There have been many different types of water pipes since the invention of plumbing pipe & fittings, however, more often than not, the older version of the available and widely used pipes are defective or a health hazard.
Over time, they have been many different health codes and other plumbing codes to ensure that these defects are avoided and health codes are not violated. Since then there has been many different versions of pipes created with different purposes in mind.
Each of these new standardized types of pipes come with specifications to different areas of the plumbing system, and each with a different budget limit in mind. Below is a simplified chart of some of the most common different pipes options and their usages highlighted. In addition, a more detailed list of advantages and disadvantages are discussed in the following paragraphs.
Types Of Pipes
One of the most budget-friendly piping options is the polyvinyl chloride, also known as PVC pipes. These pipes are made from a mix of plastic and vinyl, and are often white, but sometimes cream or grey in colour.
They are most used in a high-water pressure points, such as the main supply line of water in a household. Due to the plastic and vinyl nature of these PVC pipes, they come with several different advantages. First and foremost is the low cost of the material, as PVC is quite inexpensive alternative for plumbing pipes.
Secondly, PVC pipes are designed and much more capable of handling pressure and so they are more often used for all main water supply line entering the house as the pressure is quite high in that area.
Another advantage of the PVC pipes is the longevity, as due to the nature of the mix of plastic and vinyl, the pipes are not going to be to corrosion nor rust. The only likely damage is damage to the material itself such as breakage, otherwise age does not factor in its integrity, lasting longer than majority of metal pipes.
Lastly, the light weight of the PVC, with the pipes being lighter than the majority of the other pipe materials to transport. And instead of need for soldering, they only need to be glued together to form a connection using a special glue.
The disadvantages however include the material not being made for containing or carrying hot water, as heat can melt and warp the plastic. In addition, the size option for PVC pipes is limited, and the fitting are much bulkier than the rest of the pipes and thus causing problems in smaller spaces.
The most “fan favourite” materials within plumber industry are PEX pipes due to their major advantages. One of the major advantages being the flexibility of the pipes, as they can turn 90 degrees without an issue. One long piece of PEX pipe can be snaked into the walls of the house and go through the length of a house.
In addition, the flexibility makes the PEX pipes easy to install, without need for gluing or soldering. Additionally, PEX pipes are very budget friendly, although pricier than PVC, their flexibility justifies the price being higher than PVC. The longevity of the PEX pipes is resistant to all sorts of rusting and corrosion.
They are unlikely to get damaged unless they are somehow broken, otherwise they can last indefinitely without needing replacement.
Lastly, what puts PEX pipes ahead of PVC pipes is that PEX pipes are able to withstand a larger range of extreme temperatures, for both hot and cold water.
There are, however, some disadvantages to the PEX pipes, but they are only minor implications. The disadvantages are that PEX pipes cannot be used outdoors, as the material of the pipes would be damaged when exposed to the UV radiations, however they are mainly designed to use for indoor plumbing applications only.
Additionally, some of the PEX types are infamous for changing the taste and the odour of the drinking water, specifically in long term storage of the water in the pipes. Overall, there are some safety concerns regarding PEX pipes debated over the years, and whether they cause contamination to the water from the material that they are made from. However, as they have not been proven to be correct, PEX pipes do not actually involve a potential health safety risk.
Copper pipes are not as often used in the more recent years; however, they are still the main type of pipes used for specific purposes in plumbing systems of a house.
They have several advantages such as the durability, and the material being resistant to corrosion and leakage. Additionally, copper is a safe and bacteria resistant material as they cannot survive on the surface of copper pipes. Generally, copper does not have the means to pollute water in any manner, making it the safest option for drinking water transfer.
Copper material is recyclable after it need to be replaced, and overall copper pipes can last 50 years or more. Copper pipes are also most capable of withstanding extreme temperature changes, thus making them useful, although seemingly outdated.
The disadvantages of copper outweigh the advantages as the cost is extremely high in comparison to the other common pipes used in plumbing, and about 10 times more than the cost of PEX pipes!
The environmental cost of copper pipes is a different matter than the financial cost as copper pipes are not exactly a green and environmentally friendly products. The mining and manufacturing of copper itself is a concern of the environmentalists, making it recyclable and long lasting, but not safe for the miners and the environment otherwise.
Chlorinated Polyvinyl Chloride also known as CPVC pipes have similar characteristics and advantages of PVC, with the additional advantage of a high temperature tolerance! CPVC pipes are able to withstand an extreme range of temperatures up to 200 degrees Fahrenheit, or 93 degrees Celsius, making the CPVC pipes capable to handle the transport of hot water! Otherwise, CPVC is very similar to PVC overall.
The disadvantages of CPVC pipes include application in the indoor plumbing system only as the material can be damaged with long-term exposure to sunlight. The cost of CPVC pipes are slightly more than PVC so the price can also be a disadvantage when compared to PVC.
Galvanized Steel Pipes
The galvanized steel pipes are similar to copper pipes in the sense that they are relatively rust resistance and strong, additionally they are cheaper than copper pipes. However, the disadvantages far outweigh the slight advantages of galvanized steel pipes.
Rust is likely to occur over time and contaminate the flowing water through the pipes as the rust can break away from the inside walls of the galvanized steel pipes and discolour the water. Even worse, there is possible lead contamination if the pipes are corroded, and the lead can make the water lead contaminated and unsafe to use as drinking water.
Furthermore, the pipes are heavy and are likely to clog over time as mineral tends to build up inside of the pipes. The lifespan of the galvanized steel pipes is no longer than 20 to 50 years, which is significantly shorter than the other options available. The pipes are also easily damageable, as they are vulnerable to corrosion due to the outside galvanization being comprised.
It is important to note that poly b pipes are also another type of pipes used in the past. However, they are now banned, and no longer made, or used within the plumbing industry due to their structural integrity’s failing nature. Read more about poly b pipes on our previous blog.
What You Should Do?
Overall, Mr. Swirl is here 24/7 to help make your day better, and assist you with all your plumbing needs. Whether any of these types of pipe water are used, we are here to fix their problems.
Give us a call at 604-435-4664 for all plumbing needs and plumbing related questions and concerns. You can also visit our website if you live in Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam, Pitt Meadows, Maple Ridge, Surrey, Langley, Port Moody, Burnaby, Mission, or New Westminster to book any of your plumbing services today!