PEX Piping is a type of plumbing pipe made from high-density polyethelene. It is used mainly for residential and commercial plumbing applications, but it also used in commercial radiant heating and cooling systems on a large scale.
PEX Piping has replaced copper as a cheaper, more reliable and sustainable material for its use in green building design elements. In this blog, we’ll take a look at the history of PEX Piping and how it has come to enjoy such widespread use for all of its relevant applications across the world.
When Was PEX Piping Invented?
Interestingly, the Germans discovered during WWII that the British had been using polythelene in their radar equipment on their submarines. So, polyethelene plastics had their applications before their discovery as a material to be used in piping.
Cross-linked polyethelene, which is the main form of plastic used in piping today, was developed by scientists in the 1950s. Their intention in cross-linking the polymer chains of the base resin used in the making of polyethelene, was to strengthen the structure and to increase its resistance to changes experienced in the thermal environment.
This is exactly what they achieved as they created a plastic that could then reliably be used as piping for the transport of water of varying temperatures. This is what sparked PEX’s introduction into plumbing piping for home and residential use across the world.
First Commercial Use of PEX
The first testing and experimentation on pipes made from high-density polyethelene began in 1954 in a factory in Basel. Manufacturing of the pipes was, at this stage, done using a very dangerous and expensive method of highly active radiation. The next ten years were effectively dedicated to finding a safer method for the manufacturing of the PEX pipe, and it was only in 1965 that a Dr.Engel managed to sell a PEX piping product for its first commercial application.
In 1971, Tomas Lenman – a Wirsbo Bruks (now Uponor) – engineer, met with Dr. Engel to refine the methods of PEX production that are still in use today. It was only after these methods were refined during this time that many companies began to try and purchase the rights to distribution and sales of the product, increase the demand for production and spreading the application of PEX into all types of building applications all over the world.
What is Happening in the World of PEX Today?
While PEX piping is used for some domestic plumbing applications, it is used predominantly as a green building design measure in commercial radiant heating and cooling projects across the world. It is considered a sustainable design element for its cost and energy efficiency in both manufacturing and in implementation in buildings.
PEX in Radiant Cooling
PEX piping has had a significant effect on improving the indoor environmental quality of buildings throughout the world. More specifically, Uponor has laid 15 billion feet of PEX in radiant cooling projects worldwide, contributing to greener environmental control and sustainability measures for temperature regulation.
As a cheaper material for both manufacturing and implementation – and a more reliable and energy efficient material for the transport of water – it’s in architects’ and designers’ interests to consider radiant cooling solutions and the installation of PEX piping into their buildings.