PEX is a popular material to install water pipes and heating. It can be a good idea to add insulation to the PEX pipe as this holds the heat in the pipe and saves on energy. This is easy to do and every homeowner in colder climates should do it. Let’s take a look at how we can do this.
Study the situation
The first thing that you should do is to check where the PEX pipe runs. If it is in a heated room, adding insulation is generally not required. If it is going through an attic or cold room, you might need to add some insulation.
PEX is a pretty good material overall if it has been installed correctly.
How to insulate a PEX pipe insulation: add foam
The best insulation is to use foam. There are pieces of foam that are designed for this task. Just make sure that you get foam that matches the diameter of your PEX pipe. In most instances, you can slide the foam over the pipe and close it. There are different ways to close them: special locks or glue. You can add some more tape to make sure that the foam pipe stays in place.
It is essential that you insulate every part of the installation. A lot of people skip the fittings (connections) as this requires more work. Heat can escape through these parts though so it is important that you close this off as well. You can use a knife to cut a piece of the foam so that it matches the other piece of foam. Cutting it to size takes some patience but can result in a much better end result.
These foam pipes are quite cheap and will make you save energy if you live in a colder climate. In warmer climates, it is not really needed to insulate PEX pipes.
Be careful that you don’t damage the PEX pipe while you add the insulation. PEX connectors should be pushed. For example, Sharkbite fittings can come loose if you push them too hard.
If you notice that there is a water leak, you will have to remove the insulation. The insulation can start to discolor and indicate that there is a problem.
Overall, adding insulation around your PEX pipes should take a few hours. This should last several years so it can be a great idea to add this insulation around your PEX pipes.
You can add some plastic pipes around them to make sure that they are protected. The disadvantage of this is that it can take longer to find leaks.
Fiberglass wrap as PEX insulation
You can also wrap fiberglass around the PEX pipe. This is more work as you have to unroll this. Furthermore, it can be difficult to do this as you might not be able to turn the wrap around the pipe if it has been attached to the studs. For this reason, most plumbers pick the foam over the fiberglass wrap.
Each system often indicates how well it insulates. This allows you to see which option is the best for your situation. Thicker foam can add more protection and insulation than smaller pieces of foam. The manufacturer often indicates how much the insulation helps. This allows you to pick the right product for your installation.
What is a pipe warmer?
A pipe warmer is a piece of tape that can be connected to electricity. Electric heat is used to warm up the water pipes. This makes sure that they don’t freeze during the winter as this can cause water leaks and a lot of damage. These can be used for copper. They are not recommended for PEX though as PEX is a plastic that gets deformed when it heats up. You can consider it for lower temperatures but most plumbers recommend that you use foam insulation for PEX instead of a pipe warmer.
Pipe warmers are wrapped around the copper. You will need an outlet nearby to activate the pipe warmer. They use quite some electricity so you should only use them in areas that require it and on very cold days. Pipe warmers are quite cheap and easy to install so they can be a great option if you live in a colder climate and want to make sure that your copper pipes don’t freeze.
Pipe warmers come in different lengths and capabilities. They are quite easy to install and can avoid a lot of damage. Your plumber can help you with suggestions if you think that your pipes can freeze during the winter. Every installation is unique and they can use a heat camera to find cold spots in your house. Adding more insulation to the walls can help as well. One small gap can release a lot of heat so checking this with thermal imaging can be a good idea.
To conclude, we can state that insulating PEX pipes can be a good idea. Foam pipes can be used for this. Make sure that you insulate the fittings (connectors) and every part of the pipe; If you leave one part open, the heat can escape through this area and make the insulation less effective. A plumber can make sure that the insulation is properly installed but you can do it yourself as well. You just need some tape and a knife. It is quite easy to do this. In some places, it can be harder to reach the PEX pipe though. You might need a ladder to reach this area. If the pipe is behind a wall, you will have a hard time getting access to it.
Not enough people pay attention to this easy way of improving their house and plumbing system. Now you have the right tools to get started and get a better home! It takes some time but this is something that you can enjoy for years to come.