PEX (cross-linked polyethylene) plastic tubing has been around for a while - it was developed in the 1960s - and primarily used in heating applications. But since the mid- to late-1980s, it has been used for potable water, and its use is increasing in residential construction.
This is especially evident in the responses from a survey we sent to 1,000 Plumbing & Mechanical subscribers in July (a 28 percent response rate). The 146 respondents that said they installed PEX plumbing explained that 43.2 percent of their total plumbing installations used PEX tubing. Compare that to the 50.69 percent of copper pipe installations, and you'll see that PEX is gaining ground.
Installations are split pretty evenly between new construction or additions and remodeling/repair.
When asked to compare the number of PEX plumbing projects in 2004 to 2003, nearly 60 percent said they would increase; 38.5 percent said they'd stay the same. But when predicting usage five years from now, 73 percent said they'd have more PEX plumbing projects than they do now.
And that doesn't seem surprising, considering its ease of use and durability. And with the rising cost of copper, it's a more cost-effective alternative. When asked what was the greatest advantage of using PEX plumbing systems vs. other piping material, 55 percent of respondents said quicker installation time. Lower installed costs was the second advantage, followed by corrosion resistance and a more reliable system.
Other advantages listed were quiet operation, flexibility, easier to repair, energy efficient and freeze-break resistance.
Most of those core respondents (47.3 percent) use two brands of PEX plumbing and 32.9 percent use one brand. A very small percentage (2.7 percent) use four or more brands. When considering which brand to use, availability from the wholesaler was listed as the most important reason, followed by type of fitting system, price and reputation of manufacturer. Special promotions were listed as the least important.
A complete copy of the survey can be purchased for $95. For more information, contact Cory Maxwell at 248/244/6415, firstname.lastname@example.org.