Solderless Copper Pipe Fittings: Less Work, Better Results
Solderless copper pipe fittings are growing increasingly popular due to a shortage in the basic skills of welding and plumbing assembly. Indeed, welding skills are, it seems, growing rarer by the year within the general public, a trend that seems to be linked to decreasing interest in home DIY work, which underwent its heyday as a hobby in the seventies and eighties. Perhaps people are becoming less practical-minded, or perhaps most people are now so used to the efficient functioning of the technologies around them that having an interest in something as mundane as how water flow is controlled seems ridiculous. Whatever the case, solderless copper pipe fittings represent a solution for those used to snap-together, ready-made technologies.
The majority of homes today still use copper piping in some way, often primarily to control the water running out of the geyser which, due to its temperature, may exceed that with which an ordinary 3-Inch PVC pipe (which, it seems, are replacing copper in the majority of applications elsewhere in plumbing systems) can cope. Yet any home DIY enthusiast hoping to be able to repair a leak themselves may be surprised or even disappointed to discover that the majority of copper pipes are welded into place, by means of relatively simple processes that nonetheless might seem somewhat intimidating to the dilettante. For instance, sweat fittings are put together by sliding a solder fitting, such as a tee, threaded adaptor or coupler, onto a pipe like the sleeve of a jacket. To do this properly, you’ll require is a bit of flux and a paint brush, some lead-free plumbing solder, a torch, the pipe and the fitting. This isn’t intended to be a how-to guide (you’ll find plenty of those within a few seconds of searching Google) but in essence what you need to do to affix a sweat fitting is apply some flux, heat the solder, slip the pipe and fitting together and solder over the seam.
A somewhat more foolproof solution for soldering copper waterpipe is to use EZ sweat fittings, which come with a ring around the connecting ends of pipe that are pre-filled with solder, meaning all you need to do is apply some flux, slide the fitting and pipe into place, and heat them up with a soldering iron or blowtorch.
As for truly, 100% solderless copper pipe fittings, compression fittings are suitable for basic plumbing use, and require no more than a spanner to fit. Essentially, in a compression fitting, the construction is arranged so that the pipe slides into the seat end of the fitting, which takes the form of a sleeve. When you tighten the bolts on either side of the sleeve, it compresses, forming what will hopefully be a watertight seal. This method is easy to execute, but should only really be used on pipes of smaller diameters - 10mm coper pipe represents the maximum size at which this technology remains feasible and reliable.
For solderless copper pipe fittings of any greater diameter, you’ll want to go for products from the Sharkbite brand. They’re expensive, no two ways about it, but for the money you get fittings that are fast and easy to fit. All you need to do is slide them into place – you won’t need to seal them together, or use any tools to ensure that they hold in place. What they use is a pretty ingenious design incorporating O-rings, one that allows them to rotate within their fittings without coming undone. These can also be reused, a fact that without question makes them the ideal choice for anyone looking for solderless copper pipe fittings.