Which Piping Is More Environment-friendly? Brass Piping or PEX Piping?

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Today, most professionals are taking the big step of switching to environmental-friendly building designs. Because of this, you make it a priority to produce a structure that is high-performing, cost-efficient, and sustainable. As you can see, this is no easy task. Fortunately, advancing technology now offers great options to help you achieve that perfect balance of helping the environment while staying fully functional.

When it comes to plumbing, cooling, and heating markets, brass piping and PEX piping are taking the world by storm. So now you wonder, which is the better option? To help you make the right decision, below are the vital info you should know about brass and PEX pipings.


What Is PEX Piping?

PEX is the short term for crosslinked polyethylene, which is a durable and flexible type of plastic material. It is mainly designed for water handling systems. While it holds a strong reputation in residential projects, the use in commercial applications is quite new.

PEX piping is ideal for cold and hot water systems due to its flexibility and will adapt well to extreme temperatures reaching 200 degrees Fahrenheit. It is relatively easy to install and it requires fewer joints, which will really help with the costs.

A lot of people prefer PEX piping for the past years for the benefits they serve over other materials, like metal (lead, copper, iron) and rigid plastic (CPVC, PVC, and ABS). They are highly resistant to chlorine, scale, and corrosion.

Generally, PEX piping is used in the following applications:

  • Residential fire/ sprinkler systems
  • Radiant floor heating operations
  • Hot water handling systems, including radiators
  • Water supply systems
  • Heat transfer operations, like permafrost protection, snow melting, and floor cooling

The Manufacturing Process of PEX

PEX pipes are manufactured through extrusion – they are made from cross-linked high-density polyethylene polymer or HDPE, which will be melted and extruded continually into the tube –  stored, and shipped on spools, which offer benefits including lower handling costs and shipping.

Since PEX is a lightweight plastic material, it has a relatively low impact on the environment during the manufacturing process compared to copper and other traditional materials. This is because the amount of work and resources required in the production, delivery, and disposal of the products are reduced greatly.

According to the research invested by The PPFA (Plastic Pipe and Fittings Association) and the TEPPFA (The European Plastic Pipe and Fittings Association), the extrusion process in making PEX pipes is clean and have minimal impact to the environment. This is because the process will only require low-temperature extrusion, meaning low energy is used.

The Environmental Advantages of PEX Piping

PEX pipes have become a reliable alternative to copper pipes that we were used to. One of the main reasons for this is their impact on the environment.

For Their Properties

PEX piping helps save energy as it doesn’t readily transfer heat like copper. The research mentioned above also confirmed that PEX materials and their low thermal conductivity mean these would help maintain the temperature of hot water for a longer time. It also means that it has more resistance to condensation on cold water lines compared to copper.

When it comes to their lifespan, plastic is known to last more than a hundred years, which makes PEX piping ideal for long-term uses. Copper and other metals might be durable, but you still need to change them every couple of years. This is due to leaks and in some instances, corrosion. Moreover, PEX is more affordable, which makes it a practical option for various piping applications.

For Their Applications

According to this research, replacing copper pipings with PEX resulted in several environmental improvements. First, PEX greatly reduced the emissions to air, water, and land. Second, it helps improve human health. Copper and other metals pose human health issues if they are in high concentrations. Based on this study, switching to PEX piping improved human health related to cancer by 99% and human health not related to cancer by 42%.

Another significant effect of switching to PEX is the 96% reduction of the chances of eutrophication. This process involves the increase of mineral nutrients, which includes phosphorous and nitrogen to the water or soil. This can lead to undesirable changes in the ecosystem.

Moreover, hydronic radiant cooling and heating systems that use PEX piping on the ceilings, under the floors, and in the walls to transport cool or warm water set up an indoor space are also sustainable. They are known to enhance interior environmental quality. They also reduce the need for typical HVAC systems that need more energy to function. Also, these systems work great with renewable energy sources, like solar and geothermal energy sources.

brass piping

What Is Brass Piping?

Brass pipes are made of an alloy of 15% zinc and 85% copper. They offer several benefits including durability, rust-resistance, flexibility, and sturdiness. Because of these, they are commonly used in plumbing operations.

They basically offer the same features as that of copper piping. However, brass pipes are used in drain pipes under pressure, where copper pipings can’t be used. Also, the joints used in brass pipings can be soldered and screwed.

The Manufacturing Process of Brass Pipes

The manufacturing method used to make brass pipes will involve the combination of different raw materials into molten metal. This will then be given time to solidify. The properties and shape of the hardened metal are then changed through different operations to create the specified brass stock.

Different machining operations are used to produce brass pipes. For specialized and short-run elements, CNC machines are commonly utilized. Manufacturers use lathes, screw machines, thread rollers, and milling devices among others to make the needed brass pipes as well as fittings and thread patterns.

The Environmental Impact of Brass Pipes

The Benefits

Brass can be recycled continually without affecting its quality. This is because it doesn’t lose both its physical and chemical properties when recycled. This significantly contributes to both economic and environmental purposes.

Moreover, recycling brass does not require too much energy compared to other metals, like steel and aluminum. It also produces a smaller carbon trail. The capacity to reuse brass through other recycled materials is a compliment to the industry that is conscious of the environment, particularly in the use of its natural resources.

However, due to its superior recyclability, brass may be more expensive compared to most materials.

The Disadvantages

Since brass is an alloy of zinc and copper, let’s take a look at the impact of both materials to the environment:


Copper is a natural element so low levels of this material is good for the environment. However, high levels could cause health problems like nose and throat irritations. The good news is, this rarely happens.


Manufacturing zinc through the hydrometallurgical process generates significant levels of liquid waste. It also requires a lot of energy. Also, manufacturing zinc poses a lot of health issues. The manufacturing process generates harmful by-products, including carbon monoxide and sodium oxide.

Carbon monoxide is known to be toxic both to humans and animals. Sodium oxide becomes dangerous and corrosive when exposed to water.


Brass and Pex pipes are both great options for piping and other water handling applications. Both come with their own advantages and features. However, if you want to get the most out of the material without worrying about the environment, it’s best to go with PEX piping. Aside from being eco-friendly, it is durable, affordable, flexible, and have a longer lifespan!

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