Furnace header pipes? ? ?


Recently we installed in our six-unit apartment building a new furnace. The installer was a reputable local company. The old header pipes -- those 6-inch pipes that come directly out of the boiler -- were replaced with new copper pipes.
A local guy who is something of a busibody and claims to be an expert on all things says this was a mistake. He said the copper pipes will begin leaking steam within 2 years and will have to be replaced with steel.
It makes no sense to me that a company with a good reputation would install a furnace that would fail in 2 years.
Still, I'm uneasy enough to ask if there's any remote validity to the busibody's prediction. I guess the question is whether the industry standard is copper or steel.
Any comments welcome.
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Ray wrote:

I'm assuming you had a steam or hot water boiler. A furnace usually is a hot air unit. If the new unit is steam, it's suppose to be all black steel pipe leaving the boiler. Copper pipes are not meant for steam. If however the new unit you installed is a hot -water baseboard sytem, then copper is the standard.
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Thanks Mike -- Our system is steam.
Why do you suppose a reputable company of long standing wouldn't use the standard?
Or perhaps the standard may have changed?
I guess if they installed a system which is truly incorrect and fails fairly quickly they might be open to a lawsuit.
-- Ray

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Ray wrote:

Unless the codes have changed or differ where you live, I always thought black steel was used for steam. Did you ask them why they used copper?
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I'm afraid I didn't ask. I have zero expertise in this area and simply accepted the word of the established company. It was only after it was installed that the building handyman said it should have been steel and that the copper would start leaking steam in two years.
I did check and find that the warranty on the piping is 5 years. That's reassuring.

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Many years ago, I used to work for a company that built heating coils for both steam and hot water heating, mostly industrial and commercial applications. We made them from copper. Only if the pressure was going to exceed 15 psi, we'd use cupro-nickel or brass. You are probably operating at less than 5 psi, maybe even less than that.
One reason he may have done it that way is the equipment needed to cut and thread 6" steel pipe. Most plumbers do not have it. Copper is much easier to work with in a residential setting. Large pipes have to be welded in place, a very expensive process. Many years ago, conditions were different, steel was cheaper steel pipe was common even for water supply. Live has changed.
As for the pipes lasting two years, I recently had a couple of coils repaired in a building that I manage. They were 30 years old and with a couple of joints re-soldered, back in operating condition. Tell the old fart to educate himself a bit more and mind his own business.
I don't think you have a problem.
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Thanks Ed -- That's reassuring. I also looked at the contract more closely and find that the piping is under warranty for 5 years.
The guy who did this installation is not just a plumber, but a leading heating and air conditioning company. I would think that he had state-of-the-art equipment.
He did tell me that after the contract was signed but before it was installed there was a sharp increase in copper prices and that hhe would lose money.
We are operating at 5 psi and have been told that we might go lower.
-- Ray

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If you really want the correct answer go to the Wall. http://forums.invision.net/index.cfm?CFApp=2
IMO, copper has no place in a steam system. The constant expansion (when the BOILER, not furnace is steaming) and contraction (when the boiler is cooling off) can cause early failure of the copper. Early in this case can be 5-10 years.
I do agree with an other poster that 6" pipe isn't easily threaded, but that's no excuse not to do it right.

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