Not all Water Mains are Created Equal
With so many options available for water pipe materials, choosing the correct one for your application can be a bit of a daunting task. Thankfully, there are pros and cons to all material options, which can help to simplify your decision.
Copper pipes have many pros such as being extremely reliable and durable. This material is not prone to leaking, and stays rigid, tight and sturdy. The inert nature of copper also means that your potable water will not become polluted or contaminated from using copper. It is heat tolerant and has a very long life span. The main con of copper piping is the high price tag. Copper is an in-demand mineral with many other applications, and therefore is by far the most expensive material option.
Like copper, galvanized steel is sturdy. Unfortunately, this is where the comparisons stop. Very few new constructions will use galvanized steel these days, as there are a long list of cons, including internal rusting which leads to contamination of your water. Galvanized steel is also very heavy, making it less than ideal to work with. Old buildings which used galvanized steel may also be at risk of having water be contaminated with lead (from the solder used at joints), and may need to be replaced.
Polyvinyl Chloride Pipes have many advantages such as being very inexpensive, easy to cut and install, and very durable, lasting for a long time. However, the main con of PVC is that it will warp when exposed to hot water, meaning it is not a suitable option for carrying any hot water throughout a building. PVC is often used for drains and as a main water line into a building.
Chlorinated Polyvinyle Chloride Pipes are a more flexible version of PVC which are able to handle hot water. They are easy to work with and also fairly inexpensive. The main con of CPVC pipes are that they will split if they freeze, meaning they are unforgiving in a cold environment.
Cross-Linked Polyethylene is a very durable and versatile material option. These pipes are flexible and very easy to work with. Joints can be easily crimped together, and it works for both hot and cold potable water supplies. It is resistant to freezing, and very cost effective. There are not really any cons to using PEX, although some environmentalists believe that PEX may be prone to contamination leaching into the pipes if placed on contaminated soil.