PEX piping is becoming a popular alternative to traditional forms of plumbing, like copper and galvanized steel. The colorful rolls of plastic tubing are available at most home improvement stores alongside the conventional materials.
However, various questions arise when it comes to the logistics of PEX pipe. For example, can you use heat tape on PEX pipe? This article is here to tackle this question, so stick around to learn more!
What Is PEX Pipe?
Cross-linked polyethylene (PEX) is a type of malleable, flexible plastic that is upstaging popular plumbing materials, like copper and galvanized steel. The material has been around since Thomas Engle, a German scientist, discovered how to create it in 1968.
He figured out a way to crosslink basic, standard plastic (polyethylene) through radiation, producing a much suppler type of plastic. The new material debuted in the US in the 1980s, initially used for radiant floor heating systems.
However, while it remains a popular pick for radiant floor heating, PEX is also becoming a trendy pick for plumbing projects, especially water lines. Although PEX is sensitive to UV light, so it can’t be in direct sunlight (or it disintegrates), it offers numerous benefits over traditional plumbing materials.
For example, given its flexibility, PEX is incredibly easy to install. Gone are the days of an excessive number of joints and the work that accompanies installing solid piping.
In addition, its flexibility lends well to cold climates. There’s a bit of leeway, allowing the pipe to expand slightly when water freezes in the line. So, the chance of frozen pipes bursting is much lower with PEX.
Can You Use Heat Tape On Plastic Water Lines?
The answer to this question is tricky. If you look around on the internet, you’ll find various sites adamantly proclaiming you cannot use heat tape on PEX and other plastic water lines, while others give the green light.
So, can you use heat tape on plastic water lines? Well, the answer is actually yes and no. It ultimately depends on the particular material of the pipe and the tape in question.
To answer the main query, only use automatic thermostatically controlled heat tape on plastic water supply piping. Non-automatic heat tapes can potentially damage plastic pipes, particularly with taped lines with insulation (foam is commonly used for PEX, and vinyl insulation is occasionally used as well). So, steer clear of non-automatic heat tapes for plastic pipes.
Can I Use Heat Tape On PEX Pipe?
Since this article is on PEX and heat tape, we’ll focus on that instead of plastic pipes as a whole. While you can use heat tape on a PEX pipe, you need to be very careful. The temperature can’t go above warm, or the pipe will begin to sag. If you’re using the pipe for water lines, this can cause all sorts of issues.
As a general rule of thumb, it’s usually best to check with the manufacturers. Verify the tape itself can be used on PEX pipe. In addition, double-check the temperature limit of the PEX. Some PEX manufacturers print the temperature limits directly on the pipe itself, so you might be able to find the necessary information without the help of Google or the manufacturer’s customer service.
If you’re using a self-adhesive style of heat tape, you’ll need to talk to the manufacturer to find out what type of adhesive they’re using. In some cases, the adhesive can affect the PEX or even leech into the water supply. For those that would rather steer clear of navigating customer service, simply avoid using heat tape with adhesive, and you should be fine.
At What Temperature Does PEX Pipe Melt?
As we mentioned earlier, some PEX manufacturers print the maximum temperature limits on the tubing itself. Other manufacturers list the temperature limit on the packaging, so check there if you can’t find it on the tubing itself.
The highest temperature PEX can handle depends on the manufacturer, but it generally is around 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Some brands may have lower temperature limits, but they usually don’t exceed this number.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Is PEX Heat Resistant?
PEX is heat resistant to a certain degree. The amount of heat it can take varies slightly from one manufacturer to the next, but it can generally withstand temperatures of up to 200 degrees Fahrenheit.
Do I Need To Use Heat To Bend PEX?
No, you don’t need to use heat on PEX. The material is inherently flexible, so you won’t need a heat gun or heat source to make it malleable. Unlike PVC pipes, you shouldn’t need to use heat to bend the pipe. PEX’s flexibility is one of its selling points, so you shouldn’t have an issue.
What PEX Do I Use For Hot Water Supply Lines?
As you shop for PEX tubing, you’ll see a few different colors. The tubing is color-coded, with each serving a slightly different purpose. Generally, the color coding is the same across the board, so there aren’t differences from one manufacturer to the next.
For hot water supply lines, use red PEX tubing. Cold water lines use blue PEX, and white PEX can be for either hot or cold. The color difference is simply for convenience – it doesn’t affect the performance. It just simplifies detecting which water lines are hot and cold.
Where Can I Use PEX?
PEX is an excellent choice for all home water-supply plumbing needs. Its flexible nature makes it a solid choice for homes that constantly battle frozen or burst pipes. While it isn’t a cure-all solution, you’ll have a better chance of avoiding burst pipes than with PVC, copper, etc.
It’s ideal for underground plumbing or locations where it won’t be exposed to direct sunlight. You shouldn’t use it in high heat areas, like near recessed lighting or directly to a water heater.