Metal and Plastic Pipes for Effective Water Systems

The difference between metal versus plastic pipes, their fittings, and how to choose one.

A house would not properly function without a good water system. Water pipes are an essential element in all houses which provide you with water supply flow internally and externally. If you plan on installing a pipe system, you should consider your budget and the build quality of the pipes themselves to maintain the future price-versus-durability (and safety) factor. Commonly, two types of pipes are made available to the general public: plastic-based pipes and metal.


Metal Pipes

Metal pipes are extremely durable and strong. Two of the common types include galvanized steel and copper. Although metal pipes are slowly being replaced by (often better) plastic pipes, many residential areas still utilise metal pipes. The advantages of metal pipes include excellent build quality, good heat transfer, higher melting points, resistance to heat, and insulation. The only downsides to metal pipes are their weight, the tendency to corrode after a period of time, as well as being a nightmare to install, as welding might be required if one were to extend these water pipe fittings.


Plastic Pipes

Plastic pipes are becoming the trend nowadays. With a wide selection to choose from, you should consider the budget and purpose of the pipes themselves when choosing these specific types of water pipe fittings. Plastic pipes outperform metal pipes in many ways. For instance, plastic pipes do not corrode, making them easier to maintain and dismantle if blockage occurs inside the pipes. Furthermore, these pipes have a lower heat conductivity which makes them ideal for applications such as air conditioner drains and boilers. Lastly, installing plastic pipes is a breeze as they are usually plug-and-play which does not require its installer to use any sophisticated tools.

As with everything, plastic pipes do have their drawbacks. These pipes can contract and expand depending on the surrounding temperature and liquid inside of the pipes. In addition, several variants of PVC are quite sensitive to sunlight and will become brittle over time. What is probably the most important factor when choosing a PVC pipe over a metal one is their lower melting point, which contributes to their safety level if installed in a house. The various types of plastic water pipe fittings which are available are:

  • Polyvinyl chloride (which is commonly known as PVC), used mainly for high-pressure water flow
  • Cross-linked polyethylene (PEX), used mainly for drinking water supply
  • Chlorinated polyvinyl chloride (CPVC), which is a special chlorine treated pipe used for carrying drinking water
  • High-density polyethylene (HDPE), which is extremely sturdy and durable for various purposes
  • Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS), which is used mainly for drainage and waste but might require special permission to install
  • Gray polybutylene (PB), which are older models and less reliable


Pipe Support

Your pipes will not hold in place by themselves, which is why they require proper pipe support, generally at 4-foot intervals. The purpose of these supports is for even weight transfer of the fluids and to control vibration. Without any support, pipes may bend or sag, which can decrease their efficiency. Narrower typed pipes and water pipe fittings require more support; and to retain them, strappings, anchors, and clamps are the most common items to support these pipes.


Which One to Choose

As more people tend to go for plastic-based pipes due to their ease of installation and multitude of applications, it all goes down to your budget. In the long run, metal-based pipes are more reliable than plastic pipes since they are stronger but corrode. Plastic pipes on the other hand are more diverse and are suitable for many purposes. You should always consult your home improvement shop to find what options are sensible for you.

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