Cons and PEX Installation Alternatives You Can Use! (2023)

Do you want to know what the disadvantages of PEX installations are? You were probably impressed by the variety of products in hardware stores.

When it comes to plumbing systems, PEX is one of the commercially available alternatives. However, PEX is often associated with questions such as "Is PEX safe?". or 'Why is PEX banned in California?' [1]

In this article we will find out together what the PEX piping system is and its advantages and disadvantages. Read on to find out when PEX can be used effectively and when it's not a viable option.

What is PEX?

Cons and PEX Installation Alternatives You Can Use! (1)

PEX is a flexible plastic used as an alternative to traditional copper for water supply lines.

PEX is easily recognized by the blue and red color of the tubes, which come in rolls because they are flexible. The red PEX pipes carry hot water, the blue pipes indicate cold water and the white ones can be used for both. There are also gray PEX pipes for mixed use.

PEX actually means cross-linked polyethylene and is available in sizes from ¼" to 4" in diameter. There are three types of PEX hoses: PEX-A, PEX-B and PEX-C. [2]

Each type of PEX is obtained through a different manufacturing process:

  • PEX-A is manufactured using the "Engel" process, named after the German inventor Dr. Thomas Engel. The process is also called hot crosslinking because the polyethylene molecules come together during the extrusion process.
  • PEX-B is a more rigid product obtained by cross-linking after the extrusion process. The tube is placed in a hot water bath or steam room.
  • PEX-C begins the extrusion process, after which an electron beam changes the molecular structure of the material.

A brief history of PEX

Cons and PEX Installation Alternatives You Can Use! (2)

The story of PEX begins in 1968 when German scientist Thomas Engel cross-linked polyethylene to create a more flexible material. His method uses radiation to cross-link ordinary plastic into flexible PEX tubes.

The first use of PEX in the United States dates back to the 1980's when these pipes were used for underfloor heating systems. PEX is still a popular option for underfloor heating today.

At the same time, PEX became the first choice for water supply systems in Europe. The original version of PEX used in the United States could not withstand the higher levels of chlorine in drinking water. This has caused many of the PEX piping systems to deteriorate.

Several improvements have been made, such as the addition of antioxidants during crafting and the improvement of connections. As a result, PEX is once again a common choice for residential water supply systems.

However, some of the cases of deterioration of older PEX piping systems have tarnished the reputation of this product. “Is PEX safe?” you may ask. Read on to find out when PEX can be used successfully.

Benefits of PEX plumbing

Cons and PEX Installation Alternatives You Can Use! (3)

Before you know what the disadvantages of PEX pipes are, you should know that this material offers several advantages.

Otherwise it would not have been widely used and would still be a viable option.

  • very flexible

If you use copper or galvanized steel, you will need to create several smaller branches for each lamp. Copper tubing and other plastic tubing require elbow joints to be made. PEX, on the other hand, can be connected to a PEX manifold and routed through walls and floors for each luminaire.

Using a single length of PEX for each light fixture in your home eliminates the risk of leaks at connection points. It also reduces the pressure drop due to turbulence that occurs at transitions. This allows you to enjoy higher water pressure in your equipment. This solution is only possible thanks to the outstanding flexibility of PEX.

  • easy to install

PEX installation does not require soldering like copper and galvanized steel. No fire torch is required, eliminating the risk of fire. you only needappropriate PEX tool.

  • Frost crack resistant

Unlike copper or steel, PEX expands and withstands low temperatures. PEX has an expected useful life of 50 years. This makes it a perfect candidate to replace metal and thermoplastic tubing.

  • No pollution of the water supply.

Copper and steel can corrode, which could lead to leaks and contamination of the water supply.

  • still water flow

Metal pipes are associated with a "water hammer" sound, while PEX allows water to flow smoothly.

  • adaptability

With the right accessories, you can connect PEX to existing metal utility lines.

  • lower costs

The alternatives cost about four times as much as PEX piping systems. The price of copper is affected by several factors related to the health of the global economy. In the first quarter of 2021, the copper price reached itshighest levelin almost a decade.

Disadvantages of PEX plumbing

Cons and PEX Installation Alternatives You Can Use! (4)

If PEX has so many good qualities, why is PEX banned in California?

PEX is not bad per se; This excellent, affordable material just isn't the best choice for certain applications. Here are the main disadvantages of PEX - read on and decide if PEX is right for your project or not:

  • Decomposed by sunlight

PEX is not a good option when the pipes are exposed to sunlight. PEX pipes exposed to UV radiation only take a few months to fail. Our recommendation is to avoid PEX for external applications.

  • health concerns

PEX can release BPA and other toxic chemicals, especially in Type A and Type C PEX. Even in the 2000s, there was much controversy in California about the health risks associated with PEX.

So, back to the question, "Why is PEX banned in California?", it isn't. Its nationwide rollout was delayed by almost a decade because of these concerns. However, consensus was reached and the use of PEX was allowed in the state.

  • susceptible to insects

It appears that PEX tubing can be punctured by certain herbivorous insects, such as the Western Coniferous Seed Bug. Even rats can chew through PEX tubing. The result is leaks and damaged plumbing systems. If you choose PEX, you need to keep your home pest-free.

  • semi-permeable

The semi-permeability of PEX means liquid can enter the tubing and cause contamination.

Alternatives to PEX piping systems

Cons and PEX Installation Alternatives You Can Use! (5)

If you don't want to use PEX due to the disadvantages of PEX installations, remember that there are several alternatives. Each alternative has its advantages and disadvantages: There is no perfect material for the construction of plumbing systems:


PVC pipes are mainly used for ventilation systems and drainage pipes. Polyvinyl chloride pipes are known for their light weight,Easy to use, mieasy installation. Their disadvantages include that they cannot be separated, fragility andleakage problems.

  • copper pipes

Copper tubing is preferred in many projects for water supply piping. They have been in use for a long time and are trusted and tested by plumbing professionals. They are not suitable for beginners as it requires experience to assemble; Soldering is required. Other disadvantages are high cost, corrosion problems and a tendency to seep through holes.

  • ABS pipes

ABS stands for Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene and is used because it is non-toxic and abrasion resistant. These tubes are found in ventilation systems, drain lines, and electrical wire insulation.

Are ABS pipes suitable for water supply systems? Due to the risk of warping at certain temperatures, they are not allowed under current building codes.

PEX vs Copper

Cons and PEX Installation Alternatives You Can Use! (6)

When it comes to home plumbing and water supply systems, the battle is often between copper and PEX.

Copper offers a major advantage: it lasts longer than PEX (50 to 70 years).

The main problem with PEX is that very hot process water and high levels of chlorine can damage these reliable pipes. Copper pipes, on the other hand, can be damaged by acidic water. Despite this, copper lasts 20 years longer than PEX when used in domestic plumbing systems.

PEX is still often preferred for the following reasons:

  • lower costs
  • Be more DIY friendly
  • Be less prone to freezing and breaking
  • Enable the creation of a central stop
  • Requires fewer connections and less installation effort

Is PEX right for you?

So the real question isn't "Is PEX safe?" or "Why is the PEX installation bad?"

The question is whether PEX is right for you. By now you are probably aware of other disadvantages of PEX installations.

The truth is that there is no perfect material for water supply or underfloor heating. Each alternative to PEX has its own disadvantages, such as higher installation costs or lower performance.

The right decision depends on your plumbing needs, the location of the plumbing system, andtypes of lightsyou will use

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