(ARA) - Do you know what's behind the drywall in your home? Unless you've ever had a home custom-built or have personally worked in construction, you might be unaware of the vital systems hidden within the walls of your home. But knowing how those systems work can help you make smart, money-saving decisions when building or renovating.
Typically, when builders construct a house, they conceal electrical wiring, air ducts, insulation, home networking wires and plumbing within the walls. It's important for all those systems to be well-made and high-functioning, but in the case of plumbing it's especially vital.
When you're thinking about plumbing as part of a renovation or a new build, what you don't want it to do is almost as important as what you do want it to do. Ruptured or leaking pipes can cause massive damage to other parts of your home, so it's important to choose a type of pipe that can withstand decades of rigorous use - even in harsh water and soil environments.
In the past, builders of American homes used metals that ranged from lead (obsolete now) to copper (the most common metal pipe found in homes today). These days, plastic is the go-to material for home plumbing. Crosslinked polyethylene products (commonly called PEX) offer many advantages. Flexible Uponor PEX can last longer (rated for 100 years of use), are quieter than metal pipes, and resist corrosion, freezing, scale buildup and harsh chemicals. When used with properly installed expansion fittings using a PEX-a ring, Uponor systems also resist leaking at joints and connections.
If you decide to use PEX, it is best to hire a plumbing professional trained to install this material. That's because PEX requires slightly different installation techniques compared with copper or even rigid plastic systems such as CPVC.
Also, be sure to check the warranty: Some PEX manufacturers offer up to a 25-year warranty if their systems are installed by a trained professional.
Why PEX? PEX plastic tubing has been proven to be more effective in plumbing systems over copper, CPVC and other materials due to several factors:
* Improved energy efficiency - PEX tubing provides better insulation than copper, so less heat is lost from the hot water moving through the plastic tubing. Less heat loss means less energy is needed to keep water hot.
* Less wait = less waste: The superior flexibility of PEX results in pipe runs that deliver hot water more quickly to every outlet, as compared with traditional copper trunk-and-branch layouts. Less waiting time at the tap and shower is not only a great convenience, but also means much less water is wasted down the drain. That savings in water can add up to major savings in dollars over time.
* Longer life span - Because of its flexibility, PEX tubing can expand up to three times its original diameter. This makes it much more resistant to freeze damage than copper systems, meaning weather extremes are less likely to cause problems with leaks. Plus, PEX won't rust or corrode the way metal pipes do, giving it the potential to last 100 years.
* Improved creature comfort - If you've ever been kept awake by a "singing" water pipe or blushed at the loud whoosh that announces your flush to the entire household, you're aware that metal pipes can be noisy. PEX plastic tubing is quiet, eliminating common noise problems like "water hammer" and singing pipes; it even muffles the sound of rushing water.
* Safety-enhancing options - PEX plastic tubing works well with a home fire sprinkler system that incorporates sprinkler heads into the water-supply lines - a safety enhancement that the National Fire Protection Association says can decrease the risk of someone dying in a home fire by 80 percent.
When it comes to assessing what's behind your home's drywall, opting for a plumbing system made of quality products of proven reliability can help save you money on water and energy, while keeping your home comfortable and safe for as long as you live there.