Copper plumbing is extremely common -- it is found in homes and buildings across the United States. However, there are several problems with copper plumbing that are so serious, it has been banned in some areas.
Corrosion and Leaks
Copper is relatively resistant to corrosion. But like any other metal, it will corrode under the right conditions. This happens when the copper oxidizes from contact with other substances. Pinhole leaks are the result of such corrosion. Toolbase Services reports that pinhole leaks were cited by the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC) as being most common in horizontal coldwater pipes. Plumbing contractor Gary Cage says these leaks can be very costly; after three or four pinhole leaks are found, a full system replacement is recommended, which can cost up to $6,500. The older the house or building, the more likely it is that corrosion and pinhole leaks will occur. This is something to think about if you rent or own a home or other structure that is 30 years old or more.
As copper corrodes, tiny bits of metal, often microscopic, leach into the water as it flows through the pipe. This can lead to diarrhea and vomiting, and cause the water to have a metallic taste.
Freezing and Breaking
When exposed to cold temperatures, copper pipes may freeze. If water freezes in the line, it will expand and the pipe will burst. Plastic piping is not prone to breakage as much because it gives more than metal does.
Water that is too acidic tends to worsen corrosion problems in copper pipes. This is a particular problem for rural areas, because well water tends to have a lower pH than city water.
Copper piping (and other metal piping) will scale over time, meaning that material builds up inside the pipe until the diameter is gradually decreased. In severe cases, the copper piping may scale to the point of blocking the water.
Despite the problems with copper plumbing, it has its are advantages too. For instance, copper doesn't release toxic gases if burned in a house fire, is recyclable and is resistant to ultraviolet rays. It is also resistant to bacteria. The high cost of copper may be worth these benefits. Keeping the benefits as well as the disadvantages of copper piping in mind will help you to make a more informed decision about what piping type is best for you.
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