Alternative to Soldering Copper

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Copper tubing is the most durable, decorative and costly way to install water and drainage lines. One of the major drawbacks to copper installation is using hot solder to connect and seal copper tube to fittings, valves, fixtures and other tubes. Alternatives to breaking out the soldering iron can mean quick connects and disconnects for faster maintenance and replacements when necessary.

Threaded Fittings

  • Copper tube has a rather thin wall compared to steel or plastic tubing. It can be threaded, but the threads cannot be very deep. When threading copper tube, always plan on using a caulk or Teflon tape wrap to eliminate any gaps between a male and female threaded connection. The advantage of the threaded connection is attached valves or fittings can be quickly replaced when necessary. Just be sure to always use a sealant when putting the fitting back together. Threaded copper tube fittings should only be used for low-pressure drain lines and should be avoided when installing gas lines.

Swage Fittings

  • A swage connection is a fitting compressed into the copper tube and then a matching swage connection is compressed or threaded whatever way the copper tube is connected. Swage fittings are watertight and gas-tight but have the disadvantage of needing a swage compression tool and costly swage fittings. Also, once a swage fitting is attached, it's on the copper tuber permanently. The only way to remove it is to cut the copper tube. This will change the length of the tube and maybe require a replacement. Be sure where and what kind of swage fitting you want to install before doing the job. Swage connections are ideal for high-pressure installations of copper tube for water feed lines, gas lines or instrumentation tubing.

Crimp fittings

  • A crimp fitting is similar to a swage connection, only a ring is wrapped around the copper tube and crimped tight into place. Crimp fittings can attach copper to plastic, steel or other copper tubes and fittings. A hacksaw can cut a crimp fitting away to disconnect the copper tube and a new crimp ring is needed to reconnect. The advantage is the copper tube is not misshapen as with a swage tool. The disadvantage is if the crimp ring corrodes for any reason and fails, the crimp fitting could also fail. Crimp fittings are fine for water lines but should be avoided if running copper tube for gas lines.

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