Pipe insulation is a great option for plumbing and heating projects whether you are using copper piping or PEX piping. To choose which type of pipe you want to use, you should first learn about the materials that the two pipes are made from.
Copper, an element found in nature, is reddish in color and metallic. It is a rather soft and malleable metal. You may hear about the high thermal or electrical conductivity of copper. That is another way of saying it is a very good conductor of heat and electricity. Silver is the most electrically conductive metal, but copper is a close second. There are a wide range of copper tubing types available: Type L Copper Tubing, Type K Copper Tubing, and Refrigeration Soft Copper Tubing. These Copper Tubes are sold in copper tubing coils.
PEX piping is longer-lasting, less expensive and easier to install than copper piping. It also has a much lower expansion rate, which reduces noise as your system heats up, and makes it less likely to burst if the pipes freeze. When planning a project for either a plumbing or heating application, you can choose between PEX and copper;if you choose PEX, you will then have even more choices to make, including a fitting system. There are now more than 20 different brands of PEX piping for plumbing systems on the market. A few example brands are Rifeng, AquaPEX, HydroPEX, Viega, Watts, Zurn, etc. Typically, red PEX piping is used for hot water while blue PEX piping is used for cold water. Examples of PEX piping for heating are ThermaPEX, Rifeng, and Uponor hePEX.
After choosing between copper piping and PEX piping, you should then consider installing pipe insulation. This is a great option for either type. A good rule of thumb is to treat your PEX Pipe installation the same way you would copper pipe.
Both PEX and copper pipe lose a significant amount of heat to the air. As hot water passes through, the conductivity of the material pulls heat away from the water and then the air pulls that heat from the pipe. Energy is also wasted when frost forms on cold water plumbing, chilled water and air-conditioning lines. Whether your project involves your heating system, hot water plumbing or cold water plumbing, pipe insulation is a great, affordable way to utilize heat that is being wasted and reduce your energy bills. Not only does pipe insulation help lower your energy bills, but it starts at just a few dollars for a 6′ length, depending on the diameter needed.
There are two popular types of insulation, Therma-cel and Insul-lock, designed to limit heat loss, condensation and frost formation. Therma-cel is a flexible, polyolefin, thermal insulation. Therma-cel Pipe Insulation also slows heat loss on hot water plumbing. This insulation may be used with copper or PEX pipe. Insul-lock is another type insulation that works the same way but is pre-slit and self-adhesive, making it extremely easy to install. It is non-porous and non-fibrous to resist mold growth and guarantees a strong, durable seal without the risk of messy adhesives.
Good luck with your piping project. Hopefully, you have learned more about the differences between copper piping and PEX piping and the benefits of installing pipe insulation.