Can PEX Be Used Outside?
PEX pipes are a common choice for residential plumbing. Perhaps you have had a terrible accident in your home and your pipes have frozen, causing a burst pipe and a mess. Your plumber may suggest piping to replace the burst pipe.
While PEX piping is a popular choice across the United States because of its durability and flexibility, it has its limitations, especially those that begin outdoors. This article explains piping and whether you can use it outdoors, read on to find out more!
What Is PEX?
PEX, also known as cross-linked polyethylene, is a common type of piping material. Typically it is used for residential water supply piping, but it may also be used for sewage treatment, heating and cooling systems, chemical transport and more. It is an alternative to other types of piping materials such as PVC, CPVC or copper.
Advantages of PEX
- It has excellent flexibility
- It has long coils, which means fewer fittings
- It tolerates temperature changes well
- It is less expensive compared to PVC, CPVC or copper
Disadvantages of PEX
- It can deteriorate in the sun
- Not ideal in the absence of burial or other protective measures
Can PEX Be Buried Underground?
Yes, it can be buried underground. In fact, pipes work better when buried underground, away from UV rays. If you do bury piping underground, it should be buried below the frost line, preferably in sand or stone dust.
Can PEX Be Used In Concrete?
Certainly, it is durable enough to withstand and tolerate being buried in concrete. The high-density polyethylene (HDPE) material in its composition makes it even more durable. Typically, pipes are used for radiant heating under tiled floors.
There are exceptions, however, depending on the composition and chemical composition of the concrete you are using. Therefore, if you are unsure whether it can be used in particular concrete, ask your plumber.
Will PEX Stand Up To Freezing?
PEX pipes and tubes have a slight advantage over other types of plumbing materials. Whereas copper, PVC and CPVC pipes are virtually impervious to freezing and do not allow for expansion, PEX pipes offer flexibility.
Due to this flexibility, pipes can expand slightly in the event of pipe freezing. This reduces the chances of the pipe bursting and causing problems, which can be a nightmare in itself. Once the temperature has risen again, the pipes will simply shrink back to their original shape.
However, it is not frost-proof, even though it is frost-resistant. You should still take the same insulation precautions against freezing as you would with any other piping material.
The flexibility and durability of piping and tubing have been tested for over 50 years, although it has only been approved for use in the USA since 2010.
Is PEX Subject To Damage From Sunlight?
Unlike copper pipes, which are not affected by sunlight, PEX pipes can be damaged by sunlight. UV light can deteriorate pipe. It essentially causes the molecular structure of the pipe to disintegrate. When this happens, the pipe becomes brittle, causing it to break and thus rendering it useless.
If your pipes cannot be completely hidden from the sun, PEX material is not the best choice for you.
How To Protect PEX Outdoors?
If you intend to bury the pipe underground or wrap it in insulation/protect it in some way, there should be no problem. Otherwise, copper pipes are a good choice for direct exposure to the outdoors as they are resistant to corrosion and unaffected by sunlight.
Exposure During Installation
Some degree of sunlight exposure is sometimes unavoidable during construction. However, it is important to ensure that pipes are not left in the sun for longer than the manufacturer’s recommendations. During installation, it is best to keep the original packaging. If you do not have the packaging, simply cover the pipe completely with an opaque material to protect it from UV damage.
Many PEX manufacturers add some type of UV stabilizer to the pipe to provide UV protection. Typically, the protection period is between 30 and 60 days, which can help protect it in the event of project delays.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
What Kind Of Fittings Do I Need To Connect PEX Pipes?
In order to connect tubes, you can use a variety of fittings. You do not need to use glue, cement or any other type of adhesive. For water tightness, you can use plastic insert fittings. Alternatively, you can use push-in fittings or metal plug-in fittings to connect the two ends.
Is PEX Difficult To Install?
Given the inherent flexibility of piping, it is easier to install than rigid piping such as copper or PVC pipe. In addition, because it is flexible, you can easily get around obstacles. It is usually in long rolls, which eliminates the need for frequent fittings.
What Plumbing Situations Is PEX Piping Approved For?
PEX piping is approved for use in residential and commercial hot and cold water distribution systems. Some other areas where it is authorized for use include.
- Municipal water supply piping
- Radiant panel heating systems
- Snow and ice melting systems
- Hydropower baseboard heating systems