Are SharkBite plumbing connectors as reliable as soldered connectors?
So far they seem to be just as reliable, although given that they've only been on the market for a few years they don't have the same history as soldered connections. Here in the UK almost all new-build houses use push-fit connectors for concealed work as it's much quicker and easier.
You most likely do need to take extra care that the tube is perfectly round for an inch or so at the end, and that there's no bits of swarf, paint or other dirt there. Solder is good at filling in little gaps which push-fit connectors won't seal. On the other hand it's very easy to not heat a solder joint up enough to melt the solder properly, especially in confined spaces.
Obviously, make sure you push them in firmly.
Finally you don't really want to use them for exposed pipes, soldered joints are much neater.
I've not used Shark Bite, but I have used other push fit connectors and as long as you make sure that you push the pipes firmly into the connectors they do the job they're intended for.
I haven't had any leaks or other problems with them.
Another advantage is that you can rotate the pipes and fittings once they're in place so if you have a tight or awkward space to work in you're less restricted.
If you're not confident about your soldering skills then using compression or push fit connectors is probably a better idea as you can sort them out after the water's turned back on without necessarily having to drain the system again.
I've had a few SharkBite connectors installed for a couple years without any leaks. They are pricey but save a lot of time when trying to make repairs or otherwise plumb in tight spaces. In fact, I've seen more leaks from improper solders that then have to be re-soldered than I have from SharkBites, primarily because tight spaces can inhibit applying the torch/flame correctly.
The previous cheapy shut off valve to my toilet had seized. There was no way I could solder a new pipe because whoever installed the pipe didn't leave much room. I replaced it with a shark bite 4 years ago and it has not yet leaked. What I don't know is will be ok in 10 years. Like you car rubber seals dry up and there is a rubber o-ring that provides the tight seal. You would think that whoever designed these fittings would provide a wider rubber seal and perhaps a longer sleeve for the pipe to fit in....right now the sleeve is less than 1"....imagine if it was say 1.5"and there was more rubber seal for it to grip on.
That being said, my father redid all the plumbing in his house back in 1972.....when I sold the house after he died not one pipe was leaking....all the pipes were solder and amazingly he had installed some compression shut off valves which did not leak or show signs of fatigue. They've be known to fail. I just don't know how the shark bit value will fare out.
The way I look at it is if I have to replace it every 5 years even at $15 its cheaper than a plumber.....but I am also concerned about the plastic collar they use....plastic as we all know gets brittle over time.....if it ever cracked on its own you'd have one hell of a leak. I guess we are all going to have to wait say 10 years to see what the failure rate is on these push on fittings. There is no way I would trust them in a concealed area....image the mess to cut through drywall to fix a leak.
I think any connection will eventually fail. Shark Bite fittings have been slowly taking over in my 35 year old plumbing system and working just fine on hot and cold water. Expensive, simple, fast and you can put them on with water running out the end. Try that with a soldered joint. Time will tell.