There are several factors to consider when deciding whether to use copper pipe or PVC pipe. The decision depends upon what it is to be used for, where it will be used and the pressure of the gas or liquid flowing through it. Copper pipe is very durable but is also more expensive and harder to install. PVC pipes are easier to use and cost less, but there are concerns around chemical leaching and their low melting point. They are also unsuitable for outdoor use.
Copper used to be the only option for plumbing in the home and copper pipes can still be found in many older properties. Copper is a natural material and is cheaper than other metals, as well as being flexible and strong. Copper pipes are less commonly used nowadays and can be harder to maintain, but they are incredibly durable.
PVC (polyvinyl chloride) pipes are commonly used in plumbing today and have overtaken copper because of their ease of use and low cost. They are fairly strong, light and easy to use, but they are not always a suitable alternative to a copper pipe. PVC pipes don’t fit into tight spaces and are not suitable for water supply.
Recyclability And Sustainability
Copper has a much better reputation for its impact on the environment. Once copper has been mined, it is 100 percent recyclable and can be used over and over again. Whilst it is possible to recycle PVC, the process is extremely time consuming and therefore prohibitively expensive. PVC pipes are often buried in landfill sites but may then release heavy metals such as lead, polluting the ground. When PVC is burnt, harmful chemicals are released, which are dangerous for respiratory health. You can read more about the environmental impact of PVC here
Copper or PVC?
When deciding whether to use copper pipes or PVC pipes, you should evaluate the conditions of the project and choose the material that will work best for you. If you are on a tight budget, PVC pipes can work, provided that you are not using hot materials, installing the pipe in direct sunlight and you understand the hazards PVC pipes pose for health and the environment. Copper pipe is a better choice for use with high temperatures. If your pipework is exposed, copper is more aesthetically pleasing. It is also more sustainable.