From Galvanized to PEX- The Evolution of Residential Plumbing

From Galvanized to PEX- The Evolution of Residential Plumbing

The use of galvanized steel pipes for residential plumbing was once the norm, but over the past few decades, a new type of pipe material has taken over – crosslinked polyethylene, or PEX. As homes and buildings continue to age, many homeowners are faced with the decision to replace old galvanized plumbing with something more modern. Here’s an in-depth look at the pros and cons of both galvanized and PEX, and why PEX has become the top choice for plumbers and homeowners doing re-pipe projects.

The Rise and Fall of Galvanized Pipes

Galvanized steel pipes were commonly installed in homes built before the 1960s. The piping consists of regular steel pipes that have been coated with a protective zinc coating, or “galvanized” to prevent rusting from the inside out. Galvanized pipes were the go-to option for many decades thanks to their durability and corrosion resistance.

In the beginning, galvanized pipes did their job well. But over time, they became prone to rusting, leaks, and flow constriction. The zinc coating would gradually erode, exposing the underlying steel. Internal rust and mineral deposits would then accumulate, leading to restricted water flow, low water pressure, and leaks. The average service life of galvanized pipes is around 50 years, sometimes less in areas with aggressive water.

The corrosion in galvanized pipes also leads to unsanitary conditions. Rust particles end up flowing from the pipes into the home’s water supply. This results in discolored water, unpleasant metallic tastes, and even increased lead exposure in some cases. Needless to say, galvanized pipe systems demand frequent repairs and replacement, especially in old houses.

Galvanized to PEX
Galvanized steel pipe for water 2 4

The Promising Alternative – PEX Tubing

By the late 1960s, a promising alternative entered the residential plumbing scene – crosslinked polyethylene (PEX) tubing. The plastic tubing was flexible, durable, and free from corrosion issues. Compared to galvanized steel, PEX offered major advantages that made it an ideal choice for modern plumbing systems. Here are some of the reasons PEX has become the #1 choice over galvanized:

Corrosion Resistance- PEX tubing is not vulnerable to rust, mineral buildup, or corrosion. It maintains smooth water flow throughout its lifespan.
Flexibility – PEX tubes can bend, twist, and fit into tight spaces, allowing for convenient installation. Galvanized steel is rigid and cumbersome by comparison.
Freeze Resistance – PEX retains some flexibility even when frozen, reducing the chance of burst pipes. Galvanized steel is prone to splitting open if water freezes inside.

Cost Effectiveness – PEX is cheaper to install than galvanized due to its flexibility and fewer fittings. Long-term costs are lower too thanks to reduced maintenance needs.
Superior Flow – Water flows faster through PEX tubing, leading to increased water pressure and volume. The smooth interior walls reduce friction.
Quieter Pipes – Noise from water hammer and pipe vibration is muffled in PEX. Galvanized clangs and clanks as water runs through.
Long Lifespan – PEX can last 50-70 years or more with no corrosion issues. It retains its quality for decades vs galvanized steel’s 50 year max lifespan.

The Repipe Decision: Galvanized vs PEX

When it comes time to replace failing galvanized plumbing, PEX is the modern solution chosen by plumbers and homeowners alike. Repiping an entire home with PEX improves water flow, pressure, and quality throughout while preventing leaks, rust, and corrosion.

PEX repiping is a major project, but worth the investment in most homes. The flexible plastic tubing is joined with simple crimp fittings and can be snaked through walls and ceilings with minimal cutting. In the end, the project results in a fresh plumbing system designed to serve the home for decades to come.

Of course, PEX may not make sense in every situation. Galvanized pipe systems in good shape could potentially keep working 10-20 more years if properly maintained. Homeowners also have the option of repiping small sections with copper or PVC pipe as needed. But for whole-house repiping, PEX is the modern gold standard – outperforming galvanized steel in almost every way.

Conclusion: Embrace the PEX Plumbing Revolution

Galvanized steel pipes served homes well for over 50 years. But as corrosion took its toll, a better solution came along in flexible, durable PEX tubing. PEX has proven itself as the ideal replacement for aging galvanized systems. With its lifetime corrosion resistance, improved flow, easy installation, and long service life, PEX represents the future of residential plumbing. As homeowners undertake repiping projects or build new homes, PEX is sure to remain the top choice over outdated galvanized steel. The PEX revolution has only just begun.

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