Compressed air is a vital component of many industrial and DIY applications. To ensure that the compressed air flows smoothly and efficiently through a system, it is essential to have the right compressed air lines. Traditionally, copper or metal piping has been the go-to choice for compressed air systems.
However, in recent years, pex pipe has gained popularity as a potential alternative due to its ease of installation and cost-effectiveness. But can you use pex for air compressor lines? In this article, we’ll explore the use of pex tubing and pipes for compressed air systems, examining their strengths and weaknesses, and answering the question of whether pex pipe is a viable option for air compressor lines.
Table of Contents
- Why PEX is a good option for Compressed Air Lines
- Disadvantages of PEX
- Different Types of PEX
- How Well Does PEX hold pressure?
- How To Make PEX Connections
- Determining The Needed PEX Size
- PEX A vs PEX B
Why PEX is a good option for Compressed Air Lines
PEX pipes and tubing have become a popular choice for compressed air lines due to several advantages that they offer. One of the main benefits is their ease of installation. PEX is lightweight and flexible, making it easy to bend and maneuver around obstacles in tight spaces.
This feature can reduce installation time and labor costs compared to traditional copper piping or metal piping systems. Additionally, PEX can be easily cut to the desired length, eliminating the need for specialized tools or equipment. The simplicity of installation also means fewer connections, reducing the risk of leaks and reducing the likelihood of pressure drops.
Another advantage of PEX pipe for compressed air lines is its cost-effectiveness. PEX pipes and tubing are generally less expensive than traditional metal piping systems, making them an attractive option for budget-conscious consumers.
The lower material cost, coupled with easier installation, can lead to significant savings in terms of overall project costs. Additionally, PEX has a longer lifespan than other types of plastic tubing, making it a durable option for compressed air systems. It can withstand high pressure and temperature, which is crucial for compressors that operate under high loads.
Lastly, PEX pipe’s polymer chains can withstand degradation from UV light exposure, meaning it can handle direct sunlight or fluorescent light without being damaged. This feature makes PEX pvc pipe an excellent option for outdoor compressed air systems where direct sunlight is a concern.
Additionally, some PEX pipe has an aluminum core, sandwiched between two layers of PEX, which gives it excellent resistance to corrosion, preventing rust and scale build-up. Overall, PEX tubing and pipes offer many benefits for compressed air systems, including ease of installation, cost-effectiveness, and durability.
Disadvantages of PEX
Despite the benefits of PEX, there are also some disadvantages to consider. One of the main drawbacks of PEX is that it can be prone to degradation over time when exposed to direct sunlight or UV light.
This can cause the material to become brittle and crack, potentially leading to leaks and damage to the compressed air system. PEX also has a lower working pressure than some other materials, which may limit its use in applications that require high pressure compressed air. Additionally, while PEX is a relatively durable material, it may not be able to withstand pressures and temperatures as high as metal piping or other materials.
Another potential disadvantage of PEX is that it may not be compatible with certain chemicals or fluids that may come into contact with the compressed air system. This can be a concern in certain industries or applications where the air supply may be contaminated with oils, solvents, or other chemicals that can degrade the material over time.
PEX also requires specialized fittings and tools for installation, which may add to the overall cost and complexity of the compressed air system. Finally, PEX is not suitable for use with hot water, which may limit its use in applications where the compressed air system is located near hot water pipes or other heat sources.
In summary, while PEX can be a good option for compressed air lines in many applications, it is important to consider the potential drawbacks of the material before making a final decision.
The risk of degradation over time, lower working pressure, and compatibility concerns with certain chemicals and fluids may make other materials, such as metal piping, a more suitable choice for some applications.
However, the benefits of PEX, such as its durability, flexibility, and ease of installation, may outweigh these disadvantages in many cases, making it a popular choice for compressed air line systems in a variety of industries.
Different Types of PEX
There are several types of PEX tubing available in the market, and each has its own unique features and benefits. The most commonly used types of PEX tubing are PEX-A, PEX-B, and PEX-C. PEX-A is the most flexible and the most expensive type of PEX tubing. It is also the most resistant to kinking and has the highest degree of crosslinking, which means it can withstand higher temperatures and pressures.
PEX-B is less expensive than PEX-A, and it has a higher degree of stiffness, making it more resistant to bending and kinking. PEX-C is the least expensive type of PEX tubing and has the lowest degree of crosslinking. It is also the most prone to kinking, making it less suitable for long runs.
Another type of PEX tubing is PEX-AL-PEX, also known as multilayer PEX. This type of PEX tubing consists of a layer of aluminum sandwiched between two layers of PEX.
The aluminum layer provides an oxygen barrier, making it suitable for use in hot water and radiant heating systems. PEX-AL-PEX is also more rigid than regular PEX tubing, making it more resistant to kinking and deformation. This type of PEX tubing is more expensive than regular PEX tubing but is an excellent option for more demanding applications.
PEX tubing is also available in different colors, including red, blue, and white. The color-coding is not for aesthetic purposes but is used to differentiate between hot and cold water lines. Red PEX tubing is used for hot water lines, while blue PEX tubing is used for cold water lines. White PEX tubing is typically used for both hot and cold water lines.
How Well Does PEX hold pressure?
PEX pipes have been used successfully in various applications, including water supply lines, radiant heating systems, and more recently, compressed air systems. When it comes to pex pipe for compressed air systems, one of the primary concerns is the ability of the PEX pipes to hold pressure.
PEX pipes are known to be able to withstand high pressures, but it’s important to note that the actual amount of pressure that a PEX pipe can handle will depend on several factors, including the type of PEX used, the size of the pipe, and the temperature of the compressed air.
Typically, PEX pipes used for compressed air systems are made of PEX-AL-PEX, which is PEX tubing with an aluminum layer sandwiched between two layers of PEX. This design provides additional strength and stability, making PEX-AL-PEX pipes an ideal choice for compressed air lines.
PEX-AL-PEX pipes have been tested to hold pressures up to 200 psi at 200°F, which is more than enough for most compressed air systems.
It’s important to note that proper installation is also essential in ensuring that PEX pipes hold pressure in a compressed air system. This includes using the recommended PEX connections, connecting fittings properly, and avoiding any pipe degradation that could occur from exposure to direct sunlight or fluorescent lights.
Additionally, any existing metal supply lines for air compressor systems should be properly prepared for connection to the PEX system to avoid any leaks or pressure drops. Overall, when installed and maintained properly, PEX pipes can hold pressure very well and provide a reliable and cost-effective alternative to traditional metal piping systems for compressed air lines.
How To Make PEX Connections
PEX connections can be made using either a crimping tool or a clamp tool. To make a connection with a crimping tool, first insert the PEX fitting into the end of the PEX tubing. Then use the crimping tool to compress a copper or stainless-steel ring over the fitting and the tubing.
The tool will create a secure seal that is resistant to leaks. Clamp tools work similarly, except they use a steel ring instead of a copper or stainless-steel ring. To make a connection with a clamp tool, slide the ring onto the PEX tubing, insert the fitting, and then use the tool to compress the ring over the fitting and tubing.
Another method for making PEX connections is to use push-to-connect fittings. These fittings are designed to allow for quick and easy connections without the need for special tools. To use a push-to-connect fitting, simply push the tubing into the fitting until it clicks into place. The fitting will securely hold the tubing in place and create a water-tight seal.
When making PEX connections, it is important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully. This will ensure that the connections are made correctly and will be able to withstand the pressure of the system. It is also important to use the correct fittings and tools for the job. Using the wrong tools or fittings can result in leaks or other problems with the system.
Determining The Needed PEX Size
When it comes to determining the proper PEX size for compressed air systems, there are a few factors to consider. First and foremost is the volume of air needed, which is determined by the size and number of tools being used, as well as the length of the compressed air lines.
It’s important to choose a PEX size that can handle the required air volume without causing a drop in pressure. Another important factor is the working pressure of the compressed air system, which should be taken into account when selecting the appropriate PEX size.
In general, the size of the PEX tubing needed for a compressed air system will depend on the flow rate, which is determined by the compressor size, the length and diameter of the compressed air lines, and the number of tools being used. The flow rate will also dictate the required pressure drop, which should be factored in when selecting the PEX size.
It’s also important to consider any potential future expansion of the compressed air system, as this may require a larger PEX size to accommodate increased air flow.
To ensure proper sizing of PEX for compressed air systems, it’s important to consult with a professional who is experienced in compressed air systems and PEX installation.
They can help determine the required PEX size based on the specific needs of the system, as well as provide guidance on proper installation techniques to ensure optimal performance and longevity of the system. By taking the time to properly size and install PEX tubing for compressed air systems, you can ensure reliable and efficient operation for years to come.
PEX A vs PEX B
PEX (Cross-linked polyethylene) is a popular plumbing material that comes in three different types: PEX-A, PEX-B, and PEX-C. PEX-A and PEX-B are two of the most commonly used types, and they have some differences that are worth considering when deciding which one to use.
PEX-A is known for being the most flexible type of PEX, making it easier to install and maneuver around tight spaces. It also has a higher temperature and pressure rating compared to PEX-B, making it ideal for use in high-demand applications.
PEX-A has a unique feature called “shape memory,” meaning it can return to its original shape after being bent or kinked. However, PEX-A is typically more expensive than PEX-B, which is something to consider when making a decision.
On the other hand, PEX-B is more rigid than PEX-A and is better suited for installations that require straight runs of pipe. It is also generally more affordable than PEX-A, making it a popular choice for many plumbing projects.
Although it doesn’t have the shape memory feature of PEX-A, it is still highly resistant to bending and kinking, making it a reliable option for most applications. One of the primary benefits of PEX-B is its ability to handle a wide range of temperatures, including freezing temperatures, without being damaged.
When comparing PEX-A and PEX-B, it’s important to consider the specific needs of your project. If you require high flexibility and shape memory, PEX-A may be the better choice, while PEX-B is an excellent option for straight runs and affordability.
Ultimately, both types of PEX offer a variety of benefits and can be a reliable choice for plumbing projects, but understanding the differences between the two can help you make an informed decision based on your specific needs.
In conclusion, PEX is a viable option for compressed air lines due to its flexibility, affordability, and ease of installation. However, it is important to note the limitations and disadvantages of using PEX, including its lower resistance to UV light and potential for pipe degradation over time.
It is also crucial to select the appropriate PEX type and size, and to use recommended connections and fittings to ensure a safe and efficient compressed air line system.
When deciding whether to use PEX or other materials for compressed air lines, it is important to consider factors such as air pressure, required flow rate, and overall system design. Additionally, it is important to follow proper installation guidelines and regularly inspect the system for any signs of wear or damage.
Overall, while PEX may not be the best option for all compressed air applications, it can be a reliable and cost-effective choice for many situations. By understanding the advantages and limitations of PEX and properly selecting, installing, and maintaining the system, it is possible to create a safe and efficient compressed air system using PEX piping.