PEX or Copper?

Which Pipes Are More Likely to Freeze: PEX or Copper?

 Winter is a season rife with pros and cons. While the biggest upside might be spending time with your family around the holidays, a big, potential downside is frozen pipes. Many homes have copper or PEX piping, but which is better suited to stand up to the harsh weather?

Frank Bauer, owner of Walter Hill Plumbing in Murfreesboro, Tennessee., says both types of piping are susceptible to freezing, but copper poses the bigger risk. “PEX will still freeze, but they won’t burst,” he says.

PEX and other plastic piping are superior to copper. “It [plastic piping] is less expensive and works great,” he says.

Frank agrees that PEX is the ideal piping system. He says it delivers cleaner water than copper pipes do because it doesn’t carry any traces of metal. He also says it’s easy to bend, meaning there’s less time spent fitting pipes into difficult areas.

PEX piping

PEX piping is flexible so plumbers often install it in hard-to-reach areas.

Frank also adds that PEX is cheaper than copper. He says that as the size of the pipe increases, copper can rise to about triple the price of PEX piping.

However, there are some advantages to using copper pipes. Frank says if your home uses city water, copper won’t rust and should last for decades. Ward says PEX doesn’t look very appealing in rooms with exposed pipes. “For mechanical rooms, you can square the copper and make it look pretty,” he says.

If your home has copper piping, Frank recommends walking around the outside of your home to make sure there are no gaps or holes near pipes in your siding. If you have had a certain faucet freeze in the past, turn the water on to a slight drip because running water doesn’t freeze.

If you are planning on traveling for an extended period of time, Frank says you may want to consider shutting the main water off and opening some faucets. He says there is nothing worse than coming home to a burst pipe.

Frank says in Tennessee, building codes have changed to make frozen pipes less common. He says you can no longer put a water line on an outside wall. Pipes are required to come up through the floor or a false wall. However, he says if you do experience a freeze, the most important thing to do is figure out why it occurred and try to prevent it from happening again.

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