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
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.
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.
Thanks Mike -- Our system is steam.
Why do you suppose a reputable company of long standing wouldn't use the
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
We are operating at 5 psi and have been told that we might go lower.
If you really want the correct answer go to the Wall.
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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