You should insulate PEX pipes because they can freeze and potentially burst when temperatures drop below 20 degrees Fahrenheit. This is particularly important in cold regions, crawl spaces, attics, or other cold places. Doing so can also improve energy efficiency and reduce moisture and condensation.
Does PEX Pipe Need To Be Insulated? Yes, although PEX pipes can withstand freezing temperatures better than other pipe materials - but they are not freeze proof! If the temperature drops below 20 degrees Fahrenheit your pipes have a very good chance of freezing.
Ways to Keep PEX Pipe from Freezing
- Keep the room temperature above 55 F.
- Add insulation to particularly cold places such as attics, garages and basements.
- Drip faucets to keep water moving in the pipes.
- Shut off the water to outside hose bibbs (spigots) & drain the pipes.
- Install frost-free sillcocks.
Because PEX piping is flexible, it is often used in angles, loops, or other non-linear shapes, which makes it imperative to have equally flexible insulation material. Foam is used most commonly, and generally works well.
You'd install PEX without sheath inside the slab for underfloor heating only. Otherwise it should be sheathed to allow it to comfortably expand depending on temperature variations, it also makes it possible to change the pipe if it bursts due to freezing, or bad quality pipe for example.
Frozen PEX Pipes Have a Unique Reaction. Due to its flexibility, PEX can expand under the damaging pressure caused by ice formation. If the weather gets cold enough, PEX pipes can and will freeze like any plumbing. However, PEX may be less likely to rupture as a result of freezing.
During winter, unconditioned spaces like attics, crawl spaces, and unfinished basements are particularly vulnerable for PEX piping. These spaces are not heated or insulated like the inside walls, which can cause the pipes to freeze if it gets cold enough.
How To Keep Pex Pipes From Freezing. Generally, if the temperature falls below 20 degrees Fahrenheit ice will form in water lines and pipes will freeze.
Regardless of the type of plastic pipe used, insulation is essential. Plastic pipes have many advantages, but just like metal pipes they must be protected against energy loss. In refrigeration and air-conditioning applications they also must be protected against condensation.
Hot and Cold Water Lines Should Never Touch
The picture above is of PEX hot and cold water lines that have been run through the framing and are touching each other the entire way. This has passed the rough plumbing inspection and is ready for insulation and drywall.
Copper is more likely to freeze and break.
Having a degree of flexibility, PEX is able to expand if the water inside it freezes, making PEX more resistant to freeze-breakage.
Benefits of Copper Pipes
While you can expect PEX to last for 30 to 50 years, copper piping will outdo it by about two decades, with a typical lifespan of 50 to 70 years. Copper is a more durable option that isn't susceptible to rodents or sunlight. These pipes can easily handle water pressure of up to 1,000 psi.
PEX piping has a maximum bend radius, which can lead to stress on the pipe caused by improper installation. In addition, extreme bends and kinks place a very high local stress on the wall of the pipe, making it more susceptible to oxidative degradation.
These leakage products consist of residues of additives used during production to give plastic pipes their desired properties, as well as any subsequent breakdown products. The study showed: There are no health risks associated with drinking water from PEX pipes.
PEX Pipe Is Vulnerable
Rodents Chewing Through PEX Pipe is a common problem in our area. It doesn't matter how old your home is, if you have an attic, you need to watch for rodent damage to PEX Pipe or PVC.
If the goal is to lower water-heating costs, then it is critical to insulate hot water pipes wherever there is access to them in a building. If the goal of pipe insulation is to eliminate pipe sweating and mold issues, then cold water pipes are in the most need of insulation.
Additional insulation can also be added to walls and ceilings to keep the pipes warm. Insulation can help keep a pipe closer to the temperature of the water inside the pipe, but it does not add heat to the pipe and will not prevent freezing if the pipe is exposed to prolonged freezing temperatures.
Pipe insulation materials, such as fiberglass, are best for pipes exposed to hot temperatures, while foam and rubber are a better fit for cold water pipe lines but work in hot pipes as well.
No. You should not use any type of adhesive material on PEX pipe as over time the adhesive material can interact with the PEX and leech into your water. You can use a heating strip wrapped around the pipe so long as it has no adhesive material.
Can I use PEX pipe outside? PEX pipe is not approved for outdoor applications and is not approved for continuous UV exposure. PEX pipe should not be stored in direct sunlight.
PEX doesn't degrade like copper, higher PSI rating freezing pipes will still burst, but PEX will be able to handle more freezing water than copper. PEX Tubing is much more resistant to freeze-breakage than copper or rigid plastic pipe. PEX Tubing is cheaper because it takes much less labor to install.
Sweating pipes often occur in the summertime. In this case, the PEX tubing is made primarily of a plastic material while the manifold or main supply line that the pipe connects to is made of copper. The cold water coming out of the pipe causes the pipe to conduct the cold energy from the water to the walls of the pipe.
Insulating the Pipes in Your Crawlspace Can Prevent Them from Freezing. With colder months approaching, insulating your pipes can help protect your home against time-consuming and costly repair issues.