PEX Plumbing and Freezing Pipes
PEX plumbing pipe has many advantages, but it is not indestructable
Posted 04:30 October 14, 2018
Last Updated 04:38 December 04, 2018
During the cold Las Vegas winters, there is always a week or two where homes are susceptible to freezing pipes. You may have heard that newer piping - PEX pipe (cross-linked polyethylene flexible pipe) can freeze without breaking. That really sounds great, doesn’t it?
Like anything that sounds too good to be true, PEX pipe is not indestructible. If a plumber tells you, “You don’t have to worry about frozen pipes anymore,” here are a few words of caution.
PEX piping hit the consumer market about 15 years ago. The material is superior in just about every way to traditional pipe material. It’s a big improvement over galvanized steel, copper, and even PVC pipe. It is very clean regarding how much it can contaminate water that flows through it.
PEX is more flexible than PVC pipe. Some PEX products allow the pipe to be kinked, bent, or even expanded (including via freezing). If reheated, the product will return to its original shape.
The problem is that no product can expand and contract indefinitely. PEX pipes do offer limited freezing protection – for a time. But after many years of expanding and contracting PEX pipes can lose their elasticity. When this happens, they can spring a leak.
It is foolhardy and against Clark County building codes to install unprotected PEX pipe in a freeze zone. You can protect PEX pipe from freezing the same way you protect all pipe lines. Only run pipes in conditioned spaces that are kept above freezing temperatures. A good example is inside a wall that has at least one side exposed to a heated living space. If that’s not possible, then the pipe should be insulated – just like regular pipelines.
You paid a premium for this newer, better product. Make sure it’s protected for many years. Don’t let a sudden cold snap ruin your investment.