When we say Cross-Linked Polyethylene, you might wonder what it is. But if we say PEX, you might remember those colorful pipes that are slowly dominating the residential plumbing. Whether it is copper or PEX, we have proper fittings and joining methods so that we can route the pipes to all corners of the house. Speaking of joining PEX Pipes, we have PEX Crimp Connections and PEX Clamp Connections. These two connections help us in securing the PEX Pipe to a fitting or another pipe. But how do PEX Crimp vs Clamp connections compare? Is one type of connection superior to other?
If you are new to PEX Pipes and their fittings and connections, this guide is just for you. Here, we will talk about PEX Crimp vs Clamp Connections and help you understand the differences between the two.
What is PEX?
PEX is short for Cross-linked Polyethylene. It is a type of flexible plastic that is reinforced with chemicals (cross-linking) to give it additional strength. It is quite popular in Europe since the late 1960s but took a long time to enter the U.S. market.
The primary reason for this is the safety concerns of the PEX pipe as people in the U.S. often made comparisons between PEX and PB (Polybutylene). PB Pipes had a notorious reaction to chlorine which damaged the pipe after a short run.
But the chemistry of PEX pipes is entirely different. PEX Pipe manufacturers must follow several standards, specifications, and codes with very tight control of the raw materials and high QC standards.
Since the 1990s, contractors, plumbers, and homeowners in the U.S. started using PEX Pipes for all sorts of plumbing requirements as they were much cheaper than copper pipes and their flexible nature means you can use them for long distances as well as bend around corners.
If you look at catalogs of PEX Pipes, then you will notice colorful pipes (Red, Blue, and White). Is there any importance to the colors of the PEX Pipes? The simple answer is no. Colors do not imply any physical or chemical properties of the PEX Pipes.
But most plumbers generally use Red PEX Pipes to carry hot water and Blue or White PEX Pipes to carry cold or municipal water.
Keeping the color of the PEX Pipe aside, we have three types of PEX Pipes: PEX A, B, and C. Of these, the PEX-A Pipes are the most expensive of the three. This is because they are of significantly higher quality than the other two and even more flexible.
If you are looking for a bang for the buck PEX installation, then the PEX-B is the best choice. Generally, we do not see PEX-C Pipes in residential plumbing.
Joining PEX Pipes
We can use PEX Pipes with other types of pipes such as Copper and PVC. For simple residential PEX Plumbing, you can get a variety of fittings and tools to join the pipes.
Speaking of joining PEX Pipes, there are different ways in which you can join them. All the fittings are mechanical and don’t require glue or cement.
Remember that different PEX Pipe manufacturers have their respective fittings and tools. Interchanging PEX Pipes and fittings between different manufacturers is generally not possible and not recommended either (due to warranty issues)
Of the different types of PEX Fittings, only two are very popular. They are Cold Expansion Fittings and Plastic or Metal Insert Fittings.
Cold Expansion Fittings
Again, in Cold Expansion Fittings, we have Cold Expansion Fittings with PEX Reinforced Rings and Cold Expansion Rings with Metal Compression Sleeves.
In the first type, we have to first insert a PEX-Reinforced ring at the end of the PEX Pipe. Then, before inserting the PEX Pipe into the metal or plastic fitting, we have to expand the end of the PEX Pipe (along with the ring) using a special expander tool.
After inserting the PEX Pipe into the fitting, the memory of the PEX pipe will retract and forms a tight seal.
In the second type, we have to insert the PEX Pipe through a compression sleeve, which is usually made up of brass. Then expand the end of the PEX Pipe (only the pipe) and slide it over the fitting (metal or plastic).
The memory of the pipe will retract the pipe over the fitting. Then pull the compression sleeve over the connection to compress the pipe and form a tight seal over the fitting.
Plastic or Metal Insert Fittings
In this type, we use Crimp Rings, Steel Clamps, or Steel Sleeves to compress the pipe around the fitting. The material of the fitting can be brass, copper, bronze, or plastic.
As this is the main topic of this discussion and the PEX Crimp vs Clamp comparison, we will see more about these in the next section.
What is PEX Crimp Connection?
The PEX Crimp is a single piece of copper ring that seals the connection between the PEX Pipe and the fitting (metal or plastic). The size of the PEX Crimp Ring is marginally larger than the PEX Pipe so that you can slide the pipe through it.
To make a PEX Crimp Connection, first, insert the PEX Pipe through the Crimp Ring. Push it slightly above and then insert the end of the PEX Pipe into the fitting.
Now, slide the Crimp Ring over the connection, and using a special PEX Crimp Tool, press the crimp ring until it forms a good seal.
You can use the PEX Crimp Ring with both metals as well as plastic PEX fittings. Even if you don’t have the PEX Crimpling Tool, you can use a simple plier to press down the crimp ring over the connection.
After crimping the ring, use a go/no-go gauge to check whether the connection is good or not.
- Very easy to install and they are old and popular
- One PEX Crimping Tool is sufficient for different PEX Pipe sizes (get a Crimp Tool with interchangeable jaws)
- Although PEX Crimping Tools are available, you can get away with a pair of pliers
- Secure connection without any leaks
- Slightly expensive
- Might become difficult to remove the crimp connection for repairs
- In order to create a leak-proof seal, you need to apply a lot of force
What is PEX Clamp Connection?
Next, we have the PEX Clamp ring that is made up of stainless steel. It is also known as Pinch Ring. It has a notch and visible jaws rather than a smooth ring.
The procedure to use this type of connection is also similar to the Copper Crimp ring. First, slide the Steel Clamp Ring over the pipe and then insert the end of the PEX Pipe over the fitting. Then push the steel clamp over the connection.
Now comes the important part. In order to make the seal using the steel clamp ring, you need a special PEX Clamping Tool or Pinching Tool.
It is a type of ratcheting tool that releases only after making a good seal (with a proper crimp of the steel ring). The tool pinches the notch and, in this process, the jaws of the ring clamp to the pipe and seal the connection.
Unlike the copper crimp ring, which squeezes all around the ring, the steel clamp ring only applies force at the jaws of the ring.
- Installing and removing PEX Clamps is easy
- You can use it even in tight and awkward places
- Using one PEX Clamp Tool, you can connect steel clamps of different sizes
- There is a clear visual difference between pinched and un-pinched clamp
- No need for gauges
- Steel Clamp Rings are durable and cheap
- The availability of Steel Clamp Rings and PEX Clamp Tools was very rare. But things are changing slowly
- You need a special pinching tool or PEX Clamping tool to use the steel clamp rings
PEX Crimp vs Clamp Connections
Now that we have seen PEX Crimp and Clamp Connections let us go ahead and make a comparison of PEX Crimp vs Clamp Connections.
PEX Crimp connections use Copper Rings while PEX Clamp connections use Stainless Steel rings. Apart from copper, you can also get PEX Crimp rings in brass.
Both these fitting connections are very easy to use. For PEX Crimp Rings, technically you don’t need any kind of tool and you can crimp using pliers. But there are tools available in the market that makes the job very easy.
After installing the PEX Crimp rings, it is very difficult to remove the rings from the pipes.
In order to install PEX Clamp Rings, you need a special pinching tool or PEX Clamping tool that pulls the tabs on the rings and lets the jaws of the ring make contact with the pipe. You can easily remove the clamp rings in the future.
Stainless Steel rings are slightly more durable than copper rings. Also, stainless steel is corrosion-resistant. But copper on the other hand might form an oxide layer on the top which can lead to corrosion.
Coming to the seal created by PEX Crimp and Clamp connections, both are efficient in creating leak-proof seals.
Now, the important factor. The overall cost of PEX Crimp Rings and the PEX Crimp Tools is slightly more than the PEX Clamp counterparts.
This is because crimp rings are made up of copper (which is costly) while clamp rings are made up of stainless steel.
Another factor is the tools. Although you can create a PEX Crimp Connection with a pair of pliers, professionals and experts recommend the PEX Crimp Tool. The downside with the tool is it is size specific i.e.; you need different tools (or one tool with multiple jaw attachments) to use with different crimp ring sizes.
This is not a problem with Steel Clamp Rings. Even though you need a special pinching tool or PEX Clamp Tool, you can use one tool with different clamp ring sizes.
|Parameter||PEX Crimp Connection||PEX Clamp Connection|
|Material||Mostly Copper but sometimes brass||Usually, Stainless Steel|
|Installation||Very easy to install. You can install it with or without PEX Crimping Tool. But you need to apply more pressure to make a leak-proof seal||Easy to install. You need a special PEX Clamp Tool or Pinching Tool to pull the tabs of the ring. It is a ratcheting tool and you don’t have to apply huge pressure|
|Compatibility||PEX Crimps are compatible with all PEX Pipes and Fittings (metal and plastic)||PEX Clamps are compatible with all PEX Pipes and Fittings (metal and plastic)|
|Durability||As the rings are made up of copper, the connection is less durable||As the rings are made up of stainless steel, the connection is strong and durable|
|Corrosion Resistance||There is a good chance that the copper ring oxidizes over time||Stainless steel has excellent resistance to oxidation and is generally corrosion free|
|Efficiency||Very good. Can make a good leak-proof seal||Very good. Even Clamp rings can make a good lea-proof seal|
|Cost||Slightly expensive. If you are using the PEX Crimping tool, you need different size tools for different PEX Pipe sizes||Affordable. You only need one tool to pinch steel clamp rings of different sizes|
Which is Better PEX Crimp or Clamp?
Now comes the important question, which is better, PEX Crimp or Clamp? Both PEX Crimp and Clamp rings are compatible with all kinds of PEX fittings (metal or plastic) and all PEX Pipe Sizes.
The process of installing crimp rings and clamp rings is also very similar (apart from the ring and tool, obviously). And the important thing is both PEX Crimp Connection and PEX Clamp Connection can make an excellent and efficient leak-proof seal.
Here are some advantages of the PEX Crimp connection over the Clamp connection. It is an old and established style of connection and many plumbers are familiar with its implementation and performance.
As a result, there is no shortage of crimp rings and associated tools. Speaking of tools, after making a PEX Crimp Connection, we can use a go/no-go gauge to check whether the seal is good or not.
You don’t need to be an expert to apply this connection. In fact, for smaller connections, you can get away with the crimp ring and a pair of pliers.
What are the advantages of the PEX Clamp connection over the crimp connection? The first thing is installing and removing the steel clamps is very easy. The cost of the clamp rings is less and as they are made from stainless steel, they are strong durable, and corrosion-resistant.
Using a single PEX Clamp Tool, you can install steel or copper clamps of various sizes.
We hope that the above discussion helped you in choosing one type of connection over the other. If not, here are our suggestions.
If you are working on a small installation or a DIY project, then you can use either of the two, provided you have the necessary material and tools. If you don’t have the tools, then you can go with the copper crimp rings as you can seal them with pliers.
We know that PEX Clamp Connection needs a special pinching tool. This is useful if you are involved in a large project or multiple projects. Steel Clamps are also easy to remove.
Finally, the choice of PEX Crimp vs Clamp connection boils down to personal preference.
PEX Pipes are slowly becoming the mainstream plumbing material in the U.S. Modern residential plumbing system often try to incorporate PEX pipes in one way or the other (to carry municipal water, hot water, etc.).
If you are installing or repairing a PEX Piping system, then you must be familiar with different types of joining methods, fittings, and connections.
In this guide, we saw the basics of PEX Pipes and some common PEX joining techniques. After that, we focused on PEX Crimp vs Clamp installation and looked at their installation procedure, pros, and cons.
We also made a simple side-by-side comparison of the PEX Crimp vs Clamp connection and then answered the important question “which is better, PEX Crimp or PEX Clamp?”.
If you feel we missed something or want us to add anything, do let us know in the connections section below. It will not only help us but even other readers.