Want to be green when building a new home or doing an overhaul of your home plumbing system? Consider our evaluation of common pipe materials, based on their earth-friendliness.
Copper and Iron: Metal pipes earth-friendly in that they are made primarily of recycled metal and are recyclable themselves. Additionally, they are strong and resistant to cracking, meaning that they will last a long time before having to be replaced. The drawback is that the process required to melt and form copper and iron pipes uses more energy than the plastic pipe production process.
Alternative Plastics: Pipes made of polyethylene and polypropylene are less-toxic alternatives to PVC pipes. These pipes are also easily recyclable and have a surprising longevity -- German pipe manufacturer Aquatherm makes polypropylene pipes that are supposed to last for 50 years.
PVC: This is not the most environmentally-friendly pipe material; PVC pipes are made from raw petroleum-based chemicals, and they often end up in landfills. However, some PVC pipes can be recycled, and, as mentioned above, plastic pipes require less energy to produce than metal pipes. If you’re considering PVC pipes for your home, make sure you choose a recyclable product.
Regardless of which type of pipe you use for your home plumbing system, it’s important that you wrap your pipes in neoprene foam pipe insulation, which is inexpensive and easy to install. Pipe insulation can reduce heat loss by as much as 80 percent and raise hot water temperatures by up to four degrees. It will also prevent cold water pipes from sweating.
* * *
Pipe Gripes is written & published by Thompson Plumbing Heating & Cooling