Over the years the plumbing industry has seen vast improvements in technology. For instance, although copper pipe is still used in water supply and distribution systems today, more and more PEX (cross-linked polyethylene) piping is being installed as an alternative.
Let’s compare PEX and Copper Piping.
PEX piping is manufactured from a plastic called polyethylene and is shipped in coils and is "snaked" through a house similar to the way electric wire is. Oh the other hand copper pipe utilizes soldered connections which is more labor intensive and does not allow the same flexibility of the PEX piping.
Although the use of 50/50 solder (50% lead) was banned decades ago and plumbers now use "lead-free" solder, the product is not completely free of lead.
Current building codes allow pipe and pipe fittings utilized in the water-supply system [to] have a maximum of 8% lead. (Solder must have some lead content in order for it to adhere properly to the copper).
Since there are no soldered joints with PEX piping the amount of lead introduced into the water distribution system is reduced.
One major benefit to PEX piping is utilizing a system where each fixture is connected separately to a manibloc. Since each connection can be controlled or shut off independently of the other fixtures, a shower control valve for instance can be replaced without shutting off the main water line and disabling the other plumbing fixtures in the house.
PEX piping has other advantages as well. In cold climates it can expand a great deal before splitting [during] freezing conditions and acidic water will not eat holes thru it like its copper counterpart.
Now, I’m not suggesting you shouldn’t buy a home with copper piping. If you speak with a plumber who has been in the industry for many years, he will likely tout the benefits of such a system, especially how (properly installed) copper piping has been proven reliable over time. Given the benefits of PEX piping though, it’s hard to argue against the use of such a system.
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