Potable water is carried to our homes through a system of pipes. Decades ago, water pipe was made of iron, but because of rust and corrosion, iron posed many problems such as leaks inside interior walls. Today the material used for water pipes will depend on where the pipe will be located. There are a variety of piping options to choose from.
Copper pipe is durable potable water pipe. It is available in grades M, L or K. Type M is a thin pipe typically used for water lines inside the home. Type L pipe is thicker than M, and typically used outside for potable water services. Type K pipe is the thickest grade of copper pipe and is used to connect water supplies to water mains and meters. The pH of most water supplied by public utilities has a rating of between 7.2 and 8.0. Copper pipe should not be used to transport drinking water if the pH is 6.5 or less, which is commonly found in private wells, as the acidity will cause corrosion.
PVC (polyvinyl chloride) is a white plastic pipe used outside. It is inexpensive but can be used only for cold water and is not as durable as other types of water pipe. It is used for irrigation as well as to supply water services.
CPVC (chlorinated polyvinyl chloride) pipe is yellowish in color and is used inside your home. It is not as strong as copper pipe but lasts a long time. Typically CPVC is used in lawn irrigation systems and is similar to PVC, but will not soften when used for hot water.
PEX pipe is durable and able to withstand a variety of temperatures. Flexible PEX is commonly used in new homes to supply water. PEX pipe is also ideal for water that is corrosive and can stretch to accommodate freezing water, regaining its original size once the ice thaws. However, despite its ability to stretch, no pipe is break proof. PEX pipe's strength decreases as the temperature increases, so it's ideal for cold water supply only.
Kitec pipe consists of an aluminum tube which is laminated to plastic layers on the inside and the outside of the pipe. It is multipurpose, giving the advantages of both metal and plastic pipes. Kitec is a good potable water pipe because it doesn't corrode and will resist most acids, salts, alkalis and oils.
Galvanized steel pipe is used, but not always recommended because it corrodes. It is most suitable for piping inside the home, and not suitable for underground installation. Drinking water that is highly mineralized will reduce the life of a galvanized steel pipe. This type of water pipe will not last as long as other pipe as corrosion eventually restricts water passage and it will have to be replaced.
Poly pipe is soft and comes in coils. It is used for cold water and on water services. However, poly can crack with age or from wear. Steel clamps or galvanized couplings used to connect poly pipe can also cause weak points in the pipe.
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