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Can PEX pipe be connected to a water heater?
Tuesday, December 15, 2020
There is no simple yes or no answer to this question. The Uniform Plumbing Code (UPC 604.13) states that “PEX tubing shall not be installed within the first 18 inches of piping connected to a water heater." But the UPC is not used in all jurisdictions. The International Plumbing Code (IPC), which applies to us here in Florida and other areas, does not have the same stipulation.
But the IPC does require following the manufacturer’s installation instructions; and some water heater manufacturers, especially of tankless water heaters, specify that PEX should not be directly connected to their product, with a minimum of 18” of other approved pipe at the water heater connection. The PEX installation manual of Zurn, a major pipe manufacturer, also has multiple requirements for the distance of PEX from a water heater pipe connection and also from a gas water heater flue.
So, the sum of all this is that it depends on which code is followed in your area and what the manufacturer’s installation instructions say. And, incidentally, the PEX pipe shown at the top of the page is wrapped tightly with insulation for two reasons: 1) to keep the pipe from fracturing during a hard winter freeze, although PEX has enough flexibility to resist a minor freeze, and 2) manufacturers specify that it cannot be exposed to sunlight.
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