits a pronounced coil memory. It offers lower crosslinking than PEX-A. As opposed to being able to fire a heat gun, repairs often have to be done by splicing parts and then connecting them back together.
What is PEX-C tubing?
PEX-C is the newest PEX type and offers little to no coil memory. It is more flexible than PEX-B and more environmentally friendly in its manufacturing process. However, PEX-C shows a tendency to crack, kink and is not particularly prone to crosslinking. It's even been embroiled in a class action lawsuit for being prone to premature oxidation.
4 Ways to Install PEX Pipe or Pipe
SSC – Stainless Steel Clamps
The clamp-ring connection method involves sliding a ring over the PEX tubing, then sliding the tube over the proprietary fitting. The ring is then positioned in the middle of the male end of the connector and tightened with a stainless steel clamp ring crimp tool. Closely related to the clamp method is c = standard crimp.
The push-fit method requires no tools but requires a special coupler. The PEX is pushed into a dedicated coupler which contains a stainless steel barbed ring. The ring closes itself around the PEX tubing. This method is one of the easiest connection methods.
The expansion method uses a specialized tool, such as the Milwaukee M12 FUEL ProPEX Expander, which expands the end of the PEX tubing so that it can be installed on brass fittings. The plastic sleeve slides over the connection point. Once the PEX tubing has shrunk back to its original shape around the fitting, you're done! Extension methods are fast and reliable. We also have a handy installation guide on how to install PEX pipe with expanders.
Compression fittings consist of an insert that is pressed into the end of the PEX tubing. A nut and a nylon sleeve slide over the end of the tube. The PEX is then slid into the fitting and the nut is tightened down on the sleeve, clamping the PEX tubing between the fitting and the nylon sleeve.
A variety of tools allow you to easily install PEX pipe, however, we wanted to list a few that we have reviewed. If you want the real story of how they work and save you some time, these reviews should give you everything you need:
- DeWalt 20V Max PEX Expander
- Milwaukee M12 Fuel ProPEX Expander
- M12 and M18 Force Logic Crimp Tools with PEX Crimp Jaws
- Milwaukee M18 ProPEX Extension Tool
- Milwaukee M18 FUEL 2" ProPEX Extender