Which Piping You Should Use for Hydronic Heating System

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For so many years, hydronic systems are used to transfer heat to building structures. With the numerous advancement of materials, hydronic heating systems have become an efficient and comfortable heat source that can be safe, durable, reliable, and easily accessible.

However, the efficiency of such a system can further increase based on the type of pipe material used. With the variety of materials to choose from, which do you think suits your project the best?

What Is a Hydronic Piping System?

Hydronic Piping System


Before we take a closer look at the different heat pipe materials, let’s first understand how a hydronic piping system operates.

Hydronics work by using water as the medium for transferring heat in cooling and heating systems. A hydronic piping system is responsible for circulating hot or cold water. The connections between the terminal units and piping are made in a continuous loop.

The terminal units act as the heat exchangers that you can use for both heated and chilled water. They come with cooling towers and chillers that you can utilize together or separately for water cooling, while the boilers for heating water.

Here’s a short but informative video on the basics of a hydronic heating system.

The Different Pipe Materials for Hydronic Heating

A. ABS Plastic Pipes

Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS) pipes are durable and resistant to water degradation and chemicals. They are commonly used in sewer systems and drain-waste-vent (DWV) pipe systems. They are also common in electrical insulation. Even though these pipes are durable, they are not recommended when there is too much sun exposure as they can deform when exposed. They’re not resistant to chlorinated and aromatic hydrocarbons as well.

B. PVC Pipes

PVC Pipe

Just like the ABS pipes, Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) pipes are resistant to most salts, acids, and alkalis. However, it is less durable as it’s intended to be softer and flexible than most plastic materials. They are also resistant to water degradation and can be used both above and below the ground.

C. PEX Pipes

PEX pipes are made from cross-linked polyethylene mainly for the purpose to make the material stronger. This material will then go through extrusion which you can use for a variety of applications. These will include hydronic radiant cooling and heating systems, building piping systems, and residential water piping. PEX is a flexible plastic material and is ideal for both cold and hot water supplies.

D. Copper Pipes

Copper pipes continue to be a preferred choice for a long time for a number of reasons. Some of these include durability, less prone to leaking, recyclable, and can withstand temperature fluctuations. The huge downsides of copper are it’s expensive and installation is complex.

E. Lead Pipes

Lead pipes are common in industries for their flexibility, malleability, and corrosion resistance. These industries include nuclear power plants, chemical plants, hydro and plating operations, and paper manufacturing industries. Due to several health issues, lead pipes are banned from residential use. However, you can still use them for drainage and vent systems.

F. Ductile Iron Pipes

Ductile iron is also one of the most preferred material for pipes for a number of reasons. Among these are ductility, durability, and corrosion resistance. Ductile iron pipes are widely used in process chemicals, sewage, and slurries.

G. Steel Pipes

Steel is probably the most well-known material for industrial applications including piping systems. It is known to be durable, versatile, reliable, and easy to install and maintain. Industries that use steel pipes include power plants, oil and gas industries, ship buildings, construction, and many others. The major drawback of steel is it’s prone to rust which means maintenance could be costly.

The Top Reasons Why PEX Is Your Best Choice



All piping materials come with their own advantages and disadvantages. If you weigh them all, it will show clearly that PEX is the best option for hydronic heating systems.


This is because of the traditional materials are a challenge to work with. They are rigid, heavy, and they require fittings for every curve or turn. Often, they need open flames to effect the joining systems for hydronic heating applications.

Traditional pipe materials are also a challenge to cut and will likely need special tools and equipment for the cutting process. As a result, you’re going to need additional costs, more time, and the services of an expert.

Since PEX is a flexible material, it’s generally easy to work with and will not require the additional costs for the project. Aside from its flexibility, here are some other reasons why PEX is the best for hydronic systems:

  1. Ferrous elements are likely to be present in hydronic heating applications. To help these elements from rusting, using PEX pipes that have oxygen barriers will make a lot of difference.
  2. PEX-A, which is a type of PEX, is a top choice for hydronic heating applications for so many reasons. Some of these include:
    1. It has superior characteristics: elastic and thermal memory. Thermal memory allows the repair of accidental crimps in the PEX tubing through the means of a controlled heating source. A great example is a heat gun.
      Elastic memory is the ability of a PEX pipe to return quickly to its original state after expansion.
    2. With the right pipe support, you can space it to copper similarly. This means no need for additional expenses for hangars.
    3. You can prefabricate its designs, another way to cut the expenses.
    4. It is lightweight so there is less need for heavy equipment, like cranes and forklift, to move it.
    5. It is a static system, meaning that its internal surfaces are way smoother compared to copper. As a result, it does not corrode, scale or pit. Its high performance will remain consistent for as long as ten years.
  3. PEX connection is really strong. There is less chance of leaking and it will take a disastrous failure for that connection to break.
  4. PEX helps in improving the safety and health of the project site. As mentioned, PEX is lightweight. This means it is safer and easier to transport and move around the project site.
  5. Installing PEX pipes need less of “hot work,” like fusing and welding, compared to traditional pipes.
  6. There is no need for chemicals and other hazardous substances such as solvents and glues. Moreover, since it is corrosion-resistant, there is less need for azoles, nitrites, and other chemicals necessary to maintain the static hydronic state inside the piping.
  7. No need for countless fittings as PEX can run into continuous coils and can reach up to a thousand feet in length.
  8. PEX complies to all the standards and codes including the Uniform Family of US Codes (CPC, UPC, and UMC) and International Family (IPC, IBC, IMC, and IRC).

At The End

There might be a lot of options for pipe materials used in hydronic heating systems. However, it’s crystal clear that PEX stands out from the rest. To get the full potential and benefits of PEX pipes, you should only get them from the best pipe manufacturers. If you don’t know where to start looking, please contact us. We’re happy to solve your problem.

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