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PEX Pipe FAQs
What is PEX?
SharkBite® PEX pipe is a cross-linked polyethylene tubing that provides an excellent option for plumbing, radiant and hydronic systems in both residential and commercial plumbing applications. When combined with our push-to-connect fittings, manifolds, valves and other supplies, PEX pipe offers the fastest way to plumb any project. PEX pipe is made from cross-linked HDPE (high density polyethylene). The HDPE is melted and continuously extruded into a tube to form a high-performing pipe suitable for a variety of potable and non-potable plumbing applications.
What are the differences in the red, white, blue, gray and orange PEX pipe?
There are no performance differences between red, white, blue and white PEX and all are intended for use in potable water systems. The colors can be used to easily distinguish between hot and cold distribution lines. Orange PEX pipe is an oxygen barrier PEX pipe used only for hydronic heating applications.
Can I use PEX pipe for compressed air applications?
No, PEX pipe is not intended for compressed air applications.
Can I use PEX pipe for radiant or hydronic heat applications?
Yes, PEX pipe is approved for radiant or hydronic heating applications. Since ferrous components are likely to be present in the system, it is important to use oxygen barrier PEX pipe to help prevent ferrous components from rusting.
Learn more: SharkBite Radiant PEX Tubing
Is PEX pipe freeze resistant?
Yes, PEX pipe is freeze-damage resistant. PEX pipe will expand if frozen and contract to its original shape when thawed. PEX pipe is not freeze-proof. You should use the same standard insulation precautions with PEX pipe to help prevent freezing.
Can PEX pipe be joined with solvent cement?
No. PEX pipe does not require glue or cement, and can simply be joined with push-to-connect fittings, metal insert fittings, or plastic insert fittings for a watertight seal.
Can I use PEX pipe outside?
PEX pipe is not approved for outdoor applications and is not approved for continuous UV exposure. PEX pipe should not be stored in direct sunlight.
Why is PEX better than copper pipe?
PEX pipe is easier to install than rigid pipe, and it is available in long coils that can eliminate the need for extra fittings. PEX pipe is flexible and can be navigated around obstacles. For more than 30 years PEX pipe has proven its durability and shown that it is not susceptible to problems found in metal piping systems such as reduced ID (occlusion), corrosion, electrolysis, filming, mineral build-up and water velocity wear.
Download now: Homeowners Comparison: PEX v. Copper
Why is PEX better than CPVC pipe?
PEX pipe is easier to install than rigid pipe, and it is available in long coils which can eliminate the need for extra fittings. PEX pipe is flexible and can be navigated around obstacles. PEX pipe doesn’t require the use of glue or cement, can be air tested and can be installed in wet or dry conditions. Additionally, PEX pipe is freeze-damage resistant whereas CPVC pipe is susceptible to cracking at temperatures below 50°F.
Download now: Homeowners Comparison: PEX vs. CPVC
Does SharkBite offer a warranty on its PEX plumbing system?
SharkBite PEX pipe carries a 25-year warranty against any manufacturer’s defect as long as the item has been installed per the installation instructions and complies with local code.
Learn more: SharkBite Warranty
What are the benefits of PEX pipe?
PEX pipe is part of a water supply piping system that has several benefits over metal pipe or rigid plastic pipe systems. It is flexible, resistant to scale and chlorine. PEX pipe doesn’t corrode or develop pinholes. Plus, it is faster to install than metal or rigid plastic and has fewer connections and fittings.
Can PEX be used under a concrete slab?
Yes, PEX pipe can be installed under a concrete slab. Since PEX pipe is supplied in coils, installation can be completed in one continuous length without the need for extra fittings. PEX pipe can also be encased within a slab, which is commonly used for radiant floor heating. In cases where PEX pipe penetrates a concrete slab, it must be protected with a nonmetallic sleeve at the penetration point.
How soon after installation can you pressure test PEX tubing?
PEX pipe can be pressurized for testing as soon as all necessary connections have been made.
Where is PEX pipe approved for plumbing use?
PEX pipe is approved for residential and commercial hot and cold water distribution systems, municipal water service lines, radiant panel heating systems, hydronic baseboard heating systems, snow and ice melting systems and building services pipe.
Can PEX save me money?
Yes, PEX pipe can save money in numerous ways. PEX pipe is more cost effective than copper. Plus, PEX pipe is flexible which makes it fast to install and requires fewer directional fittings. When SharkBite PEX pipe and fittings are used together, the labor savings are huge.
What is the difference between PEX-A, PEX-B and PEX-C?
The cross-linking method is the difference between PEX-A, PEX-B and PEX-C. Cross-linking is defined as polyethylene material that has undergone a change in molecular structure using a chemical or a physical process whereby the polymer chains are chemically linked. SharkBite non oxygen barrier pipe is manufacture as PEX-B and SharkBite oxygen barrier pipe is manufactured as PEX-C.
As background, the methods for cross-linking are:
- PEX-A: Peroxide – This method employs organic peroxides that, when heated, generate reactive free radicals that splice PEX chains together during extrusion
- PEX-B: Silane This method involves grafting a reactive silane molecule to the backbone of the polyethylene
- PEX-C: Electron beam This method involves subjecting the extruded PE pipe to a dose of high-energy electrons
Browse common faqs on SharkBite PEX Pipe and PEX Products – like applications, benefits and other helpful info to make your next PEX job more efficient.
All You Need to Know About PEX Pipe
Find out why this colorful tubing is the up-and-coming plumbing trend that has DIYers excited.
Cross-linked polyethylene (PEX), a type of flexible plastic, is currently replacing traditional copper and galvanized steel as water supply lines in both new construction and remodeling projects. You’ve probably seen rolls of blue and red PEX pipe in the plumbing aisle of your local home improvement store, but might not know that this colorful tubing now makes it possible for enthusiastic DIYers to replace their own leaky water lines instead of calling a pro. Read on to learn more about PEX—what it is, where it can be used, and all the pros and cons of this popular plumbing material.
PEX, Past and Present
In 1968, German scientist Thomas Engle discovered a way to crosslink common plastic (polyethylene) through radiation to produce a much suppler form of the material. The new plastic, fashioned into flexible PEX pipe (also known as PEX tubing), arrived in the US in the 1980s, initially for radiant floor heating systems: The flexible tubing is embedded in a concrete slab and hot water pumped through to heat the slab and radiate heat to rest of the room. PEX pipe remains popular for radiant floor heating.
While PEX use for water supply systems has been widespread in Europe since the 1980s, it was a latecomer here because some early versions deteriorated slightly when exposed to the high chlorine levels common in US water supplies. Adding antioxidants during manufacturing made PEX suitable for carrying drinking water and, over the past two decades, having met our potable drinking water standards, it started catching on.
Complaints about early PEX water systems cropped up when the fittings used to connect the pipes failed and leaked. Improved fittings solved that problem and the popularity of PEX surged. Today, PEX is used in more than 60 percent of new construction residential water supply systems.
PEX is available in a variety of lengths, from short 10-foot pieces (for small repairs) to rolls over 500 feet long, which are used to install a home’s entire water supply system. PEX pipe ranges from 3/8- to 1-inch in diameter and its color-coding makes it a snap to identify what a specific pipe is used for. Although there are three types of PEX (see Label Lingo, below), the different colors don’t connote the distinctions; they simply make it easy for the installer to identify which lines carry hot water and which carry cold.
- Red PEX pipe carries hot water.
- Blue PEX pipe carries cold water.
- White PEX pipe can be used for either hot or cold water.
- Gray PEX pipe, like white, can be used for either hot or cold water (although not all DIY centers carry gray).
Traditional copper and galvanized steel water systems feature main lines and a series of smaller branch lines that lead to each fixture. Each branch that attaches to the main line requires a separate connection. PEX has a distinct advantage over these materials because of its flexibility, which allows one end of PEX pipe to connect to a PEX manifold (the main water control system) and then wind through walls and floors—uninterrupted—all the way to an individual fixture. Called “homerun” plumbing, by using a single length of PEX for each hot and cold water supply fixture in your home, it eliminates the risk of leaks at multiple connection sites.
Benefits and Drawbacks
Beyond flexibility, PEX has other advantages—and two main considerations.
- Installing PEX does not require soldering as does copper and galvanized steel.
- PEX expands, making it more resistant to freeze-cracking than either copper or steel.
- PEX does not corrode, which can happen with both copper and steel pipes, leading to leaks and contamination of the water supply.
- Water flows silently through PEX, eliminating the “water hammer” noise associated with metal piping.
- Color-coding (red and blue) make it simple to distinguish hot and cold supply lines.
- PEX can be connected to existing metal supply lines with the correct fittings.
- PEX is not suitable for outdoor use. Ultraviolet rays cause PEX to break down quickly—tubing left outdoors can harden and crack within a couple of months.
- PEX cannot currently be recycled, because it does not melt as other recyclable plastics do. With the popularity of PEX rising, however, the demand for a way to recycle it will also likely rise.
- Though installation is DIY-friendly, working with PEX requires special connectors and tools.
The different types of PEX are distinguished by the manufacturing process used to make the tubing. When shopping for PEX, you may notice rolls labeled with either an A, B, or C designation. Choose the tubing best suited to your needs:
- PEX-A is manufactured using peroxide. This type of PEX is the most flexible of the three types and is suitable for use in all home water-supply plumbing needs. It expands to the greatest degree when subjected to freezing water, so it’s the most resistant to cracking in frigid temperatures. It’s easy to work with but it’s more expensive than B or C. A 10-foot piece of PEX-A runs $3.50 to $7.50, depending on brand and diameter. Other than flexibility, PEX-A has no significant benefit over PEX-B.
- PEX-B is manufactured using a moisture-cure method. PEX-B is slightly stiffer than PEX-A, and has a distinct coil “memory” that makes the tubing want to return to its original coiled state. The coil memory, however, is not a hurdle to installation, and PEX-B is often the tubing of choice for residential plumbing because it also expands to resist cracking when water freezes but is less expensive than PEX-A: A 10-foot section of PEX-B runs $2.50 to $5.50, depending on brand and diameter. PEX-B also features an increased resistance to chlorine, making it a good choice in areas where water is highly chlorinated.
- PEX-C is manufactured via an irradiation method. Because it’s the stiffest version, PEX-C is the most difficult to work with; this stiffness also makes it most prone to kinking, as well as susceptible to cracking when water freezes. These undesirable traits make PEX-C best suited for short repairs where bending around sharp corners isn’t necessary. PEX-C is the most economical choice, with a 10-foot section running $1.75 to $3.50, depending on brand and diameter.
Making PEX Connections
To make watertight connections with PEX pipe, you’ll need the right tools and supplies. For each of the following methods of connecting, the fittings and connectors must be an exact match to the size of the PEX pipe. Hundreds of types of fittings, usually brass, are available for connecting PEX to existing copper or steel pipes, and for making connections to fixtures. Fittings are also available for connecting pipes of different sizes. The following five methods are used for making the connections watertight.
Find out why PEX pipe is the up-and-coming plumbing trend that has DIYers excited. We cover what it is, where it can be used, and its pros and cons.