How To Protect PEX From Sunlight & UV Rays in 5 Ways

PEX is one of the best options for domestic water lines. The pipe comes with solid advantages over copper and steel and is easy to install even by DIY newbies. Like all plastic materials, though, PEX is subject to UV damage. Whether you have to install some exposed pipes or want to store PEX coils outside until installation, you have to learn how to protect the material from sunlight.

How To Protect PEX From Sunlight?

PEX and UV rays aren’t friends, but you can protect your pipes in a number of ways. A PEX sleeve, a wall cover, or even paint can keep your exposed pipes safe. If you’re worried about PEX pipe stubs or lengths of water lines that run along your interior walls, you can protect them by adding a UV film to your windows.

1. Use A PEX Sleeve

Corrugated PEX sleeves protect PEX tubing during installation, especially when PEX is used for radiant heating systems or run through concrete walls. While not specifically designed for the purpose, they also provide mechanical and UV protection to PEX pipes installed in areas exposed to sunlight

You can choose from various corrugated sleeve colors, including red and blue, if you want to match the hue of the sleeve to that of the hot and cold water line, respectively. Red PEX tubing generally carries hot water, whereas blue PEX is designed for cold water. 

If you’re using white PEX – which can carry either cold or hot water – you can cover it with any kind of corrugated sleeve, including black and orange. However, keep in mind that black corrugate can heat up the cold water running through the PEX line.

Using the sleeve is very easy. Simply push the PEX line into the corrugated sleeve and install it as desired

2. Install A PEX Pipe Wall Cover 

While corrugated sleeves are an easy-to-use and inexpensive method of protecting PEX from UV rays, exposed corrugated tubing doesn’t look flattering. This is where wall covers step in.

Wall covers are generally employed to conceal exposed wires and cables. However, you can choose from models large enough to accommodate a PEX pipe. Alternatively, you could use a plumbing-rated wall cover to conceal your exposed PEX pipes.

Various wall cover models mount in different ways (either with brackets or adhesive, sticking them to the wall). Follow the mounting instructions provided by the manufacturer to cover the PEX tubing.

3. Paint The Exposed Sections

If you don’t want to install a wall cover or use corrugated sleeves, you can protect PEX from sunlight and UV rays with paint. 

Technically, you can use any paint for the purpose, including leftover wall paint. However, if you don’t want the paint coat to peel or crack, you should use plastic paint. Most plastic paints come in sprays and are very easy to apply. 

A coat is generally enough to protect the pipes, but you might want to add a second coat to increase the paint’s resistance. A few brands you can use include Rust-Oleum and Krylon.

4. Cover With A Stub-Out Bracket 

Sometimes, you may not want to conceal a long length of pipe, but just protect a PEX stub near a sunny window from sunlight. An easy way to do this is with a stub-out bracket with a wall flange

It is always recommended to install the bracket before the fixture. If the fixture is already mounted, you’ll have to either take it off or cut the bracket with a cutter and slide it on the pipe. 

5. Add UV Film To Windows

All methods above are excellent choices for protecting PEX pipes from sunlight while also concealing the pipes. However, if you don’t mind the exposed lengths of pipe and your only purpose is to prevent UV damage, you can add a UV film to your windows.

There are several types of UV window films to choose from. A clear film is an excellent option if you want to reduce the amount of UV rays passing through your windows. If you also want to enhance your privacy, you can use a mirror UV film – this film still lets light pass through while preventing people from snooping inside your house. 

Adhesive films are a good choice if you’re looking for a semi-permanent solution. However, if you don’t want to clean the adhesive off the glass after removing the film, you can opt for a water-activated film that sticks to the window with a soap and water solution.

Can PEX Be Left In The Sun?

More often than not, PEX pipes run through the walls, and the only exposed parts are the stub-outs. However, you may be concerned about UV damage if you want to store the PEX coils out in the yard until installing the water lines.

Unfortunately, this isn’t doable. According to the plumbing code, you can only store PEX tubing indoors and have to ensure that the cumulative UV exposure doesn’t exceed the limits recommended by the manufacturer. 

How Do I Protect PEX Outside?

Despite the code, there are instances when you have no place other than your yard to store PEX tubing. To prevent unnecessary UV exposure, you can protect the coils with a UV-resistant tarp. A polyethylene tarp is your best choice if you also want to keep the tubing dry if it rains, as this material is generally waterproof. 

Related Questions

How long does PEX last in the sun?

While all PEX manufacturers advise against installing PEX in places exposed to direct or indirect ultraviolet light (either natural or artificial), the pipes generally resist between 30 and 60 days when exposed to sunlight – sometimes more. 

If you want to store PEX tubing in the yard, know that the number above refers to cumulative exposure. This includes the number of days the pipes have been exposed to the sun during shipping or in dealer storage.

Can PEX be used outside if covered?

PEX pipes are generally not approved for outdoor applications. The only way to use PEX outdoors is by burying the line underground, below the frost line.

If you want to install PEX outdoors or in a frosty basement, insulate the tubes (or use pre-sheathed PEX).  

What is SharkBite PEX UV resistance?

According to the manufacturer, SharkBite PEX pipes can be kept in the sun for three to six months. However, since you have no way to know for how long they have been exposed to sunlight, it is always recommended to store them indoors once you’ve bought them.

To End

PEX tubing offers a versatile and cost-effective alternative to copper and steel plumbing. The pipes are suitable to use for potable water or a radiant heating system. However, the material is not UV-resistant and shouldn’t be used without a cover in areas exposed to sunlight. We hope this guide can help you protect your exposed water lines. 

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