If you need to install or replace a hot water system, there are many decisions you need to make. In addition to choosing the type of water heater that is most suitable for your home, you may also need to decide whether to install pipes made of PVC (polyvinyl chloride) or the more traditional copper. Here are some facts that could make that decision a little easier.
Advantages of Copper
Hot water plumbers have traditionally used copper pipes because this metal is durable and does not corrode even in a hot and damp environment. If you choose copper pipes for your hot water system, you can expect them to deliver many years of service.
Disadvantages of Copper
One reason why copper has fallen out of favour among hot water plumbers is that it costs more than PVC. However, copper also has several other disadvantages that are important in the average family home. For example, copper pipes are likely to burst if ice forms inside them. While this problem is unlikely to occur during the day-to-day operation of the hot water system, it can be a risk if you go on a trip and turn off your hot water system during a period of very cold weather.
Advantages of PVC Pipes
PVC pipes are not only less expensive to purchase, but they are also faster and easier for hot water plumbers to install, which means that the overall cost of installation is likely to be lower. Made of a type of plastic, they resist corrosion well.
PVC pipes have an important safety advantage over copper. Unlike metal, which conducts heat, plastic is insulating. That means that the outer surface of the pipe does not become hot when hot water passes through the pipe, reducing the risk of burns if you accidentally touch it. This advantage is particularly important to people who have young children or pets at home.
The insulating nature of PVC also means that they lose less heat to the environment, which could lead to a small saving on your energy bill. To give copper pipes the same insulating quality, you would need to wrap the pipes in foam.
Disadvantages of PVC Pipes
The main disadvantage of PVC pipes is that they typically do not last as long as copper pipes. When the pipes fail, you will need to call a hot water plumber to replace the damaged section.