The Impact of Plumbing Materials on the Environment

When buying a home you may be interested in having a sustainable home, and one of the most important aspects that you should not overlook the plumbing systems. With water contamination getting more and more common lately, it’s important to understand how plumbing systems work and their impact on the environment. Drinking water is carried through these pipes everyday and when choosing plumbing materials we must consider ecological toxicity, air pollution, fossil fuel depletion, and global warming.

Low Cost

When buying a home you may be looking for the cheapest way to be sustainable. Although some environmentally-friendly products may be somewhat more expensive than their competitors, money will be saved in the form of reduced water usage and decreased energy consumption in the long run.

A Life Cycle Inventory of residential plumbing systems done in 2011 showed that CPVC systems demonstrate 5% less energy waste than PEX systems and 17% less than copper. This study also indicated that CPVC systems wanted 30% less water than copper and 15% less than a PEX system. These numbers are likely due to the differences in thermal conductivity between these materials.

Copper has a thermal conductivity that is hundreds of times higher than plastics. PEX materials are the least thermal conductive of the three tested and this is why it is better in conserving water and energy.


While environmental performance is important, people can still be concerned about the sustainability of their home. The use of proper plumbing materials when building a home can greatly affect the future sustainability of the home, which can also affect future costs and bills.

A relatively new factor in plumbing, eco-friendly pipe materials can reduce both energy costs, and the overall environmental footprint of your home. These materials are not as widely available due to their recent introduction to the industry, but an understanding of the benefits of each can help save both money and the environment later down the line.

Environment-Friendly Materials

The two most common types of piping material in use today are metals like iron and copper, and PVC piping. Of the two, metal piping is more environmentally friendly and sustainable, but not without drawbacks.

PVC piping however, is notorious for low sustainability, contaminating water with chemicals, and increased waste or “greywater”. While PVC is recyclable, the process is expensive and not in high demand due to the cheap price of fresh PVC.

Metal piping however, has a longer lifespan with less chance of deterioration and no harmful chemical waste that could contaminate your water and potentially harm you or your family. Metal piping is susceptible to corrosion however, usually after a long fifty year lifespan.

The best alternative to these two pipings is relatively new eco-friendly plastics like the ones mentioned earlier. Polyethylene and polypropylene are the two main ingredients in these pipes which are recognized by Greenpeace, an environmental organization, to be the only “future-friendly” piping material on the market.

The more natural and longer lasting materials prevent long term contamination with eco-friendly materials that last long enough to rival the longevity of metal piping. Even local Atlanta plumbers and plumbing installers should have access to the materials you need to make your house eco-safe.


When building your home, be sure to be involved in its construction so you can make sure that your house, like these new and eco-friendly plastics, are set for a clean and safe future of reliable piping.

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About Salman Zafar

Salman Zafar is the Founder of EcoMENA, and an international consultant, advisor, ecopreneur and journalist with expertise in waste management, waste-to-energy, renewable energy, environment protection and sustainable development. His geographical areas of focus include Middle East, Africa, Asia and Europe. Salman has successfully accomplished a wide range of projects in the areas of biomass energy, biogas, waste-to-energy, recycling and waste management. He has participated in numerous conferences and workshops as chairman, session chair, keynote speaker and panelist. Salman is the Editor-in-Chief of EcoMENA, and is a professional environmental writer with more than 300 popular articles to his credit. He is proactively engaged in creating mass awareness on renewable energy, waste management and environmental sustainability in different parts of the world. Salman Zafar can be reached at or

5 Responses to The Impact of Plumbing Materials on the Environment

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  2. Synergi SW Ltd says:

    Brilliant post, thank you so much for your experiences and insights about the impact of plumbing. This is really good.

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