The green movement has already taught people that they should be energy efficient and not waste resources. However, now that more and more people are concerned with eco-friendly solutions, avoiding waste is not enough for many. Green plumbing takes into consideration the cost the materials have on the environment, the ways in which they help people be more eco-friendly, and any potential health risks they may present.
Pipes are essential pieces of your home that are involved in many common functions including bathing, using the toilet and washing dishes. All materials that are legally used in piping are considered safe by major regulatory authorities, but not all are equals in terms of environmental friendliness. The two main choices for pipes are metal and plastic, and there are several divisions within each of these categories.Metal pipes are most often made of copper or iron. They can contain a high percentage of recycled metal, and are themselves recyclable. However, the recycling and manufacturing processes for metal are more energy-intensive than for plastic.
Pipes made out of metal are also stronger than those made from plastic, but corrode faster. Corrosion can lead to the introduction of toxins into the system, and occurs in virtually all metal piping at some point. The lifespan of iron or copper pipes is approximately 50 years. However, epoxy linings can add up to 50 years in lifespan to metal pipes, as well as protecting users from any corrosion byproducts.
Most plastic pipes are made out of PVC, a type of hard plastic. It can be recycled, but the process is expensive and ‘virgin’ PVC is cheap, so most used PVC is not recycled. The production process for PVC is fairly energy intensive and may release harmful chemicals into the atmosphere. PVC piping has a predicted lifespan of 100 years.
Polyethylene and polypropylene are two types of plastic that are sometimes used as alternatives to PVC. They are considered more environmentally-friendly, and the materials are easier to recycle. Most new plastic pipes do not contain any recycled content, however, and these eco-friendly plastics have a lifespan of only about 50 years.
All pipes should be properly insulated in order to reduce heat transfer. This can increase the temperature of hot water coming out of the taps by up to four degrees, and reduces the energy consumption of your water heater. It also protects pipes from exposure to extreme temperatures, which can cause stress.
The choice of piping materials in order to be environmentally-friendly is not as immediately obvious as it can be in some other sectors of the market. Each choice has some major advantages and disadvantages. Certain organizations are opposed to all use of PVC, but not everyone agrees that it is more environmentally harmful than the other options. Currently, many environmental organizations are pushing polyethylene and polypropylene pipes as the best choice. Aside from the pipes themselves, being environmentally-friendly means reducing waste. This can take the form of low-flow toilets, special shower heads that maintain pressure while reducing flow and graywater collection and use systems. It is important to remember that being eco-friendly doesn’t stop with materials, but includes your behavior, as well.
Ben Franklin Plumbers in San Antonio specialize in line repair and installation. Make Ben Franklin your partner in your green efforts.