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Black pipe or copper what's your choice and why?

Post in 'The Boiler Room - Wood Boilers and Furnaces' started by goosegunner, Oct 12, 2010.

  1. goosegunner

    goosegunner Minister of Fire

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    When installing your near boiler piping to pressurized storage what is your choice Black pipe or copper?

    Any why?

    I plan on using 1-1/2" for the boiler to storage and 1-1/4" from storage to logstor.

    Wow those big valves and fittings are expensive!

    gg

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  2. Bad Wolf

    Bad Wolf Feeling the Heat

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    I did black iron, but if I had it to do over I'd use copper. I always had trouble with the last turn. It didn't feel tight enough but I couldn't get one more revolution out of it. Plus I had trouble getting the exact length. With copper you have a little bit of slide so you don't have to be as precise. With the copper as long as you brighten it up properly, use flux and apply a lot of heat you can get a good joint. I have a couple of conections that drip a little if the system gets cold. They go away when it heats up again. I thought I was saving money but in the long rum it wasn't that much and would have been a lot eaiser with copper. Just my 2 cents.
  3. Hunderliggur

    Hunderliggur Minister of Fire

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    Copper worked for me - easier to install with the tools avaiable. Unions can help with both copper and black pipe to get everything to fit correctly.
  4. jebatty

    jebatty Minister of Fire

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    Copper ditto for the reasons stated. You can find really good prices on fittings and valves on ebay, if you are patient. My strategy was to plan out the system months in advance, monitor the auction site for what I needed and buy when the price was right. I had very little to buy retail at the time of the install.
  5. btuser

    btuser Minister of Fire

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    Another vote for copper, from a guy who did his with black pipe. A lot easier to fix, and a lot faster to put together. If I was to do it over again I would've used copper to the tees and extended all 6 of my circulator zones to the new location using pex. I would've been done probably 10 hours earlier and in the end it wouldlve been a more compact/cleaner job.
  6. woodsmaster

    woodsmaster Minister of Fire

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    Good post. I"ve also been trying to decide what to use. I think I'll go with copper since I dont have a threader to use. Don't want to run to lowes each time I need to thread something. By the time I buy a good threader or rent one I'm sure copper would be cheaper. I know not to use the thin copper, so middle or thick? can't think of the grades right now.
  7. goosegunner

    goosegunner Minister of Fire

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    Ok I will plan on using copper. My dad is a just retired plumber. I was just looking at a 6" pice of copper at his house. I said Is that stuff hard to sweat?

    He said, "Not for me."

    He has taught me many tips for good sweat joints, but he has close to 50 years experience.

    gg
  8. Piker

    Piker Minister of Fire

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    Copper. Labor is cheaper for sure. Easier to keep things straight and plumb. If you ever need to splice in somewhere... just cut and solder.

    I have seen some very nice black iron jobs posted here on the forum however... very nice.

    cheers
  9. Dune

    Dune Minister of Fire

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    Ask your father what should come off the boiler. I bet he says iron, at least the first few feet.
  10. heaterman

    heaterman Minister of Fire

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    Personally........I love the smell of thread cutting oil in the morning. :) Nearly all of our installs go in using black pipe, either threaded or Victaulic groove fitting if we want to get fancy. Having a stand type pipe threader makes that an easy decision for us but few people other than contractors would have something that can thread up to 4" steel at their disposal.

    So, that being said, for the average DIY'er copper is the way to go becasue it's a little more forgiving with measurements than steel and because fabrication tools consist of a good torch and a cutter.
    A couple things need to be said though in regards to those tools. First being that if you are working with anything larger than 1-1/4" tube, do yourself a favor and skip the hardware store/HomeDepot torch. Just go to a plumbing supply house, a Johnstone supply or Grainger and spend about $80 for a decent torch. You will never regret it. The flame pattern stinks on all the Bern-zo-matic type torches you'll find in a home center. A good torch head to get might be the STK-9 from TurboTorch or a RP3T2 from Uniweld. They both burn propane or MAPP gas and have a swivel head that allows you to get around behind the fitting to ensure uniform heating (which BTW is the most important facet of soldering)

    Soldering is easy if you observe a few basic rules and use good products. Most important is that the fitting socket and the tube MUST be clean, which means sanding or brushing until they are uniformly bright all the way around. Next thing is to de-burr the tube to eliminate the ridge formed on the I.D. when you cut it. A sharp cutter wheel really helps! Most decent tubing cutters will have a de-burring reamer built right in. Use it. It's there for a reason.
    Ridgid and Lenox are probably the most commonly available brands of good grade tubing cutters. Stay away from the $13.95 General tube cutter at the local Lowes or HD unless you want to try and thread your copper. After about 10 cuts they'll start to spiral on you and fail to stay in the same track.
    When it comes to solder and flux, we use Bridgit or Staybrite solder and Drew won't even grab the torch if we have no Bridgit flux. I avoid Oatey flux like the plague because of a really bad experience on a large bore job where the flux had failed to work uniformly. We found out later that they had a batch of flux that separated chemically when it was exposed to heat above 110*. ( think work truck sitting in the hot summer sun) Even though the company acknowledged they had an issue with the product they would not help us out with literally dozens of failed joints and we wound up eating the cost of a whole lot of 2-1/2" through 4" sweat fittings and associated labor. That was a four figure lesson learned the hard way. Needless to say I haven't purchased anything with the Oatey brand on it since nor will I. Ever.
    Two areas where I see a lot of people unfamiliar with soldering get in trouble are over heating the fitting and not getting the fitting temperature as uniform as possible. The tendency is to just hold the torch on the fitting and leave it in one spot which creates a big difference in temp from one side to the other. Keep the torch moving and try to get the entire fitting to the temperature where solder will flow all the way around with just a touch. The tendency is to solder in "spots" rather than work the entire circumference of the fitting. When you get it to the right temperature you'll find that the solder will flow pretty much all the way around no matter where you dab it on. Overheating the joint is just as bad as underheating it especially if you are using lead free product. (It has a higher melting point than the 50/50 solder that would flow at about 400*.) I've seen guys hold the torch on the fitting until the flame turns green, which means you are actually oxidizing the copper, and then wonder why the solder just runs out of the joint.
    Get the fitting up to temp in an area that you can see the solder starting to flow and then work the heat around until the whole joint is at the point. Then hit it with the solder. A rough rule of thumb is that you should use about the same amount/length of solder as the diameter of the pipe. If you are soldering 1" tube, bend over about an inch of solder and when you get to the end of that inch you have plenty of solder in that joint. Remember you are filling a slip fit joint with only a thousandth or two of gap, not the Grand Canyon. Too much solder leaves nice little beads that roll around the piping and end up under a check valve or in the impeller of a circ.

    Hmmmmmmm, that turned out to be a little longer than I set out to say but I hope it helps a few of you out. :)

    :edit:/PS As a matter of general practice, you most definitely should come off you boiler with at least a few feet of steel before transitioning to copper for reasons of strength if nothing else.
  11. Singed Eyebrows

    Singed Eyebrows New Member

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    I used black iron & would probably go with black iron again, I'm old school. There should be a bit less heat loss with iron given equal insulation. I use expensive anerobic pipe sealant & you could put the piping in hand tite with this stuff. I got used 1 1/2" sprinkler pipe that was just like new inside & out. Randy BTW, they aren't exactly giving away large copper fittings either.
  12. Hunderliggur

    Hunderliggur Minister of Fire

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    Heaterman - thanks for the great soldering for idiots guide. Not sure how I learned to solder copper correctly, but it follows what you said. Even heat and just enough solder for the job. (Doesn't mean that I don't make mistakes, just not too many). For smaller (1 inch and less), I have found the Sharkbite fittings to be really useful sometimes. I would not use them in a 190F circuit though.
  13. goosegunner

    goosegunner Minister of Fire

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    I used one sharkbite T for my fill line and back flow preventer. Makes me nervous and I will be changing it out during the install. I have visions of a connection failure, just can't feel 100% about them.

    gg
  14. ewdudley

    ewdudley Minister of Fire

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    Considering the time and money I can't say I'm real fond of either.

    I had a lot of 1.25" steel pipe and salvaged fittings to work with so I went with black iron. Got a hand threader off craiglook and the one nice thing I can say about it is that it made it possible to do very consistent threads that would pull in predictably, which was critical for a lot of the system.

    Had my neighbor over last weekend to do what little copper work that was needed to tie-in the existing system. He remarked how happy he was that he happened to splurge on a nice torch once upon a time.

    Also he mentioned that washing off the flux when done is important to avoid things getting green and funky down the road, which you would think would go without saying.

    --ewd
  15. dogwood

    dogwood Minister of Fire

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    Singed Eyebrows,

    What is anerobic pipe sealant? If this is a foolproof way to leakproof iron pipe joints I'd like to get some. Any brand names you could recommend or the one you use? Is it an easily obtainable product at a plumbing supply store or is there somewhere online you order it. Never heard of it before.

    Mike
  16. Singed Eyebrows

    Singed Eyebrows New Member

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    Mike; Anerobic sealers harden in the absense of air. I've put together a lot of air compressor piping through the years along with some boiler piping with no failures. I use Du Pont Perma-lok with teflon, Locktite has Seals Pipe for a brand, there are others. I had a boiler fitting that I ashamedly forgot to tighten many years ago, not a drop of a leak. I worked on the first rotary screw compressors to hit the market & they leaked hot oil like a sieve. We used anerobic gasket sealers to cure this, Randy PS, these are available at Graingers & all over. I would check Ebay, there are some great deals on there at times.
  17. heaterman

    heaterman Minister of Fire

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    Leak Lock is another good brand. But I'm here to tell you it'll be fun if you ever have to take those fittings apart. Grab the 36" pipe wrench and a couple cheaters.........:)
  18. Singed Eyebrows

    Singed Eyebrows New Member

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    Sounds like you,ve been there & done that HM, more than once, lol. A propane torch can help too, Randy
  19. heaterman

    heaterman Minister of Fire

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    If you fool around with steel piping long enough you either learn a few things along the way or go crazy. :) I have to say that we have the best luck with LocTite thread cord or hemp + a slick of pipe dope on the threads. They will let you take them back apart 10 years from now if need be. Those anaerobic sealants are )@%*@(#($$%!!! to get apart later. :)
  20. dogwood

    dogwood Minister of Fire

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    Thanks Singed Eyebrows and Heaterman.

    Mike
  21. btuser

    btuser Minister of Fire

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    I think the heat loss is about the same, but one thing to consider is copper has a larger diameter, so 1 1/4 copper is larger than 1 1/4 black pipe. I don't know the numbers but it would pay to crunch the numbers so you don't over-size/over-pay.
  22. heaterman

    heaterman Minister of Fire

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    Pipe size is confusing as all get out until you just accept the fact that there is nothing 1-1/4" about 1-1/4" steel pipe. Same with all the other sizes. Same with pex. Same with copper tubing. The called sizes are just generic terms. I see lot's of guys getting up tight because they find out 1" pex is not 1" anywhere, especially after some sales guy tries to tell them his 1" pex is really 1". The simple fact of the matter is that if his pex measures an actual 1" it's not standard SDR-9 pex and will therefore take special fittings and may not even be pex in the cross linked polyethylene sense of the word.

    As an example, 1-1/4" steel is 1.38" inside diameter and measures over an inch and a half on the OD.

    Here's a dandy little link that details what size each type actually measures.

    http://www.gizmology.net/pipe.htm
  23. Singed Eyebrows

    Singed Eyebrows New Member

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    I am surprised. I've always thought heat transfer through copper was much greater than steel. Is there something I missed in my statement? I was talking equal diameters(or close) & I did mention equal insulation on each, just wondering, Randy
  24. bpirger

    bpirger Minister of Fire

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    So while we are discussing copper, Type L or Type M or?
  25. heaterman

    heaterman Minister of Fire

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    Traditionally M is for domestic water use and L is the boiler weight. L or K is sometimes specified for underground service.
    nt30410 likes this.

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