The Longstanding Debate: Copper Vs. CPVC

In the building industry, there is a longstanding debate between copper and chlorinated polyvinyl chloride (CPVC) piping. Copper has been used in North American plumbing applications for more than 70 years. CPVC has been installed successfully for nearly 50 years. Let’s review a comparison to help you decide what materials you should use on your home addition project.

Copper is a ductile, malleable, reddish-brown metallic element that is an excellent conductor of heat and electricity, and is widely used for electrical wiring, water piping, and corrosion-resistant parts, either pure or in alloys such as brass and bronze.

Chlorinated polyvinyl chloride (CPVC) is a thermoplastic pipe and fitting material (produced by the post chlorination of polyvinyl resin) used for potable water distribution, corrosive fluid handling, and fire suppression

Copper has been used for plumbing and mechanical systems since metals were first employed in these types of applications. It has established its current reputation for long-term durability in installations because it’s light, strong, corrosion resistant, and available in rigid and semi-rigid forms. Because of its proven dependability, copper’s widespread acceptability ensures compliance with all major building codes.

In contrast, CPVC piping is being used commonly on ground up new construction projects. You’ll see it less on older homes. A remodeling contractor that works on older homes, may choose to match the existing materials, and 9 times out of 10 old homes in the Washington, Northern Virginia region older homes have copper piping. However, a new home builder may exclusively use CPVC. Pex is also a product gaining popularity amongst spec and custom home builders. Some U.S. cities and states have specific restrictions on its use. Because of its relative “newness” in the industry when compared to copper. CPVC just hasn’t been around as long, so some are leery of its durability.

Why is copper still so popular today? Since it is metallic, many facilities professionals assume that it is stronger and longer lasting. There is a universal acceptance of copper, and contractors have been installing it for so long that there is an inherent comfort level with continuing to do so. Some contractors and building owners also like the fact that copper is recyclable. With rising copper prices, however, this recyclability can also work to the building owner’s disadvantage due to copper theft from jobsites. Overall, there’s a familiarity with consumers ability to identify with copper as long-term quality product.

Even though copper is popular now, here are some reasons CPVC may be the way to go:

  • Corrosion resistance:Depending on water and soil conditions, copper can fail due to corrosion or pinhole leaks; CPVC is 100% corrosion resistant. Since there is no corrosion, scale build-up is inhibited.
  • Energy efficiency:CPVC is more energy efficient than copper due to its improved thermal insulation properties, which also help to reduce condensation. Its insulating characteristics can signify long-term savings for building owners, keeping water hot for a longer period than metal tubing.
  • Noise reduction:CPVC minimizes water-flow noise and virtually eliminates water hammer.

CPVC provides a lot of benefits that are important to homeowners. If the CPVC pipes are installed and handled correctly during construction, they will last a long time. They are less susceptible to being damaged while in use when compared to copper which faces corrosion issues and temperature issues, there have been many cases of older copper pipes bursting in extremely cold weather. Energy efficiency is becoming more and more important for homeowners as we are making a shift to becoming more eco-friendly. The insulation characteristics will not only save money, but they’ll also be good for the environment. We’ve all been in older buildings and have heard water running through the pipes, and its not the most pleasant sound, and not something you want to hear in your home. CPVC is extremely efficient in noise reduction and will surely be quieter than its copper counterpart.

Copper and CPVC both have their respective pros and cons. It is ultimately up to you to decide whether copper or CPVC may be better for your home. Do you want stick with what is proven, or something that’s new, durable and cost effective? If you have any plumbing questions or want to get more in depth with types of plumbing lines, please feel free to reach out to us!