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Pipes & Pipework: Lean, light, low-price pipework options

While copper fittings remain top of the heap for pipework, many people are turning to plastic. However, says Kathleen Bramwell, a new generation of lighter steel push-fit options are taking on plastics at their own game by offering low prices and fast assembly.
With the festive season over, thoughts tend to turn to New Year resolutions and the main one almost inevitably involves weight. It is no different in the world of fittings. When time is money, the challenge for manufacturers is to develop products with the advantages of traditional fittings and none of the perceived disadvantages in terms of installation time; and that means a focus on weight.

Copper has been king of the fittings world for more than 75 years and it remains popular because of its quality and durability. Copper is also fully recyclable.

Challenges to copper

Nonetheless, while copper justly remains number one, it was inevitable that challenges would come. Most people probably expect plastic to be the main challenger to copper fittings due to its lightweight features. In fact, there is also a metal challenger.

Our own Tectite Advance, for example, is made from carbon steel. It was conceived specifically to offer installers a viable light metal alternative to weighty screwed steel, that is both faster to install (leading to cost savings of up to 70 per cent) and, on average, up to 25 per cent lighter.

For concealed pipework in a residential environment, plastic pipe coupled with a push-fit metal fitting has many advantages, with the metal fitting providing the installer with a secure connection for both plastic pipe and copper tube. For exposed pipework, metal looks more attractive, and that's why many manufacturers have worked hard to ensure that the latest metal fittings are as visually attractive as they are functional and reliable.

Push-fit and press-fit have been developed to provide installers with the range of products they need to get the job done and the flexibility to tackle any task with no hot works permit and, perhaps more importantly, no compatibility issues.

The latest fittings can be used with a choice of pipes: press-fit is the perfect connection for copper while push-fit is suitable for both plastic pipe and copper tube; that is why many traditional metal fitting producers are now offering their customers the choice. Others, however, have taken these developments a stage further and begun to introduce hybrid multi-layered pipes.

No-one should underestimate the advantages of metals in both pipes and fittings.
Whenever you specify products, however, it is essential to check they offer all the relevant approvals. Look out for BSI on press-fit products for gas applications and WRAS for potable water applications, relevant requirements of prEN 1554-7 and the soon to be published BS 8537. It also pays to ensure the fittings have passed the High Temperature Leakage Rate test.

From traditional jointing methods to the convenience of push- and press-fit fittings, many specifiers and installers are going to want to make that choice based on the work involved. By specifying the right fittings for the job and choosing a trusted manufacturer from whom to source products and gain support, then it is possible to make real savings in both money and installation time.
27 January 2011


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