There are a great number of materials used for plumbing supplies today. One of the most frequent questions asked about plumbing materials is the suitability of different sorts of pipes for particular projects. To make it easier to choose between the usual pipe materials—copper, galvanised and PVC—you need to know the disadvantages and benefits each one offers. Let's take a look at each option in turn.
Copper is the preferred material for new-build dwellings in Australia nowadays. It is considered by many to be safer than other options because it has well-documented anti-bacterial qualities. As such, homeowners will often install it because it adds resale value to their property. Furthermore, copper pipes are sometimes preferred by DIY installers because the fittings tend to be easier to get right the first time compared with other options. Generally speaking, copper pipes have a lower diameter than other pipework and can, therefore, be used in smaller places, such as en-suite bathrooms. Another benefit of them is that they don't suffer greatly from minerals building up, which is a problem in hard-water areas.
On the minus side, copper pipes are known to fail when water temperature gets to very high levels. Another negative to consider is that copper pipes often form condensation internally. If these water droplets freeze, then it can block the water flow entirely. Finally, some people consider that copper pipework can make water acquire a slightly metallic taste.
This sort of metal pipework has gone through an industrial process to coat it with zinc. Most galvanised pipes are manufactured from steel with a zinc coating. The coating helps to prevent corrosion and mineral deposits accumulating, making this material ideal for underground applications. Highly reliable, this sort of pipe tends to be used for large construction projects, sewage plumbing and farm irrigation.
One of the noted disadvantages of galvanised pipes is they often contain lead, which is known to have side effects over very long terms and could be considered a health risk. The typical lifespan of a galvanised pipe in the ground is about four decades, so there is the long-term cost to consider.
PCV provides plenty of benefits that galvanised steel and copper don't. First, it is light, and that means that it is convenient to install in hard-to-reach places and can be transported easily. It is also the least expensive option, making it popular in all sorts of projects. It can cope with higher water pressure than the copper, and PCV will not rust like galvanised steel can do if its zinc coating is scratched. Unlike the other options, PVC doesn't suffer from condensation greatly, and it even keeps hot water relatively well insulated. Lastly, PVC can withstand higher temperatures and create less noise as water runs through it.
On the other hand, PVC is a material that is not very pliable and that has junction pieces that are bulky. Furthermore, the pipes themselves tend to be larger than the other materials and so take up more space inside buildings. Only a few sizes of pipe diameter are available, and that means that they are not as flexible as either galvanised or copper pipes.