According to the Alliance for Water Efficiency, the average American home loses between 2,000 and 20,000 gallons of water per year due to leaks. The pipes used to transport drinkable water in a home plumbing system use dissimilar materials than those used for the pipes carrying drain water like from your washer, toilet, etc. The plumbing system in your home might use all one type of material for the water supply pipes, but don’t be surprised if you find several types of pipes, especially in older homes that have seen many repairs or updates.
Having the knowledge of what kind of plumbing pipes you have in your home (and there may be several different kinds) can help you prepare for issues, know how prone they are to leaks, and save you from spending thousands on potential water damage if a leak does occur. Check out some ways you can detect damage in pipes early here.
Copper– Copper pipes are not prone to leaks, are extremely durable, stay fitted tightly, have a long life span and can be recycled, are resistant to heat, and won’t pollute your drinking water. Copper pipes are mostly used for hot and cold water distribution. It can be used in both underground and above-ground applications, but it should have a protective sleeve if used underground because certain soils can affect copper. Copper has many pros, but it is expensive and can attract thieves if it becomes known your home has copper pipes!
Pex (Cross-linked polyethylene)– PEX pipes are extremely versatile, they can extend long distances and snake through walls effortlessly. PEX is temperature tolerant, and heat resistant, and can be used for hot and cold water supplies. PEX is semi-permeable, which means liquid can enter the pipe and it can be damaged pretty easily by other factors as well.
Galvanized Steel– Galvanized pipe is steel pipe that has been treated with a zinc coating. This galvanized coating keeps the water from corroding the pipe but, had a dangerous lead in them. If you have a pre-1970s house, you could still have galvanized water lines in your house. You can easily go to the hardware store and get fittings for repairs. It was once the most common type of pipe for water supply lines, but because of labor that goes into installing galvanized pipe and the lead, it is no longer used much.
CPVC (Chlorinated polyvinyl chloride)– This type of pipe can stand temperatures up to about 180 degrees Fahrenheit or so (this depends on the schedule), so it can be used for both hot and cold water lines. According to the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI), CPVC and PVC pipes generally last for 50 to 80 years under perfect conditions. They will split if they freeze, so they must be well insulated, and they are not recyclable.
PVC (Polyvinyl chloride)– PVC is a plastic pipe that has a wide variety of plumbing uses, from drainage pipes to water mains. It is most commonly used for irrigation piping, home, and building supply piping. PVC pipes won’t rust, corrode, or degrade over time, are excellent for the sink, toilet, and bathtub drain lines or vent stacks, can handle high water pressure, and are inexpensive and easy to work with. Their biggest drawback is that they can only be used for cold water.
PB (Polybutylene)– This plastic piping was used frequently as a water supply line in homes from the 1970s up until the mid-1990s. It was originally used as a substitute for copper piping because it is inexpensive, flexible, and easy to install. PB pipes have become an expensive replacement for copper, being easy to work with and install; however, these pipes are prone to leaks.
Some signs that you have a leak in your water system are:
Water spots on walls and ceilings, low water pressure, listen for drips, check underneath your sink, check wobbly shower heads, if there are any odors and smells or overactive water meters.
If you suspect you have a leak, be sure to call a plumber like Rocket Plumbing and Drain and we can use our diagnostic steps to fix the problem for you!