Years ago, all you could find on the market was copper fittings. In the bathroom, outdoors, in the well system, all pipes and fittings were comprised of copper. Today, a hybrid fittings material is all the rage. PEX, which is a cross-linked polyethylene polymer is generally considered by most people in industry as the new copper, because it is cheaper than copper, has a longer warranty and is predominantly accepted by building regulatory committees, making it easy to use. However, the question remains: just because it’s easy to use and cheaper to install, is it really the best material for fittings in any given situation?
There have been many that claim that while PEX might be cheaper, it might be universally accepted, it does have drawbacks. Many think that PEX could possibly leach toxic chemicals into any drinking water it comes into contact with. So what is the real answer? The real answer is that no one fitting material is right for every job. Each material has its strengths and weaknesses, and sometimes, maybe one material might not be the cure-all for every job.
Old-Fashioned vs. New-Fashioned
While no other material beats copper when it comes to longevity, copper can be extremely expensive as well as damaging to the environment. However, it is recyclable and will not leach into drinking water, which still makes it a popular choice when it comes to potable and drinking water.
When it comes to retrofitting, nothing beats PEX, with its easy installation and flexibility of use, so while there is still some debate over it’s viability when it comes to drinking water, it is the best choice for use in bathroom plumbing and such. CPVC, Chlorinated polyvinyl chloride, is durable and safe for drinking water, and great for the enthusiastic DIY fixer-upper who doesn’t know much about fittings and pipes, but wants to give it a try, due to the fact that it doesn’t require any special tools or skills, but can be easily cut with a saw and joined together with matching fittings. When it comes to water safety, the clear winner is PP, Polypropylene pipes and fittings. It’s durable, safe, and joined together by melting and mating the ends, rather than using chemicals.
Needless to say, there is no wonder material that creates super-fittings that works with every job. While the most popular is definitely PEX, which is probably the most unilaterally used, and can work with the largest variety of projects, it is often best to more closely examine the job at hand and decide which material works best for that project overall.