According to some estimates, copper corrosion costs the United States more than $1 billion a year.
Besides actual piping failure, the telltale blue stains the oxidized copper leaves on sinks, tubs, and fixtures can identify copper corrosion.
Often laundry and even blonde hair can be tinted blue. Copper can be toxic, and water-containing levels over 1.0 mg/L should not be used for drinking.
If there are iron pipes present, the water can be colored rust or reddish and contain metallic or sulfur odors and sediment. Corrosion can cause the piping to fail, sometimes in less than 10 years!
What is Corrosion?
Corrosion is “the deterioration of a substance or its properties due to a reaction with its environment.” In plain words, the metal from the piping dissolves into the water as a result of various causes, causing pipe failure and corrosion of water heaters, appliances, and fixtures.
In plumbing systems, corrosion is due to physical and chemical reactions between the pipe material and water.
(If want to learn more about Copper Corrosion and water, check this post out.)
Top 9 Causes Of Copper Corrosion Problems
1. Low pH (acid water less than 7.0)
2. High pH (alkaline water greater than 8.5)
3. High levels of dissolved oxygen
4. High levels of salts dissolved in the water (total dissolved solids)
5. Corrosion-causing bacteria such as sulfate or iron bacteria
6. Electrochemical causes, such as improper grounding of electrical appliances to the copper piping, and/or lightning strikes through utility poles grounding wires
7. High velocity of water, relative to the size of piping, causing hydraulic wear on the piping, sometimes found in circulating hot water systems using pumps
8. Sand, sediment, or other grit in the water causing hydraulic wear on the piping
9. Improper installation of copper piping by failure to properly de-burr or ream the ends of the pipe and/or the use of excessive acid flux when soldering the pipes.
What Can Be Done to Stop Copper Corrosion in Homes
- Identify the source and severity of the problem by inspection of the piping system and getting an accurate water analysis, especially if you are on well water.
- Verify if there are unnecessary electrical appliances or wiring connected to the piping and if the piping system is properly grounded to earth ground. Verify to make sure that there is electrical continuity throughout the piping system. For instance, the copper piping should not be separated electrically by plastic water filters, sections of plastic pipe, plastic water softener bypass valves, etc. Install jumper cable around these items.
- Get a Corrosion Test Kit with Copper TestsCheck for pH, hardness, alkalinity, temperature, and total dissolved solids, and calculate LSI (Langelier Saturation Index) to see if the water is aggressive or corrosive.
- Cut out sections of the copper piping, cut in half, and inspect the type of corrosion present and for signs of poor workmanship by the installers. Replace copper pipe if necessary.
- Install a calcite neutralizer tank, or a soda ash feeder to raise the pH to 7.2 to 8.0 to correct for low pH and increase the alkalinity in the water.
- Set up a phosphate feeder before the copper piping. Phosphate can coat the piping and reduce corrosion effects by coating the interior surfaces of the piping with food-grade phosphate, causing an insulation surface to be built up.
- In case of high total dissolved solids (over 1000 ppm) install a whole house reverse osmosis system, followed by a calcite neutralizer.
- Install a chlorinator or ozone system to disinfect the water before it enters the home if your water has bacteria and/or sulfur odors.
- On City Water? If your water is supplied to you by a municipal utility, then the first place to start is by calling your water utility and reporting the problem. If this is an isolated case and none of your neighbors are having a corrosion problem, you should suspect that the cause is either improper grounding, stray currents, or improper installation of the copper pipe. Get a good home test kit with copper tests so you can do your own testing at home.
- On Well Water? The first task you should do, if you take your water from a private well, is to get an accurate water analysis. The water analysis should be for pH, total hardness, alkalinity, total dissolved solids, iron, manganese, nitrate, chloride, sulfate, and copper. Measure temperature as well.
More ways to prevent corrosion
Plumbing engineers and system designers can significantly reduce pipe corrosion by making simple design adjustments.
- Minimize velocity. Use larger diameter piping to keep velocities low:
Cold line velocity should be less than 8 feet per second
Hotlines should be less than 4 feet per second.
- Minimize hot water temperature. Make sure return lines in a circulating hot water system have the same diameter as the supply lines.
- Avoid stagnant sections; minimize direction and size changes.
- Specify low-corrosivity water-flushable fluxes
- Avoid stagnant sections
- Minimize direction and size changes
- Prevent electrical currents by grounding directly to a copper rod driven into the earth. Do not attach a grounding wire to water pipes other than the main pipe ground. Route wires away from water pipes and don’t use galvanized nails that touch copper piping. CAUTION: This may need to be done by a qualified electrician.
- Avoid induced stresses – provide enough pipe support and allow for thermal expansion.
- Consider non-copper pipe (e.g., PEX or stainless steel) wherever its use is permitted.
- Use non- or low-lead faucets, valves, and appurtenances. Use low-flow fixtures and appliances and aeration faucet outlets.
- Choose fluxes that meet ASTM B813 standard.
- Specify that copper tube and fittings be installed according to ASTM B828-92 standards
- Emphasize careful reaming of the cut ends to reduce turbulence. Plumbing inspectors and the Copper Development Association both report that un-reamed tubing corrodes and fails much more quickly than tubing which is properly reamed.
- Use correct ASTM B813 fluxes. Using excess flux or a corrosive flux cause early pipe failures.
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Here are nine of our favorite simple tricks and tips to save you plumbing headaches around the house.
To save you time, money and headaches down the road, we collected our favorite tips and tricks for solving common household plumbing problems. Most of these tips make use of things that cost less than $20 and these tips could save you an expensive service call.
By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine
Stop sink-sprayer hang-ups
Use pipe insulation to prevent sprayer snarls
If you have to jiggle the hose as you pull out your kitchen sink sprayer, chances are the hose is catching on the shutoff valves. For smooth operation, slip 1/2-in. foam pipe insulation over the pipes and shutoff handles. Tape it if it won’t stay put. Get the insulation at home centers for about $3.
Silence creaking pipes
Wrap pipes in adhesive-backed felt
Running hot water can cause copper pipes to expand and grind against pipe hangers and joists. So pick up some adhesive-backed felt at the hardware store and cut it into strips. Then remove each hanger and wrap the pipe before refastening the hanger.
Quiet loud sinks
Deaden sounds with expanding foam
Fill the space between two stainless steel sink basins with expanding foam. The foam deadens vibrations and lessens the gong effect. It’s possible to do this with the sink in place but much neater and easier before installation. Either way, let the foam harden and then trim away the excess with a knife.
Use a shop vacuum to remove hard objects
When a hard object like a toothbrush, comb or toy plugs a toilet or drain, a plunger may not be the solution—it might only push the obstruction in deeper. Instead, suck out the water and the obstruction with a wet/dry shop vacuum.
Use a strong magnet to find hidden pipes
When trying to locate a pipe under the floor, attach a rare earth (neodymium) magnet to an electrical fish tape and feed it into drain lines through the cleanout plug. Locate the magnet (and the pipe) under the floor using an ordinary compass, which will turn wildly when it finds the strong magnet.
Use a bucket of water to flush the toilet
You don’t have to run to the neighbor’s bathroom during a plumbing project. Before you turn off the water supply, fill 2- gallon buckets with water. Flush the toilet by dumping the water in the bowl. You’ll get one flush per bucket. Works just as well as the usual method, although it won’t refill the bowl.
Next best thing to X-ray vision
Take a picture before closing up walls
Your walls may not have much inner beauty, but it’s a good idea to take pictures of what’s inside during remodeling. The same goes for floors and ceilings. When your next remodeling or repair project rolls around, you’ll know where the framing and the electrical and plumbing lines are.
Empty the trap
Plunge water first before removing the trap
Before you remove a sink trap, give the drain a few plunges with a toilet plunger. This will push most of the water out of the trap, lessening the mess when you pull the trap. If you have a double sink, be sure to plug the other drain to contain the air pressure. If the strainer isn’t a screw-down style, you’ll have to hold it down while you plunge the drain.
Get a look at hidden spaces
Whether you’re remodeling or just running wire, knowing what’s inside the walls is helpful.
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June 4, 202
Before 1902, humans adopted creative ways of staying cool during hot summers. The ancient Egyptians hung wet reed mats in their windows that created a cooling effect when the wind blew through. Ancient Romans went so far as to pump cold water from aqueducts through the walls of elite homes.
These days you need only turn your thermostat dial for sweet heat relief in your home. But what exactly happens when you turn that magic dial? And how do you fix your AC when it doesn’t click on? Mike Diamond is the fresh smelling man with the answers to all things cool. We’ll cover the parts of a home ac system and explain how the air conditioning system in your house works. If your AC isn’t working, we’ll troubleshoot the common reasons why.
Who invented Air Conditioning (and the summer blockbuster)?
The man credited with inventing air conditioning as we know it is Willis Carrier. At the turn of the 20th century, he had an epiphany while standing on a train platform. He realized that humidity could be removed from air causing it to feel colder. Willis built a system of ice chilled coils that kept mills and printing companies cool during hot industrial workdays.
Stuart Cramer invented a ventilation device around the same time that was used in textile plants to distribute cool vapor to hot air. He was also the person to coin the term “air conditioning.” In 1925 he invented a more efficient version of his device for a movie theater. Soon his device was in theaters across the country. Ever since, Americans have flocked to the movies to escape the summer heat and thus was born the summer blockbuster season.
How Does Air Conditioning Work?
Modern air conditioning works via the physical principal of phase transition. This law states that when a liquid converts to a gas, it absorbs heat energy. Like when you boil water to create steam.
The liquid in this instance is a refrigerant or chemical compound that evaporates and condenses over and over to cool your home. The refrigerant starts as a liquid that travels through an evaporation coil inside your home. As the liquid evaporates it absorbs heat and, in this case, that heat is from warm air from your home. As the heat is removed, the resulting cool air is distributed back into your home.
The used refrigerant gas is then sent to your air conditioner compressor – that’s the big unit outside – where it is compressed back into a liquid. The hot air that is a byproduct of the process (remember phase transition) is vented outside and the condenser aids the compressor in sending the liquid refrigerant back to the evaporator coil where the cycle begins all over again.
How HVAC Systems Work
HVAC stands for heating, ventilation and air conditioning. Your home’s central air takes advantage of the existing ducts and vents in your home that are also used by your furnace during colder months.
After warm air travels over the evaporation coil and is cooled, fans blow the chilled air through your ducts and vents to reach every room of your home. This network delivers cold air evenly and efficiently throughout your home.
The thermostat connected to your HVAC system regulates all temperatures for both your heating and air conditioning. Each system responds based on the setting you input. Having one central control makes it easy to stay comfortable all year long.
Why Won’t My Air Conditioner Work?
Like any piece of equipment, air conditioners are subject to break down and failure. Common reasons air conditioners malfunction include:
- No power.
- Blown fuse or tripped circuit.
- No signal from the thermostat.
- Too hot outside to keep up.
- Dirty or blocked air condenser.
- Dirty air filter.
- Broken fan.
- Problems with refrigerant.
- Unit not the right size for your home.
- Older unit (10+ years).
- Leaky air ducts.
Some of these issues are easier to address than others. If your air conditioner is not working, make sure its receiving power. Check that the circuit isn’t tripped and that your thermostat has fresh batteries. Then make sure your filter is clean and check your compressor for obstructions like brush or grass. If you’re still having problems, it may be time to have a professional technician look at it.
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