How Are Copper Pipes Made?
Copper pipes are made by pushing a long cylinder of the metal, called a billet, through a machine that has a rod in the centre of a hollow cylinder. The outer shell shapes the metal into a seamless tube, and the inner rod forces a hole through the billet to turn it into a tube.
The pressure thins the walls and lengthens the tube or pipe, at the same time hardening the metal. Tubes of 15/1,000th of an inch have been made. A hundred of these could be fitted inside an ordinary drinking straw.
Pipes made of copper are especially useful in plumbing and the making of car radiators. Copper is useful for pipes because it is not corroded by water or steam. It is an excellent conductor of electricity, long lasting and easily shaped. Copper drainpipes that were used about 3500 B.C. have been found in good condition.
Copper tubing is most often used for supply of hot and cold tap water, and as refrigerant line in HVAC systems. There are two basic types of copper tubing, soft copper and rigid copper. Copper tubing is joined using flare connection, compression connection, or solder. Copper offers a high level of corrosion resistance, but is becoming very costly.
Soft (or ductile) copper tubing can be bent easily to travel around obstacles in the path of the tubing. While the work hardening of the drawing process used to size the tubing makes the copper hard or rigid, it is carefully annealed to make it soft again; it is therefore more expensive to produce than non-annealed, rigid copper tubing. It can be joined by any of the three methods used for rigid copper, and it is the only type of copper tubing suitable for flare connections. Soft copper is the most popular choice for refrigerant lines in split-system-air conditioners and heat pumps.
Rigid copper is a popular choice for water lines. It is joined using a sweat, roll grooved, compression or crimped/pressed connection. Rigid copper, rigid due to the work hardening of the drawing process, cannot be bent and must use elbow fittings to go around corners or around obstacles. If heated and allowed to cool in a process called annealing, rigid copper will become soft and can be bent/formed without cracking.
The Advantages of Copper Pipes
- Copper pipes are relatively non-toxic. Copper is a natural material that has been proven to be safe to health.
- Copper is non-permeable. It doesn’t absorb other substances with which it comes into contact so it protects against contaminants to the water supply.
- Copper pipes do not suffer easily from corrosion, while iron corrodes relatively easily.
- Copper is relatively easy to work with because it is much softer than iron or lead. Copper water pipes usually have lower installation costs because copper is easy to join by soldering or brazing.
- The ductile quality of copper pipes mean that it is often possible to eliminate elbows and joints, which contribute to the integrity of the system as well as lowering installation costs.
- Copper water pipes are durable. Copper pipes are good at handling heat without losing strength or shape and are resist corrosion and high water-pressure.
- Copper pipes have a minimal impact on the environment because copper is a recyclable material. Almost half of the copper used in the U.S. comes from recycled scrap. Copper is also an abundant resource in the U.S.
- Copper is a low-maintenance option for water pipes because it never requires painting to protect it from corrosion, and it looks good.
These points make it easy to see why copper is one of the most common materials used in modern plumbing.