Is there an alternative to copper pipe in house plumbing?
I work for a manufacturer of fittings, valves for A/C systems.
There has been some efforts and developments of alternative for copper pipe in HVAC&R.
We’ve been testing different alternative pipes for several years and for high pressure of R-410a refrigerant A/C systems, I would say PA12 coated aluminum pipe with enlarged thickness is the most propriate alternative so far.
I’ve been asking pex manufactures each time I meet them at trade shows and haven’t found alternative yet which can hold the high pressure except two manufacturers, one for multi-layer pipe and another for advanced refrigeration conduct flex pipe (ico flex system).
There’re some companies starting to use plain aluminum pipes for A/C systems but still, many people (including a/c manufacturers, installers, distributors…) are skeptical and concern about the material.
In my opinion, aluminum could be an alternative pipe since it’s widely used in automotive a/c systems, and other components in HVAC&R such as evaporators and etc. The important matter would depend on which grade to pick, choosing the right thickness and finding solution to avoid galvanic corrosion.
I am positive that maybe PEX pipe or other material would be developed to the high pressure level of R-410a refrigerant in near future. Until then, as I mentioned earlier PA12(polyamide) aluminum pipe can be alternative because we’re using the pipe for years now without problems.
For more information, please feel free to contact me.
As much as I know, copper is the best option for house plumbing. Yeah, there’s Pex also, but it’s nearly as good as copper. It’s expensive, I know, but it has been proved that it’s the best material for such projects, at least at this point. You can reach out to a professional in this area to ask for his opinion, and I recommend https://www.24hplumbingpros.com but I doubt they will recommend something else other than copper. You can try to ask on other specialized forums because I know there are a lot of people that know more about this. Share with us if you found another alternative.
What’s wrong with copper (other than it’s expensive to buy)? If you think of it in terms of cost per year, it doesn’t amount to much. Copper is very high quality water piping. PEX is a little newer (I know, they’ve been using it in Europe for 30 years) but as with any plastic product, there is the possibility of the occasional bad batch of chems. Think Centaur ABS. You also have to consider that 1/2″ PEX is not a full 1/2″ inside diameter – it’s smaller, thus a slight decrease in volume. Copper is very good. If you live somewhere with poor water quality, or get water from a well, PEX is a reasonable alternative. Note: PVC is not used for hot water, or indoors – that would be CPVC.