When deciding whether PEX vs. PVC is the route that you want to go, there are a lot of things that you have to consider. Both of them have many different benefits and drawbacks, and this can depend on the type of project you plan on doing.
PVC pipes are made of polyvinyl chloride, whereas PEX tubing is made of cross-linked polyethylene. Because crosslinked polyethylene won’t corrode, PEX performs better than PVC.
Today, we will separate these two materials and explain which is better at what. This way you will know what piping is best for your project.
Table of Contents
What is PEX?
PEX tubing is the shortened name for Cross-Linked Polyethylene. This means the material is flexible, making it perfect for fiddly jobs which need to wrap around rigid shapes.
One of the best things about PEX is its ability to spring back to its original shape. However, if this flexibility is still too wobbly for your project, you can always tape it to a stick to create stability.
What is PVC?
PVC is shorthand for Polyvinyl Chloride. It’s a sturdy material that cannot bend and is very brittle. This means that your piping won’t flop around as you try to place it (like the PEX does), however, if you drop it, the material is more likely to break.
PVC is one of the oldest plastic materials, being invented in 1872. Despite its brittle nature, this plastic is very commonly used in construction. It is extremely resistant to environmental degradation and can be easily recycled, which means it should last for years if you don’t drop something heavy on it. When you’re done, you can ethically remove the plastic.
Read More: What is CPVC Pipe and What is it Used For
Differences of PEX Vs. PVC
Heat and Cold
One of these factors you should consider is how each pipe handles heat and cold. While PVC can hold up to high pressure just fine, it does not do so well with hot water.
The hot water affects the PVC making it unsuited not only for hot water but for any water that is for drinking.
Another downside is that PVC is not flexible and will need connections at every bend. This means that there are more places where a leak can start. It also does not help the pipes should the water that is in them freeze, making this option the most likely to burst.
However, PEX can handle hot water just fine and, more than that, it also has some ability to retain heat. This fact can help with heating costs if you use a lot of hot water. On the other side of the spectrum, PEX rarely bursts even when the water in the pipes freezes.
Whatever you need a pipe for, either PEX or PVC is almost sure to meet your needs. The cost of these two options can vary widely depending on the quality or grade of piping you choose to go with. Each of these options also has a slightly different lifespan that should also be taken into consideration when thinking of the cost.
For home projects and craft where you will not be using it for drinking water, PVC piping is generally the best option to go with. PVC pipes tend to be easy to find and are by far the cheapest option. Cheap PEX pipe can be the same price as CPVC, or more expensive kinds can be nearly cost as much as copper pipes.
PEX pipes also last nearly as long as copper with a lifespan of around 40-50 years. PVC has a very long life when it is kept in the right conditions, sometimes lasting for as long as 70 years.
Once its usefulness is over, however long that is, it can also be recycled which cannot be said for PEX pipes. However, unlike the other options, CPVC needs to be replaced every 20-25 years and is more expensive than PVC.
Another factor in when it comes to cost is the position that the pipes will be and how hard or easy they are to install. If you are replacing pipes that are in a wall, for example, then it will be much more expensive than if they are not. That part of the wall will have to be demolished and then fixed back again afterward.
Which is Better in the Cold Or Heat?
Depending on your project, hot and cold temperatures may be a big part of your plans. Getting the wrong material could ruin your mechanic, wasting time and money.
The best piping to deal with cold and hot water is PEX. It can handle the heat without melting and can retain the temperature as it travels through the pipes. This will reduce the cost of heating water, and keep your piping secure. It is also great in cold temperatures, as PEX isn’t known for bursting due to frozen water in pipes.
PVC fans will say that their pipe is best for high water pressure. However, using pex tube for compressed air is just as suitable and you can have a more malleable pipe.
PVC pipes are not great with hot water. You shouldn’t use it as a pipe for drinking water either, as the plastic chemicals that hold it together can wear into the water.
Although PVC piping isn’t susceptible to cracks through freezing, the lack of flexibility means you will need connections to get the pipe where you need it to go. With more breaks in the pipework, water has more places to sit. This means frozen water has more leverage to break your pipework.
All in all, PEX piping is best for hot and cold temperatures.
Can You Use PEX and PVC Together?
You can use PEX and PVC together as long as you can fit them together properly and do not use them for unintended purposes like using PEX outside or PVC with hot water. There are not any traditional fittings that connect PEX to PVC. While there are fittings and attachments that can work with PEX, copper, and CPVC, very few work with both PEX and PVC.
If you want to connect PEX and PVC, you have a couple of options. The first uses threaded fittings. Choose a threaded male plastic fitting for the PVC pipe that will pair with the metal fitting for the PEX pipe. You should always do it this way to avoid thread stripping or cracked fittings. Once you do this, you also want to double-check the water seal because that can be a common issue with these non-traditional fittings. You can also wrap plumbers tape around it, which can reduce minor leaking.
The other option for connecting PEX and PVC pipe is to use SharkBite fittings. The brand recently introduced a PVC Transition Coupling that can connect PEX and PVC. They work by inserting the ends of each pipe into the coupling and securing the connections. This simple method will cost a little more but can save time and effort.
Conclusion: Which is Better – PEX Or PVC?
The answer to this question is entirely based on your project and needs. If you aren’t dealing with boiling or freezing water, and don’t expect to use a lot of connections, then the answer has to be PVC.
PVC is the cheapest option, the easiest to recycle, and doesn’t need to be replaced for 70 years.
However, if the plumbing is for hot water, cold water, or drinking water, then you need to use the piping that can handle the temperature – PEX. This piping is also malleable which means you can move around your property easily.
Can You Replace PVC With PEX?
PVC and PEX are simple to connect. A threaded fitting is used to add PEX to your existing plumbing system, whether you’re looking to expand or repair it. Typically, a fitting has two halves: one that attaches to existing pipe and the other that fits over PEX pipe.
Is PEX and PVC the Same?
Polyvinyl chloride makes up PVC pipes, whereas Cross-Linked Polyethylene makes up PEX tubing. There are a total of four different types of pipe that you could take into consideration for your home renovation or DIY project, both of which are excellent choices for almost any kind of piping.
Is PEX PVC Or Plastic?
Compared to PEX, PVC, and CPVC pipes, which are made of plastic and typically have a shorter lifespan, copper pipes are metal and more durable.