Can I Use PEX for Air Lines? FAQ Answered!

Has your metal pipe failed to discharge high-quality compressed air due to corrosion? If yes, then here is the best solution for you.

Why not consider replacing your metal pipes with PEX (Cross-linked Polyethylene)? Among all the piping systems in the plumbing industry, PEX is regarded as the cheapest of all.

Until recently, PEX was only considered to be used as water supply piping systems. But over the years, there has been a lot of debate between the experts and manufacturers about the extensive use of PEX piping systems for Air Lines. 

So, let’s dive into some significant pros and cons of using PEX for air lines, especially compressed air systems, and conclude whether we can use PEX for compressed air or not.

Can I Use PEX for Air Lines? 

If you are thinking to change your air hoses, well here is the good news for you. You can use PEX as air hoses as they ensure longevity and do not leak out. 

Many people have now started installing PEX piping systems due to their vast advantages over other plastic pipes. Here are some of the advantages of using PEX for air lines- 

Does Not Leak 

A good-quality PEX pipe with a tight-fitting never leaks out. After extensive research on this, we have seen that experts have been using PEX pipes for airlines for more than five years without any damage. 

And they find it user-friendly. There are no risks of leakage if you have good quality fittings and connections to your piping system.

Easy to Modify and Install.  

Whenever you face any problem with the air supply, you can replace them with newer ones. They are easier to install with no issues of loosening or leaking out. 

As compared to copper pipes, PEX pipes are flexible. Not to mention, they can be made into large coils for easy storage.

Freeze Resistant 

Many common pipes used for compressed air, such as steel pipes and copper pipes, freeze in a cold environment. If you fear cold temperatures ruining your PEX, then do not worry because PEX is freeze resistant. 

Due to the flexible materials in PEX, the airline expands three times its diameter at cold temperatures and returns to its original form. So, if this gets frozen up, it won’t crack or rupture like the other contenders. 

Now that you know the advantages, we must let you know about the disadvantages as well so that you can take an informed decision-

Susceptible to UV Damage 

PEX pipelines or fittings cannot be used for outdoor applications as it is susceptible to damage by sunlight. PEX has chlorine-inhibiting antioxidants, and when it is exposed to sunlight, the antioxidants that protect the air lines diminish. 

And if you have fluorescent lamps in your shop, then they might emit UV that can degrade PEX airlines as well, resulting in a turbulent flow of air. 

Can I use PEX for Compressed Air?

It is essential to have a proper piping system when it comes to delivering compressed air. If you are planning to design a compressed air system, then you can consider PEX piping systems

Many experts believe in using PEX for compressed air but with strict regulations due to pressure sustainability challenges.

Let’s have a look at the advantages and challenges of using PEX pipes for compressed air-

Light in Weight 

As compared to metal pipes, PEX is light in weight and easy to transport. You can place it in areas where other pipes don’t fit.

It is because of its enormous flexibility. With the use of PEX piping systems, high pressure is easily maintained.

Can I Use PEX for Air Lines or Not

Easy Fittings  

Many expert plumbers face challenges during the installation of other types of pipelines. For instance, CPVC and many other plastic pipes require proper glue or cement for efficient fittings and connections. On the other hand, PEX is the easiest to install as strong connections are made using crimp fittings

PEX compression fittings are much more reliable as a compression nut is used to fix PEX pipe to the joint, preventing leaks. 

There is no need to use solders or high temperatures for connecting the two pipes. You can utilize a PEX expander to do that! However, there is a chance of gas leaking out if a strong connection is not made. Hence, an expert is required to do proper fittings.

Read: If you Can Use PEX For Gas Line

No Corrosion 

Moisture retention in compressed air can impose more significant challenges on the quality of pipelines. Due to water vapor in compressed air, many metal pipes corrode, damaging the air’s laminar flow. 

However, there is no such problem with PEX tubing for compressed air. PEX is a dielectric material with smooth interior walls. Therefore, there is no mineral build-up in PEX pipelines, and you can easily use them for compressed air.

With the advantages, here comes a challenge as well-

Kinking 

The usage of PEX airlines is now being promoted but one major issue that disturbs the work quality is kinking. Because PEX tubing is quite flexible, so it can easily bend and form kinks. 

These kinks can create weak spots and result in leakage of air. Because of the leaking out of the air, the pressure of the air can be disrupted causing problems during your work.

Can I use PEX for Air Compressor?

Choosing the best pipe tubing for your air compressor can be a difficult task. Any accident due to insufficient quality of pipes can be a major setback for your shop or industry.

If you want to use PEX connections for air compressors, then here are some pros and cons listed out for you. 

A Potential Life Span of 50 years 

The biggest concern regarding plastic pipelines is that they get brittle with time, so they cannot be used for air compressors. 

However, as compared to the rest of the plastic pipes, PEX takes the lead. Experts report that PEX has a potential lifespan of 50 years and it is more sustainable than copper or any other metal pipelines. 

However, some experts also claim that the life expectancy of PEX pipelines depends on the manufacturers. Some manufacturers compromise on the quality of pipes which disturbs their sustainability. 

Sustain Temperature Up To 200°F 

The best thing about PEX pipelines is that they can sustain high temperatures up to 200°F, whereas an ideal operating temperature for air compressors is between 50°F-94°F. 

So, when it comes to bearing high-temperatures, PEX can provide you with maximum output. Moreover, less than 200 F heat does not interfere with the quality of PEX pipelines. 

Fresh Air Delivered 

If you are working with air compressors, then the quality of the air is very important. The compressed air coming out of the compressors should be free of chunky particles or flakes. PEX pipes ensure fresh, high-quality air as there is no risk of corrosion or release of flakes. 

Many pipe tubing, such as galvanized pipes, needs to be repaired due to flaky materials disposed of in the pipes. And this is where PEX takes the lead.

They provide you with clean, fresh, and pure-quality air for long-term use.

Now about a significant drawback of using PEX for air compressor-

Withstand 800 psi Only 

There is no questioning on the durability and flexibility of PEX pipelines, but when it comes to withstanding sustaining high pressures, PEX has a major downside. Air compressors release compressed air that is smaller in volume and has high pressures. Hence stronger pipes are needed to sustain such high pressures.  

Compressed air can reach pressures ranging from 14 psi to 6000 psi, and air compressors can discharge compressed air up to 150 psi. If you are working with high pressures, then PEX might not be the right choice for you.

Conclusion

All in all, we conclude that PEX pipelines can be used for compressed air applications, but only under 800 psi. Some professional manufacturers completely disagree with using PEX as a piping system for compressed air as they can burst.

On the other hand, many people in this field have installed PEX specifically for compressed air and have successfully used it for more than five years.

After extensive research on PEX pipelines, we did a critical analysis of people’s experience using PEX as airlines. Therefore, we conclude that PEX is preferred for compressed air systems compared to metal and plastic pipes. Not only it is sustainable for long-term use, but it can also bear high pressures up to 800 psi.

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