When it comes to selecting pipes for plumbing systems, PEX and Aquapex are two popular options. Both provide flexible plastic piping that is easy to install. However, there are some key differences between PEX and Aquapex that impact performance, cost, sustainability, and ideal applications.
This article will examine what PEX and Aquapex are, their history, composition, benefits and drawbacks. We’ll compare the two pipe types head-to-head in terms of temperature resistance, chemical resistance, cost, installation, durability, flexibility, and eco-friendliness. Finally, we’ll provide recommendations for when to use PEX vs Aquapex based on their strengths and weaknesses.
Table of Contents
Here is an in-depth comparison table for Aquapex vs PEX:
|PEX tubing with an additional EVOH oxygen barrier layer
|Standard PEX tubing
|Engel method crosslinking
|Peroxide, silane, or e-beam crosslinking
|Maximum Temperature Rating
|200°F continuous, 230°F intermittent
|180°F continuous, 200°F intermittent
|160 psi @ 73°F, 100 psi @ 180°F
|160 psi @ 73°F, 100 psi @ 180°F
|Excellent resistance to chlorine and chloramines
|Susceptible to oxidation from chlorine
|Typically 15-20% more expensive than PEX
|Lower material cost than Aquapex
|Ease of Installation
|Stiffness makes bending more difficult
|High flexibility makes installation easier
|Triple-layer pipe provides longevity
|Estimated 50-70 year lifespan
|Harder to bend in tight spaces
|Can bend to tighter radii
|25-year limited warranty by Uponor
|Varies by manufacturer, typically 10-25 years
|UPC, CSA, NSF, ICC
|UPC, CSA, NSF, ICC
|Multilayer construction less sustainable
|Commercial plumbing, hot water lines
|Residential cold water supply lines
What is PEX Piping?
PEX, which stands for cross-linked polyethylene, is a flexible plastic tubing that is used for water supply lines in residential and commercial plumbing systems. It offers several benefits over traditional metal pipes.
History of PEX
PEX originated in the 1960s but wasn’t widely adopted for plumbing systems until the 1980s. It gained popularity due to its flexibility, resistance to freeze-breakage, and relatively low cost compared to copper pipes.
How is PEX Pipe Made?
PEX is made by extruding polyethylene resin into a tube. The tubes are then exposed to radiation, which creates cross-links between the molecular chains, making the polyethylene more rigid and heat resistant. PEX tubes are typically classified by their expansion method – PEX-A uses peroxide, PEX-B uses silane, and PEX-C uses electron beam processing.
Pros of PEX Piping
- Flexible – can bend with the house’s framing
- Resists freezing and bursting
- Costs less than metal pipes
- Easy for DIY installation
- Doesn’t corrode like metal over time
Cons of PEX Piping
- Can be damaged by UV light if exposed
- Not suitable for very high pressure applications
- Potential for plastic taste/odor in water initially
- Rodents can chew through piping
What is Aquapex Piping?
Aquapex is a PEX-based piping that has a distinctive blue stripe and is manufactured by Uponor. The company claims it has enhanced durability and performance capabilities beyond standard PEX tubing.
History of Aquapex
Aquapex was introduced to the US market in 2004 after gaining popularity in Europe. It was developed by Uponor as an alternative to PEX with greater strength, chlorine resistance, and ability to withstand pressure surges.
How is Aquapex Pipe Made?
Like PEX, Aquapex starts as a base of polyethylene that is extruded into a tube shape. It then goes through an additional process called Engel method crosslinking, which uses radiation and precise temperature controls to create cross-linked bonds. This makes the pipe more thermally stable.
Pros of Aquapex Piping
- Withstands up to 200°F continuously
- Triple-layer pipe for strength
- Resists scale build-up and corrosion
- Handles pressure surges without bursting
- Limitied lifetime warranty by Uponor
Cons of Aquapex Piping
- More expensive than standard PEX
- Stiffness makes it harder to install around bends
- Only made by one manufacturer (Uponor)
PEX vs Aquapex: Key Differences
Now that we’ve reviewed what PEX and Aquapex are individually, let’s directly compare them on some key factors:
PEX pipes can withstand temperatures up to 180°F continuously, and up to 200°F for limited time periods. Aquapex is rated for 200°F continuous exposure and up to 230°F for short durations. The higher heat resistance of Aquapex can be beneficial for hot water lines.
Aquapex and PEX have similar chemical resistance profiles, with a couple differences. Aquapex has enhanced resistance to chlorine and chloramines compared to standard PEX. However, PEX may have slightly better long-term durability when exposed to alkalies.
On average, Aquapex piping costs approximately 15-20% more than PEX. However, Aquapex advocates argue that the enhanced performance and warranty coverage offset the additional costs.
Ease of Installation
PEX generally wins when it comes to flexibility and ease of bending during installation. PEX can make tighter bends, while Aquapex is stiffer. So PEX may allow for faster and simpler installations.
Durability and Lifespan
Both PEX and Aquapex are designed to last the lifetime of the building, though Aquapex claims to have superior durability. The Uponor warranty on Aquapex covers the product for 25 years.
As covered above, PEX can bend into tighter curves than Aquapex. This gives PEX the advantage in flexibility.
PEX and Aquapex use similar polyethylene materials. Since Aquapex uses a multi-layer construction with more materials, PEX may have a slight edge in terms of sustainability and recylability.
When to Use PEX vs Aquapex
Based on their respective strengths, here are some recommendations for when to select PEX or Aquapex:
Recommendations for PEX Use
- Tight bend radius needed during installation
- Basic residential cold water supply lines
- Trying to minimize material costs
- DIY installations by homeowners
Recommendations for Aquapex Use
- Pipe runs exposed to high temperatures
- Locations with aggressive water/high chloramine
- Critical hot water lines requiring maximum reliability
- Commercial plumbing over residential
What is the maximum pressure PEX pipes can withstand?
PEX tubing can typically withstand pressures up to 100 psi at 73°F continuously, and up to 160 psi for short periods. Always check the manufacturer’s pressure rating.
Can PEX and copper pipes be used together?
Yes, PEX and copper can be combined in a plumbing system using transition fittings. The flexibility of PEX allows it to connect to rigid copper pipes.
How long does PEX piping last?
PEX piping has a life expectancy of 50-70 years, similar to copper piping. PEX won’t corrode like metal over time. Ensure pipes are shielded from UV light and physical damage.
Can PEX pipes withstand freezing?
Unlike copper and PVC, PEX tubing is flexible and can expand when water freezes inside it. This makes it very resistant to freeze-breakage failures.
Is PEX approved for use in all US states?
PEX has been approved for plumbing use in all 50 states in the US, as well as throughout Canada. Building codes now recognize PEX for water supply and distribution piping.
In summary, PEX and Aquapex are both quality options for flexible plastic plumbing pipes. PEX can be the more economical choice for typical residential uses, while Aquapex provides enhanced durability for high temperature and critical applications. When selecting between the two, consider the temperature, chemical, cost, flexibility, and sustainability factors. And consult with qualified plumbers to determine the best choice for your specific needs. With either PEX or Aquapex, you can be assured of an easy-to-install piping material that will serve your home or business for decades.