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Choosing the Right Materials and Types of Pipes and Valves

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Reliable piping and valve systems start with great materials. One of the most important elements of a safe and easily-maintained system is the composition of metals. By selecting the appropriate metal – whether steel, copper, Stainless Steel, PVC, CPVC, and aluminum – fluids within the system stay contained and the system itself works more efficiently. When you are seeking pipe or valve system materials, keep the following considerations and factors in mind.

Pipe Material Selection

Pipe exteriors must be able to withstand demanding surrounding conditions, such as high and ambient temperatures, different levels of humidity, and some degree of wear. Due to these conditions, it is essential to consider the type of fluid contained within the system, the internal temperatures, and the internal pressure.

Type of Fluid

Corrosive fluids can quickly wear down a steel system. Instead, it may be more advantageous to use resilient metals such as stainless steel or CPVC. While carbon steel can handle common non-corrosive fluid loop materials, such as nitrogen or lube oil, opt for corrosion-resistant systems when the fluids include:

  • Acids
  • Ammonia
  • Crude oil
  • H2S
  • Seawater

Internal Temperature

Heightened temperatures can create a buildup of energy and pressure within the system, agitating the fluid within. Extreme temperatures also impact the elongation, resistance, and tensile strength of the metal pipes. This applies to both high and low temperature systems involved in refrigeration and cryogenics.

Internal Pressure

If pipes must sustain high temperatures or high levels of pressure, they must in turn be thicker to reduce the risk of leaks and damage. Varying levels of pressure can also impact the pipes’ elasticity, fatigue resistance, and overall strength. These characteristics need to remain stable, especially at connection points and valve fittings.

While certain pipe systems can also be fabricated with nonmetal materials such as polyvinyl chloride (PVC), chlorinated polyvinyl chloride (CPVC), the most common metal materials are:

  • Cast Iron. It is used in underground systems where variations in pressure and potential pipe blockages have less impactful effect. Many sewer and stormwater systems employ cast iron.
  • Copper. Copper is corrosion-resistant, lighter than steel, and has a relatively simple installation process. However, it comes at a higher cost, so it is usually applied towards domestic and hydronic systems.
  • Carbon Steel. Used in closed hydronic systems because it can handle high temperatures and pressure levels. However, carbon steel is heavy and corrodes easily when not properly treated.
  • Galvanized Steel. This type of steel is covered in a layer of zinc to give it the same advantages of regular steel, but with improved resistance to corrosion. Because of this, it tends to be priced higher than other materials. It is an ideal material for wetting and drying processes.
  • Stainless Steel. There are multiple varieties of stainless steel, each of which possesses steel’s characteristics and strong resistance to corrosion. Stainless steel pipes are usually constructed with 304 SS, which has 18% chromium and 8% nickel added during fabrication.

While some metals may be more expensive than others, their benefits often end up saving a lot of time and effort down the road, such as reducing downtime, repairs, and replacements caused by corrosion or breakage. Investing in a stronger, more damage-resistant material will set up your piping system for long-term success.

Valve Material Selection

As with pipes, choosing proper materials for valves keeps the system in better condition and extends its functional lifespan. Cost is certainly an important consideration when selecting these materials. Most industrial valves are constructed from the options below:

  • 316 Stainless Steel. Similarly to pipes constructed from 304 SS, 316 SS offers superior corrosion resistance. However, it is notably a pricier choice.
  • Brass or Bronze. Brass and bronze are lower-cost and decently corrosion resistant. They are commonly employed as valve materials, which means that they can be easily sourced and replaced when needed.
  • Ductile Iron. It can absorb shock in the system from varying pressure levels. It is also widely available and inexpensive. However, it is more vulnerable to corrosion.
  • Inconel. It is a great choice for withstanding hot, corrosive fluids. Its composition consists of chromium, iron, and sometimes nickel, with chromium having the highest percentage.
  • Monel. This alloy is made from copper and nickel. Like Inconel, it resists corrosion well. Many facilities prefer this material for valve trim cladding.

Valve Type Selection

As with pipes, choosing a fitting type of valve is essential to proper functionality and lifespan. There are many different kinds of valves, such as Ball, Butterfly, Check, Gate, Globe, Needle, Pinch, and Plug, each of which has various specs available. Selecting the correct type of valve really does make a big difference in the operation of the system.

Pipe and Valve Services at Base Construction

Carefully choosing your pipe or valve system’s materials makes all the difference in the maintenance demands and lifespan of the system. Using higher-quality and corrosion-resistant materials from the outset can reduce maintenance costs, facility downtime, and replacement costs.

We at Base Construction build on over 20 years of experience in pipe and valve installation and material selection for many kinds of facilities, and we have completed over 1,000 projects since our inception. Contact us today with details of your project, and we will help you choose the best materials for your needs.

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