Lowering Installation Costs
When it comes to a compressed air system, more time is needed to install the system when using steel pipe compared to installing a system using other materials.
One factor behind this is that steel pipe needs to be threaded to join pipes and install the proper fittings.
Properly threading steel pipe requires special threading equipment and skilled workers to operate it.
Not only do these workers cost more than unskilled workers, it also drives up installation costs.
Also, threading pipes is dirty work requiring cutting fluids to get a good thread, and that must be cleaned from the pipe before you can start using the system.
Threading also creates a lot debris.
Modifying and maintaining a compressed air system made with steel pipe is more challenging than modifying and maintaining systems built from other materials.
One reason for this is that steep pipe is much heavier than other materials. Steel pipe also so heavy, so it requires more labor to handle the piping
while making modifications than it would to make modifications to a system made with other piping materials.
Minimizing System Leaks
Another problem with threaded connections is that they will inevitably leak. It has been estimated that eight to ten percent of the compressed air in a system will leak
through connections, causing compressors to run harder and longer. This can drive up utility costs as a result.
Aluminum Piping Doesn’t Corrode
A common issue with using steel pipe is that moisture inside the system will cause pipes to rust from the inside out. Even if the compressed air system has a moisture trap,
there will be some moisture in the system and corrosion will occur. Even galvanized steel pipe will corrode, as not all pipes are galvanized both inside and out.
Corrosion causes several issues, beginning with air flow restricted by a rough inner surface caked with deposits caused by corrosion build up. In addition,
loose scale deposits collect over time and create pressure drops, making the air compressor work harder to maintain the pressure of the system. In extreme scenarios,
loose scale can completely clog a line or damage equipment connected to a line.
Of course, corrosion and loose scale affects air quality, making it unsuitable for applications that require clean air.
Aluminum Outperforms the Copper Alternative
Another solution for compressed air systems is copper. Copper is attractive because it doesn’t corrode as much as steel pipe. It can corrode, but it doesn’t have pipe scaling like steel pipe,
which means that a copper system will have fewer air flow problems and air cleanliness problems than steel pipe. However, it can still experience flow restriction over time.
A copper solution still comes with its own set of disadvantages, though. One of the biggest being the cost of copper material itself.
The price of copper increased by 20 percent in October of 2011, and subsequently, so did the price of copper pie. Prices have since dropped,
but the fact remains that copper pipe continues to be considerably more expensive than steel pipe.
Another downside is that fitting must be soldered, and this causes its own set of issues. Soldering requires an open flame,
which makes this a safety issue in some environments. Solder also requires some skill to accomplish, an increasing problem in an era when skilled labor is becoming harder to find.
If a joint is not properly soldered, it will leak, and leaks increase energy costs.Lastly, not all types of copper piping are suitable for use with high air pressures.
So, if you are planning to use copper, you need to ensure that you choose a pipe that can handle the pressure.