15 May 2023

Which pipes are best for water supply?

By ruiiid5

When choosing new pipes for your home, how do you choose between copper and plastic? With pros and cons to both materials, gaining an understanding of where the benefits and disadvantages lie gives you the freedom to make decisions with confidence.

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Copper pipes

Traditional copper pipes have been used domestically since the 1930s. They’re easy to install and due to the joints being soldered are hard wearing. Copper is also resistant to bacteria growth, thus elongating its lifespan even further. This type of pipe is ideal for projects requiring external pipework as, unlike its modern plastic counterpart, copper pipe is resistant to UV light.

While this is no longer a problem, older copper pipes sometimes come with a risk of lead contamination, as the solder used to join them originally had a lead base. According to Water Safe, solder containing lead has been banned for over 25 years now for pipe installations which supply water for drinking, cooking, or bathing, so this isn’t something you need to consider with modern copper pipes. Pipework used for other purposes where this will not cause any risk to health, such as a closed-circuit heating system, are still legally able to use lead solder.

Solder is no longer the only way to connect copper pipes. Newer compression, push or press fit connectors, such as those seen at specialists such as watkinspowis.co.uk/ serve as a modern alternative.

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Plastic pipework is a modern alternative to copper and is often used in new-build homes. It’s inexpensive, lightweight, and easy to install, keeping labour costs down.

This is an ideal pipe for below-ground cold water feeds, although it isn’t suitable above ground in environments that may expose it to extremes of temperature or light. With a high resistance to chemicals, it can safely carry drinking water without worrying about bacterial build-up.

These pipes cannot, however, carry hot water. By its very nature, plastic melts under heat. The last thing any household wants is for their pipework to melt when they run that first bath following renovations!