How Long Do Pex Pipes Last? [ANSWERED]

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PEX, otherwise known as Crosslinked polyethylene has lots of characteristics that make it a wonderful plumbing option in the world of plumbing lines when compared to options such as hard plastics or copper pipe.

While other plumbing options like copper, steel, and iron are rigid, PEX is flexible tubing that can be installed more easily.

It is also a durable material and is designed to outlast an equivalent line made of other materials too.

Typically speaking, PEX pipes last for approximately 25 to 40 years before ever needing replacement. PEX pipes that aren’t damaged by external factors can go at least 70 years.

Copper pipes last for 50 to 70 years.

PVC pipes also last 50 to 80 years and CPVC pipes last 50 to 75 years. A lot of plumbers in my area prefer PEX pipes because they are much easier to install than PVC, copper, or CPVC.

It’s good to learn how PEX compares with the other options. In this article, I will explain to you the pros and cons of PEX plumbing, whether PEX can deteriorate, and if PEX plumbing is reliable.

But first, let’s see the characteristics.

Characteristics of PEX Pipes

  • Freezing

People living in the cold regions might suffer water pipe freeze when using rigid plastic and metal pipes. Yes, these two options are more liable to freeze and burst.

This is where PEX comes in. Although PEX may suffer freeze and burst, it is less likely to do so. PEX has more tolerance to such temperatures than metal and plastic pipes and it would take extreme temperatures for it to freeze and burst.

  • Corrosion

It is no news that copper pipes are vulnerable to certain corrosion type. In most cases, this is triggered by the quality of water being provided to the supply line.

Acidic water will speed up the corrosion process of copper pipes. Other pipe materials are vulnerable to this too but not PEX pipes.

PEX lines don’t typically corrode and shouldn’t degrade no matter what the quality of the water in the line.

  • Other Strengths

PEX discourages the buildup of lime or other minerals. This keeps your pipe functional all through its service period.

The material is flexible and less prone to outside pressure damage than rigid pipes. In other words, you can place it in tight quarters and as a house settles or shifts, you’ve got nothing to worry about.

What is PEX Plumbing Disadvantages?

  • Weakens in Sunlight

PEX will weaken under direct sunlight. But this shouldn’t be an issue since plumbing is typically concealed under the floor or within the floor.

  • Rodent Damage

Because of the material, it is made with, PEX is susceptible to rodent damage.

If the rodents in your area become thirsty and can’t find water around. They can sense there’s water in the PEX pipes in your home and chew through them to get a drink.

Rats can easily gnaw through plastic like PEX to get a drink. So, if you suspect there is a rodent breakout in your area or are concerned it might be a potential issue, you should go with copper so you don’t have to worry about spending extra $$$ on repairs down the line.

  • Lifespan

PEX doesn’t last as long as copper.

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Copper usually lasts 80 to 100 years on average, whereas PEX lasts about half that.

What are the Advantages of PEX?

  • PEX is Flexible

Copper is rigid, and PEX is flexible. CPVC and PVC are also pretty much rigid when compared with the flexibility of PEX.

However, CPVC and PVC boast of more flexibility than copper. PEX, on the other hand, is so bendy that it comes in a circular roll.

Because of its bendy nature, you can maneuver it into tight spaces, making it far easier to work with, especially for renovations.

  • Noise

PEX moves a bit as the water passes through it, absorbing the force of water in the process too. This causes it to slosh around less. Because of that, PEX isn’t as noisy as PVC or copper.

In copper and PVC, water splashes around more inside the pipe and therefore makes more noise.

  • PEX is Lightweight

Since it is made of plastic, moving it around is much easier than copper.

So, its weight makes it perfect for handling and transporting on building sites.

Because it’s made of plastic it’s much lighter than copper. Therefore, when you’re moving it around a building site it’s much easier to handle.

  • PEX Is Available in Different Colors for Hot and Cold Water

PEX pipes colors mark two sensations – one for cold water and one for hot water.

In terms of repair, this makes plumbers work easy since they can easily identify which pipes are cold and which pipes are cold, rather than mark them with a tape or pen.

  • PEX Doesn’t Require Soldering

Copper pipes require soldering together their pieces while installing.

This process of being soldered together utilizes a blow torch with an open flame. Sadly, a blow torch is hard to work with and is a safety hazard.

With proper training though, the risk of fire is quite low. And the fact that you don’t need to use an open flame when installing PEX is a major plus.

ALSO SEE: How Long Do Plastic Water Pipes Last?

Should I Replace Copper with PEX?

Yes, and here are some reasons:

  • Copper pipes are prone to quality and pinhole leak problems.
  • The PEX material is less expensive and has cheaper labor as fewer fittings are required and it can be bent.
  • PEX boasts of a lower thermal conductivity rate than copper. Because of this, PEX pipes can help keep hot water hotter for longer periods of time.
  • PEX is a higher quality component than CPVC.
  • PEX piping is flexible and can be maneuvered in tight situations or corners with ease.
  • Considering that PEX piping requires less cutting and fewer fittings, it’s easier and faster to install than copper. Coupled with low production and shipping costs, the savings resulting from installing PEX instead of copper pipes can be significant.
  • PEX also produces less condensation on cold water lines, which could lead to fewer moisture-related problems in ceilings and walls.

How Long Do Pex Pipes Last

Does PEX Deteriorate?

Unless it suffers direct or sun damage where installed, PEX does not deteriorate.

On average, PEX has an expected lifespan of 25 to 40 years. So, it is expected that you do your best to keep it going strong.

During its service life, it will experience minor wear and tear – but is unlikely to leak or rupture.

We do not advise using PEX on the house exterior since it cannot be left in direct sunlight. Care also needs to be taken when delivered or when you pick it up from the hardware store to not leave it in the sun.

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For instance, you SHOULD not leave it in the yard while you go and do something else. Neither should you leave it in a bedroom that has a large amount of natural light that shines.

Sunlight rays will drastically degrade the PEX, so you should always store it in the shade. But, again, this is a minor logistical issue that you don’t get with copper or PVC.

Is PEX Piping Reliable?

Yes! PEX piping is reliable.

Aside from direct sunlight being its bane, it will fail for the same reasons as other pipes such as PVC or copper. But, it is much easier to install. The primary concerns when using PEX pipes are that they cannot be used on the exterior of homes or be installed in areas where direct sunlight is bound to hit.

While, PEX piping will expand and contract with temperature, in frigid areas where PEX piping is left exposed it needs to be insulated to prevent rupture.

Why is PEX Plumbing Bad?

There are 3 types of PEX tubing: A, B, and C.

Type A and C can leach BPAs into the water. PEX is not rodent-proof either so Mice, rats, hamsters, Squirrels, etc. and chews right through it.

PEX is also susceptible to UVA damage. I mean, very susceptible to UV rays.

PEX is semi-permeable, meaning liquids can get inside the tubing and contaminate the water inside. That’s not all! PEX is not antibacterial like copper is.

PEX cannot be used in high heat areas around recessed lights or be directly connected to a water heater.

Crosslinked polyethylene is far less expensive than copper and a lot less labor-intensive to install. There are precautions you can take and work around to mitigate most of the above shortcomings.

Pex has an upward temperature limit of 125° F. While that’s plenty hot for domestic use, you have to be certain that you never exceed it.

Why is PEX better than Copper?

  • It is more flexible than copper
  • Its cost is cheaper than copper
  • It doesn’t degrade, like copper

PEX is great for a handful of different applications but not all applications.

For example:

PEX doesn’t do well with high temperatures. So, if you have a high temp application, it’s a no-go. A lot of codes require 18–24″ of copper at the outlet of a water heater for this reason.

At the end of the day, you have to evaluate your specific situation and decide based on money, orientation, type of system, etc. what is best for your application.

PEX isn’t unequivocally better, it’s just better in certain circumstances, and vice versa.

How Long Does PEX Last in Concrete?

As earlier stated, PEX pipes last for 25 to 40 years before they typically need to be replaced.

Uponor PEX Lifespan

Uponor PEX pipe and ProPEX fittings last 25-years on an average.

Where Is PEX Not Allowed?

PEX isn’t made to be installed in high heat areas because they don’t handle that much heat too well.

You can’t install PEX in high-heat areas like near recessed lighting. This also means you can’t connect PEX directly to a hot water heater, but you can use a connecting material to do this.

PEX has been and is still used all through Europe, Scandanavia, and Germany – areas with extreme cold.

In Europe for instance, it has been used for almost 60 years and has been very serviceable cold and hot water plumbing and heating systems.

Yes, Pex expands and contracts more than copper & PVC, but because it’s flexible, it’s able to handle those changes well.

The ONLY reason I can think of for the system failing in cold weather applications is if it is installed in hot water and stretched tight. Pex needs to be installed with some slack.

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When properly installed, it shows no higher failure rate than properly installed copper or PVC products.

The Pex industry is currently suing the state of California over its failure to include Pex in its latest revised plumbing code.

Why Is PEX banned in California?

PEX was banned in California because the plumber’s union didn’t want you using a product that will lower your plumbing bill. The copper industry has tried to keep PEX out of California for a long time, but they lost. The cost and longevity of PEX are unmatched. 100′ of PEX is $25, while 20′ of copper is $25.

It’s safe, reliable, and easier to install than copper. It has been used in Germany for many years. And recently the ban on its use was lifted in California.

Is PEX still Banned in California?

Pex is NOT banned in California. it was forbidden for use because the California Plumbers Union whined and made excuses about there not being enough evidence that it was safe, but the real reason was that it installs much quicker, easier, and more reliably, and with less skill than copper so the plumbers’ income and fiefdom would’ve taken a hit.

California is a poor source to quote about almost anything. They consider EVERYTHING a possible cause of cancer, and the unions have fought plastic pipe for decades, regardless of its merit.

Germany came out with the stuff in the ’60s and there really have never been any failures, the stuff is simply awesome.

Especially the PEX-A stuff that Germany developed. PEX-A does use chemicals for crosslinking, it uses peroxide to crosslink the polyethylene molecules.

PEX-B uses silane crosslinking and is not quite as resilient as PEX-A and some speculate that Chinese PEX-B may leak some not-so-good chemicals that were used for the crosslinking.

There is a non-chemical PEX-C that uses electron beam crosslinking, which was also the first PEX developed, but the electron beam processing makes it more brittle than the other processes and much more expensive so it has limited availability.

Does PEX Cause Cancer?

No, PEX does not cause cancer, or are its PEX carcinogenic in nature.

Is PEX a Safe for Drinking Water?

There are no health risks associated with drinking water from PEX pipes. So, it is safe.

Is PEX Tubing Safe for Hot Water?

PEX is usually rated at 180° F (82° C) — it should say on the side of the pipe what the actual rating is. As long as your water heater temperature is below that, you’re fine.

The PEX piping is rated by code, to withstand the 210 °F temperatures for up to 48 hours. However, the national code does not allow for PEX to be used within 18 inches of the water heater.

A T&P safety valve is rated to go off at 210°F (100°C), so if something does go wrong and your water heater overheats, there is a possibility the PEX will fail. If the PEX does fail, it almost certainly will happen right above the tank (which will be the hottest place, obviously). It will also serve somewhat the same job as the T&P valve, except that a T&P valve will close once the temperature/pressure has lowered, while a burst pipe will just keep gushing water until someone shuts off the supply.

The chances of water heater overheating like this are quite low: electrical heaters have thermal fuses in them that serve as an electronic safety (very hard to find the temperature rating of these: seems like it’s anywhere from 167 to 210°F). In addition, the electronics are pretty reliable, and just very unlikely to fail “on”, and without drawing too much current that would cause the breaker to trip.

Author: Howard S. Baldwin

My name is Howard S. Baldwin. I am a work-at-home dad to three lovely girls, Jane + Hannah + Beauty. I have been blogging for the last 3 years. I worked for other Home and Lifetsyle blogs, did hundreds of product reviews and buyers’ guides. Prior to that, I was a staff accountant at a big accounting firm. Needless to say, researching and numbers are my passion. My goal is to be an informative source for any topic that relates to DIY life and homemaking.

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