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Today, the technical world is experiencing tremendous growth in various sectors, with copper becoming highly helpful as a result. Because of its high strength, excellent thermal resistance, and superior corrosion resistance, copper is widely used in refrigeration, air conditioning systems as well as water supply lines, and other industrial applications.
Nevertheless, copper pipes are susceptible to corrosion and leakage over time. Therefore, should any of the pipes break, how would the engineers replace them?
Replacement of copper pipes requires cutting out damaged tubing and fitting in the new pipes using joint connectors; however, the process varies according to the mechanical system involved. Some systems are complicated enough for only a professional plumber to perform the replacements.
Because of the high cost of replacing copper pipes, you’d be wise to hang around. I’m bringing to your attention some easy DIY ways to fix the easily accessible damaged, or leaking copper pipes.
Table of Contents
Is It Hard to Replace Copper Pipes?
The copper pipes are produced in a variety of shapes, sizes, forms, and types which meet the requirements of various applications. While the pipes are prone to corrosion after a long period, they are also an ideal medium to use in high or low-pressure systems within a variety of temperature ranges, which makes them suitable for any mechanical system.
Normally, removing and replacing copper pipes is not a difficult task, but you will need effective supplies and a little knowledge, especially if you are dealing with refrigerants in the water or air conditioning system.
Copper pipe replacement warning signs in:
Refrigerator and Water Dispensers
Occasionally, you might not notice puddles under the fridge. However, when they become too extensive, you are sure to notice ponds on your kitchen tiles.
Water Line Pipes
Because of its conductivity, copper has a wide range of uses in electrical applications, as well as in water pipes due to its low cost, ductility, and antibacterial properties. But despite all that, you still need to look for the following symptoms that indicate that copper pipes may have worn out.
- Low Pressure: – Does your residence receive water from a drilled borehole or a water council in your region? When you notice dropped pressure in your water for several hours, you ought to ask your water provider if there is any rationing in effect. If not, then you ought to make sure that it is not a broken pipe.
- Water discoloration: – When you notice brown or dark water flowing from your pipes, you should be concerned unless the source of your water has a history of natural discoloration. Most probably, the different minerals contained in the water can cause clogs or even burst the pipes if they are remaining untreated.
- Surface stains: – Generally, surface stains will show up as a green or blue tint on your bathtub or showerheads. But you ought to distinguish because that’s a different type of mold from the normal mold that grows on walls. Due to internal corrosion that is washed off by hot water; causes the teal dye to stain copper shower pipes that have been around for years.
- Stained ceilings or wet walls: – These or any other signs of leaks call for fast action before the leaking pipe ruptures, causing more damage than just a soggy carpet.
Generally, replacing a copper pipe is not a difficult task. However, water dispensers, refrigerators, and other industrial applications require utmost care if they are not repaired by a professional.
How to Replace Copper Pipe?
It will save you the time and money you would have spent on a plumber if you had the know-how to repair copper pipe leaks, broken water lines around the house, and the refrigerant lines for your air conditioning unit.
Repairing Water Line Pipes
To facilitate the following process, you will need a copper pipe tubing cutter, flux brush, flux, propane torch, and solder.
The above tools need utmost care when handling to avoid any further damages to the copper pipes or bodily harm.
- Shut off the main water valve and drain all the water from the pipe by opening the closest faucet
- Measure the length of the new pipe you need using a measuring tape, and mark it with a pencil. Your new pipe should have extra length on both ends to accommodate couplings. Ensure that your general new pipe is at least 3/4 inches as long as the damaged one.
- Make sure the tube cutter blade aligns with the mark on the pipe before clamping it down, as you rotate the cutter; making sure to follow the circumference of the pipe. It is also advisable to avoid bending the pipe too much as this will probably lead to a leak.
- Check your pipe ends for burrs and remove them with the deburring blade positioned at the end of the cutter or by using a file.
- Polish the ends that need soldering both on the exterior and the interior with emery paper until they are glossy.
- Clean off any metal particles and creating tiny teeth for a solid connection is necessary.
- Use flux to clean polished parts by smearing a thin layer on the polished exterior and interior surfaces.
- When assembling the unions, rotate the fitting pipe so that a uniform flow of the flux takes place, ensuring a secure fit.
- Solder the connection
- Use a dry, clean cloth to wipe away any excess flux from the fittings and pipes after soldering is complete.
To ensure uniform heat transmission across a joint when soldering, direct the blue tip of the flame to the fitting. After the flux bubbles up, touch one point of the joint with a solder end and let molten solder, through capillary action, tighten the connection.
Safety Precautions When Soldering a Copper Pipe Joint
- Make sure you protect flammable materials such as dry wood from the flame with a metal shield.
- Your torch should never be in operation close to gasoline or natural gas.
- Make sure you always have a fire extinguisher close to you before starting a soldering process.
- Use safety glasses, gloves, long-sleeved pants, and shirts to avoid the hot flux from getting into contact with your skin.
Replacing Refrigerator’s Copper Pipes
Many people consider refrigerators as complex appliances so when they have a simple problem like a leak from their water lines, it may startle them when the plumbers are taking so long to fix them.
There is no point in spending a lot of money on something you can accomplish within a few minutes if you know how to fix it.
It’s possible to do this if you can acquire a replacement kit that includes the complete set of tools required for the connectors procedure, including the copper tubings.
Here is a guide to assessing and gauging whether your refrigerator can be fixed or is irreparably damaged.
- Dry the surrounding floor from the fridge and pull it away from the wall.
- Unplug its power line from the socket; however, be careful not to disconnect the water line from the shut-off and inlet valves.
- Gently cut through the plastic rubber that safeguards the copper pipe in the damaged zone.
- Measure the length of the damaged line and purchase it having a slight extension that will incorporate the connectors and the fittings.
- Cut off the damaged pipe and replace it with the new copper tubing ensuring the force you exert does not tamper with the shut-off and intake valves.
- Ensuring there are no water droplets on the floor you are standing on, turn on the water valves and watch for any leaks along the replaced line; specifically around the brass union connections.
Do Copper Pipes Ever Need to Be Replaced?
Copper has a lifespan of over 70 years; brass materials last between 40 and 70 years, steel pipes last between 20 and 50 years, Cast Iron over 75 years, and PVC lasts indefinitely.
Even though cast iron and PVC have longer-lasting properties than copper, copper products are still the most commonly used due to their wide range of features that provide unlimited pipe use.
Causes of Copper Pipe Corrosion and the Possible Solutions
The need to replace copper pipes in your home piping system or refrigerators mainly arises from corrosion of the surfaces of the pipes. However, physical actions too like wrong surface diagnosis might also interfere with possible present copper pipes.
However, corrosion being the main cause, here are some of the reasons that may lead to the same.
- High salt levels in the water: – the interior of the pipe reacts with the salt, changing the structure of the copper material. However, the process happens gradually over the years because copper materials maintain their resistance for quite some while.
- Increased dissolved oxygen levels: – this is one of the reasons that call for attention and replacement of oxygen copper pipes in hospitals. This happens because copper being a non-ferrous metal lacks iron so it hardly rusts. The process happens when oxygen molecules interact with copper surfaces and combine with the copper atoms forming the copper oxide.
However, as much as the hospital pipes might have been in existence for an extended time, the copper oxide might not disintegrate immediately; but with time, professional technicians need to be checking for traces of the oxide to make the oxygen pipe replacements.
- Poor installation of the copper pipes: – some technicians fail to consider the right procedures when installing the copper pipes because of different reasons. However, should you be replacing any copper pipes on your own, you need to be extra careful more so when handling the ends of the pipe. Some types of copper pipes have thin wall surfaces that are easily damageable by bending or mishandling them. Such cases too lead to leaking.
- High water velocity: – some water pump systems pipe hot water to different sections, but the rate at which the hot water flows from the pump forces its path through the walls of the copper pipes. This too tends to gradually eat up the top surface and exposing the pipes to any mineral or compound effects. While replacing such pipes, it is best to always note the nature of the content to flow in to use the most efficient type of pipe.
The replacement of these pipes varies depending on their different grades which determine their use within their respective systems. Copper pipes of these types are Types K, L, and M.
Type K Copper pipes
Due to their thick walls compared to the other types, they prove to be highly effective for HVAC systems and oil pipelines.
The type is also best for underground water lines due to their rigid and flexible forms. Because of its high thickness, it can withstand high pressure backfilled deep below the trenches.
Type L Copper Pipes
It is ideal for replacing old water lines in fire protection systems, interior plumbing, and HVAC installations. Compression and flare fittings can also be mountable on rigid and flexible versions of this type.
Type M copper pipes
Their common usage is in vacuum systems and for heating water services thanks to its thin walls. They are relatively inexpensive because of their thin wall, which also means that they contain less copper.
The reduced price of copper materials makes contractors and technicians cautious when buying them for construction.
If they are unsure of the guidelines for its use, they should check with the building authority’s guidelines.
Copper DWV Piping
These are old-school copper pipes that are currently being replaced by the other types. Their lower pressure rating makes it suitable for above-ground applications, however, they are yellow marked to differentiate them from the M type; all in the pursuit of total efficiency in the respective sector.
NOTE: In this case, depending on the copper pipes used, the pipe’s condition should be the best indicator as to whether its due for replacement. As long as they are not corroded, leaking, or have not ripped, there is no need to replace such pipes even after they have outlasted their usefulness.
In any case, it is good to be mindful of any coloration on the water flowing through a copper pipe, because oxidizing acids, heavy metal salts such as ammonia and sulfur, and other metal compounds can cause pipe damage.
There is a high probability that water piped from a well contains such compounds.
How Much Does It Cost to Replace Copper Pipes?
Copper pipes are usable in a variety of mechanical systems depending on their shape, size, and types. Additionally, copper’s usefulness is increasing with every passing day thanks to its wide range of applications in the world, so its demand is also increasing.
The copper pipe has expanded extensively from its early uses in air conditioning, heating, and refrigeration systems along with water supply pipes; to medical treatment, the delivery of medical gases, and solar energy solutions.
The fact that copper does not contaminate gases means that the pipes used in the medical sector are able to transmit clean oxygen.
Additionally, the capacity of the copper pipes to withstand high pressures and still maintaining its durability makes them important channels for gas transmissions across the world.
However, the pipes require special cleaning to meet the safety standards for oxygen and other medical gases transmission.
These applications may increase the costs of acquiring and replacing copper pipes, which is why it’s extremely important that you learn about some of these copper replacement techniques to save you money.
The varying factors that affect the price of copper pipes mean that the necessary pricing might not be the same for any copper pipe replacement or new installation.
Factors Contributing to Copper Pipes Prices
Considering copper’s corrosion-resistant qualities, ease of installation due to its ability to bend or curve, and long lifespan, copper pipes are extremely expensive. The entire replacement of these copper pipes depends on the following important factors.
- The number of fixtures: – These are the damaged sections on the copper pipes. In addition to determining whether it is a leak or burst, it is also important to consider areas that might have become weak due to the burst.
- Ease of access: – Copper pipes that need replacing can be either refrigeration cooling or air pipes, or water pipes deep between thick walls. Consequently, replacing a refrigerant copper pipe will cost almost nothing since all you will have to do is, pull the refrigerator off the wall.
In the event you need to replace water pipes in between thick walls, you must consider the extent of the damage made to the wall. This will include the cost of hiring someone to crack into the wall firmly without causing structural damage, as well as the cost of filling up the cracks
- Price of copper: – Copper’s price has been fluctuating across the years since its usefulness spread around the globe, but in the last couple of years, the price of copper fixtures has risen significantly.
- Geographic location:- areas with acidic water should have thick Type K copper pipes because the mineral compounds and the minerals in the water can erode the pipes easily.
- Local permit: – Permit fees may be required in certain cities for certain categories of re-piping projects. In such situations, the city’s building department determines fees. Furthermore, such cities have common code violations that incur extra fees for violators.
Generally, copper pipe replacement is not a difficult task; however, depending on the extent of the damage, the cost varies, but the outstanding features of the new pipes provide a warranty for long-term service.