We get excited about new technology here at Bell Brothers, and we like to think of ourselves as early adopters. From heat pumps to tankless water heaters, we like new technology that works and has proven itself. And the new technology that’s got us talking lately is PEX plumbing, a totally new way of plumbing that’s simple, easy to use, and cheaper than copper!
What Is PEX?
PEX is a flexible plastic tube–almost like a garden hose, except more durable and made of harder plastic. It comes in different sizes and is generally color coded (red for hot water, blue for cold) based on use.1 Normally, when you plumb a house the traditional way, you use hard copper pipes (or galvanized steel, or iron if you’re doing it really old school, which nobody does anymore). Those copper pipes are expensive, tricky to work with, and long and inflexible.
Cheap to manufacture and easy to ship and work with, PEX is replacing copper as the material of choice in many plumbing applications. Because it’s plastic, PEX is much lighter than copper. And because it’s flexible instead of rigid, it’s a lot easier to work with. Instead of making a lot of complicated joints and elbows, PEX can be flexed around obstacles and worked through areas where copper would be a nightmare to use.
Fewer joints and elbows mean fewer places where PEX can leak–with traditional copper plumbing, there are a lot of places that need to be sealed up perfectly or else they will leak, and there’s no way to know for sure until you turn on the water. PEX has fewer opportunities to leak, and it also doesn’t require messy solder and hot torches to make those connections.
That takes a lot less time than traditional pipe work (and also reduces the risk of a fire). Because it’s so light and flexible, it also takes less time to move, less money to transport, and is much quicker to install than copper.
How It Works
PEX shows up on spools, sort of like a garden hose or copper wire. The plumber decides what size and type of PEX is needed for the various plumbing applications, and unwinds what is needed. Then the plumber cuts it, usually with a quick snip instead of the longer process that is required to cut copper pipe.
The plumber then runs the PEX where it needs to go, and connects it by crimping the ends with a brass crimp and a special tool.2 This creates a watertight seal with a much lower risk of leaking than copper solder. PEX removes a lot of the headaches that come with plumbing–it’s flexible so we can move it around a lot easier than copper, and twisting or pulling it is less likely to break a joint.
Certain plumbing fixtures, like valves for showers and sinks, will still need to be made out of copper and brass and anchored to the wall. But those few remaining items will be a lot easier to work with if everything else is PEX, and the whole job will be a lot cheaper, too!
Is PEX Right for My Job?
Well, that depends on if you can get a contractor who works with PEX to do your job. Bell Brothers is an early adopter, but not everyone in the area works with PEX just yet. Many are waiting to see if it’s just a fad, but we already know it’s here to stay. PEX is cheap, efficient to install, and pays for itself many times over. It has a similar lifespan to copper pipe, and is much less likely to leak–both immediately after install, and years down the line. We don’t see many freezes here the Valley, but PEX is less likely to freeze and break than copper is, which is a real relief for anyone with those concerns. And if you’re having issues with hard water scaling, you’ll be happy to know that PEX doesn’t hold scaling buildup in the same way copper does.
The great thing about PEX is that the savings get bigger as the job gets bigger. You’ll save money re-plumbing a bathroom or section of line with PEX, but you’ll save even more money by plumbing a new house with PEX. And the savings are on both ends–PEX also means less repairs down the road.
If you’re looking at a new plumbing job or a repair on existing plumbing, don’t be afraid to call Bell Brothers and ask about PEX. The cost is so much lower it’s not even funny, and it’s so easy to install that we love PEX as much as our clients do!