I posted a variation of this blog post a few years ago and thought it would be good to revisit this topic again. It seems a few of our plumbers here in Orlando have run across some of these materials lately and have been answering questions about them from customers.
Plumbing contractors have used all sorts of materials to make reliable water supply lines over the centuries. One of the most notorious was lead. It was the most
common type of water pipe for a very long time because it is a soft, pliable metal and easy to work with. The word "plumbing" actually is derived from the Latin word for lead, "plumbum." A longtime plumber in Orlando told me that lead pipes aren't as common here but if you visit older cities in the Northeastern U.S. you'll still find plenty of old lead pipes. I don't have to tell you the dangers of lead in water. If you have lead pipes, you should seriously consider changing to safer materials, and at the very least, always run the water tap for two or three minutes after it feels cold before drinking such water or cooking with it. That way you won't be getting water that has been sitting in lead for an extended period and picking up high concentrations that can effect the brain and body.
Galvanized steel pipes have also fallen out of favor in new construction. After years of use, minerals from water react with the galvanizing material (including lead) to cause scale build up inside the pipe. The scale will eventually narrow the diameter of the pipe like the body's arteries do from years on a high-fat diet. Scale buildup eventually results in lower water pressure and reduced volume. Companies that offer plumbing services hate the stuff but are happy to replace it with a better material.
Copper is ideal for 1/2 inch and 1 inch water supply lines leading from the main water supply pipe to kitchen plumbing, sinks and toilets. Copper is popular with plumbing contractors because it is clean, doesn't rust or corrode and is very reliable. Copper will freeze and burst if left exposed to the elements but this is only a problem if the pipes run through the outer walls of your home. Always be sure those pipes are well insulated. Unfortunately, copper has gotten expensive and it has become popular with thieves who will steal it from homes and sell it to a recycling facility for cash.
In addition, PVC is making a comeback as a water supply pipe material and the newer flexible PEX (cross-linked polyethylene) material, long relied upon in Europe is becoming more and more accepted as a reliable, low cost alternative for residential plumbing. You'll find Orlando plumbing companies who work with all of these materials. At Roto-Rooter, we still prefer copper but its rising cost is making the new PEX and PVC materials more attractive each day. If you have questions or concerns about any of the pipe materials in your home, call Roto-Rooter of Orlando and we'll be happy to take a look and give you advice you can rely on. 407-886-7311.
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