six key reasons why aluminum piping


In the past decades of Engineering Industry, traditional piping solutions like GI, Mild Steel and Stainless Steel piping have been used to convey compressed air and other industrial gases. But, as these piping systems came with their own set of problems, users tries to experiment with alternate materials. Aluminum seemed to solve most of the problems.

However, joining Aluminum to Aluminum has always remained a challenge due to it’s inherent properties and stubbornness to bond only after having special welding techniques. With the advent of the push fit technology, Aluminum Piping gained popularity.

Black iron and galvanized steel pipe are two common types of pipe used for compressed air systems. More than 60% to 70% of all compressed air systems installed today use black iron or galvanized pipe, due to a variety of factors :

Contractors are familiar with these materials.
  • Material costs are low.
  • The pipe and compressed air system fittings are readily available.
  • Steel pipe is rated for high pressure.
  • There are, however, six key reasons why aluminum piping is a superior material to use for most compressed air installations today, each of which addresses a key disadvantage to traditional pipe systems.

    50% Installation Overheads only as compared to conventional piping Technologies .

    More time is needed to install a compressed air system when using steel pipe compared to installing a system using other materials. One factor behind this is that steel pipe must be threaded in order to join pipes and install the proper fittings. To properly thread steel pipe, you need special threading equipment and skilled workers to operate it. These workers cost more than unskilled workers, and that also drives up installation costs. Also remember that threading pipes is dirty work. You need 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 of debris.

    Modifying and maintaining a compressed air system made with steel pipe is more difficult than modifying and maintaining systems built from other materials. One reason for this is that steel pipe is much heavier than other materials. Because steel pipe is so heavy, it requires more labor (read as higher labor costs) to handle the piping while making modifications than it would to make modifications to a system made with other piping materials.

    Leakage Free Aluminum Piping

    Another issue with threaded connections is that they will inevitably leak. It’s been estimated that 25 – 30% compressed air is lost due to leaking assembly lines. This causes compressors to run harder and longer, driving up utility costs.

    Non Corrosive and contamination Free Aluminum Piping.

    A common problem with using steel pipe is that moisture inside the system will cause pipes to rust from the inside out. Even if your 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 problems, beginning with air flow restricted by a rough inner surface caked with deposits caused by corrosion build up. Additionally, loose scale deposits collect over time and create pressure drops. This makes the air compressor work harder to maintain the pressure of the system. In extreme cases, loose scale can completely clog a line or damage equipment connected to a line. Of course, corrosion and loose scale affects air quality and makes it unsuitable for applications that require clean air.

    Aluminum outperforms the Stainless Steel alternative

    Stainless Steel piping is another solution for compressed air systems and is attractive because it doesn’t corrode as much as a conventional GI or a MS pipe. While it cannot corrode, it doesn’t have pipe scaling like steel pipe. This means that a SS piping system will have fewer air flow problems and air cleanliness problems than a standard GI / MS steel pipe. But, SS piping solution comes with its own set of disadvantages, the biggest is the cost of Stainless Steel material itself. Every year, the price of SS increases by 15 - 20%, and subsequently, so did the price of SS pipe. Even though prices do drop sporadically, the fact remains that stainless steel pipe continues to be considerably more expensive than steel pipe.

    Another disadvantage is that fittings must be welded, and this causes its own set of problems. Welding of course requires an open flame, making this a safety issue in some environments. And, welding requires some skill to accomplish, an increasing problem in an era when skilled labor is becoming harder to find. If a joint is not welded properly, it will leak, and leaks increase energy costs. Aluminum piping does gain popularity in this regard as the fittings can be removed from the pipe in a jiffy and re-assembled back immediately without having to use any special tools or external force. A factory done 10 years back with aluminum piping can easily relocate its operations using the same piping system with minimum effort and same materials resulting in enormous savings in resources. Finally, not all types of SS piping are suitable for use with high air pressures. So, if you’re planning to use SS, you have to make sure that you choose a pipe that can handle the pressure. Threaded stainless steel pipe can be difficult to seal, often requiring the use of lubricants to thread correctly. Welding stainless steel drives up installation costs and safety concerns through the need of a skilled welder, and the added risk of smoke inhalation, damage to eye sight, and fire.

    PVC present obstacles in durability

    While steel pipe and GI/ MS pipe is the two most widely used materials for compressed air systems, you will also sometimes find systems that use PVC / Plastic pipe and stainless steel pipe. In fact, it is against OSHA standards and highly dangerous to use PVC / Plastic pipe for compressed air systems. PVC becomes brittle over time and may explode when transporting air under high pressure.

    Aluminum pipe’s corrosion-resistant properties mean optimal air flow, reduced energy costs, and better air quality.

    In recent years, aluminum piping has become a solid alternative to other piping materials for compressed air systems. Compared to the materials described above, installing a compressed air system using aluminum piping offers many advantages:

    Aluminum pipe systems are much easier to install and to modify than steel or copper pipe systems. Labor savings of 50% can be achieved, since aluminum pipe is supplied ready for use. No particular preparations beyond cutting, deburring, and chamfering are required, nor are special tools needed. Aluminum pipe is calibrated, meaning that its diameter is strictly controlled. This means that associated quick connect components will fit securely, and each connection is automatically secured. Aluminum pipe is much lighter than steel pipe or copper pipe. This also reduces installation and modification costs. Another factor that makes aluminum pipe systems easier to install and modify is that it doesn’t require threading or soldering. The compressed air provided by a system built with aluminum piping is much cleaner than air delivered by a steel pipe system. Aluminum pipe systems can help meet the requirements of ISO 8573-1: 2010 air quality standards, should the application require it. Cleaner air also means lower maintenance costs. The fittings used with aluminum pipe systems fit securely and leak far less than the fittings used with threaded systems. This translates directly into energy savings and improved plant productivity. Naturally, there are some disadvantages. For example, material costs are higher for aluminum pipe systems compared to steel pipe systems. Also, durability of Alulminum piping is not as ribust as a steel welded system, so supports and harness is a mandate when installing the piping and you have to ensure that no long gaps are left in between two supports. The working pressure for aluminum is 450 PSI at 115 degrees. But, tests are done at a whopping 5000 psi 140 Deg C to confirm durability of the system under punishing conditions. Overall, for many applications, aluminum piping is a solid alternative for compressed air systems which really saves a enormous amount of physical as well as actual Power consumption year on year which can be also measured in terms of almost 25 – 30% Kw savings in the companies energy management costs.

    Proprietary material from PNEUMSYS ADVANCE ENERGY SOLUTIONS