Copper Pipe Electrolysis

 
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Old 01-26-2018, 05:46 PM   #1
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Copper Pipe Electrolysis


This house had it all...copper in contact with duct work, AC cable, gas pipe, a couple of stray dissimilar metal hangers, improper grounding of the main panel, no water meter or water heater bonding...you name it, it seemed to have it...including quite a nasty leak.

All kinds of work going on here...
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Old 01-26-2018, 06:00 PM   #2
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Re: Copper Pipe Electrolysis


Last picture should be saved as proof of how badly copper corrodes on the inside.

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Old 01-26-2018, 06:23 PM   #3
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Re: Copper Pipe Electrolysis


There ought to be some rules on how to join dissimilar metals.....
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Old 01-26-2018, 07:12 PM   #4
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Re: Copper Pipe Electrolysis


We maintain a house for a customer and about once year a copper pipe joint will just break open. The house is only 10 years old. We surmise that there was a bad batch of solder used or there is electrolysis going on.
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Old 01-26-2018, 09:30 PM   #5
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Re: Copper Pipe Electrolysis


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Originally Posted by DaVinciRemodel View Post
We surmise that there was a bad batch of solder used or there is electrolysis going on.
Is it on a well? I've dealt with a couple of houses in the past, fairly close to each other, where acidic water was the problem. A water treatment system settled things down.
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Old 01-26-2018, 09:34 PM   #6
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Re: Copper Pipe Electrolysis


No well. Betting the copper is in contact with the ductwork somewhere.
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Old 01-27-2018, 06:55 AM   #7
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Re: Copper Pipe Electrolysis


Sometimes excessive flux is the culprit and not wiping the joint nice. Duct work contact has a bad effect but regular galvanized pipe or straps seem to not matter as much.

Many times I gut a bathroom and open the wall and to my surprise have not rotted after yrs or so.
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Old 01-27-2018, 06:22 PM   #8
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Re: Copper Pipe Electrolysis


Quote:
Originally Posted by DaVinciRemodel View Post
We maintain a house for a customer and about once year a copper pipe joint will just break open. The house is only 10 years old. We surmise that there was a bad batch of solder used or there is electrolysis going on.
Do you mean pin holing?...or joints letting loose.
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Old 01-27-2018, 07:17 PM   #9
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Re: Copper Pipe Electrolysis


Quote:
Originally Posted by Tom M View Post
Sometimes excessive flux is the culprit and not wiping the joint nice. Duct work contact has a bad effect but regular galvanized pipe or straps seem to not matter as much.

Many times I gut a bathroom and open the wall and to my surprise have not rotted after yrs or so.
I would agree, although it only takes 9 volts of stray current for electrolysis to begin. It seems dissimilar metal contact is localized to the affected areas and I have seen plenty of contact pinholes in these scenarios albeit it seems they take a long time to happen.

The duct work plays a huge part due to the static charge...other issues like non water soluble flux (too much applied), the failure to debur, excess water pressure, fittings placed to close to one another and mineral deposits from past water heaters also need to be considered.

In this particular case, only the cold water pipe was affected, the hot was fine. It's a 1950's row home...all original copper. They used a mix of type L soft and straight runs were red label.

Most of the copper here ended up going and being replaced with blue label and type L soft. My sparky stopped over and corrected all the bonding and ground issues and fix some corrosion on the main breaker and a few more below. Seems water was chasing the SEU cable from the meter and being piped right into the service panel.

I cut some pipe open, both hot and cold. The hot side was in good shape for 60+ years...the cold side you can see lost it's green protective patina where the pinholes were occurring.
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Old 01-28-2018, 07:01 AM   #10
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Re: Copper Pipe Electrolysis


Quote:
Originally Posted by superseal View Post
Do you mean pin holing?...or joints letting loose.
Pin holing.
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Old 01-28-2018, 07:53 AM   #11
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Re: Copper Pipe Electrolysis


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Originally Posted by DaVinciRemodel View Post
Pin holing.
That is normally caused by the plumber not reaming the inside of the pipe. Turbulence is caused when the water hits the shoulder, the swirl wears away the pipe.

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Old 01-28-2018, 08:39 AM   #12
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Re: Copper Pipe Electrolysis


how did you distinguish between water quality issue and electrolysis ?

I had this discussion with an electrical inspector last week on one of my jobs where he noticed green on a pipe. He lived nearby and said many in the area switched to CPVC, him included. He knows his house is properly grounded and attributed it to water quality.
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Old 01-28-2018, 09:21 AM   #13
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Re: Copper Pipe Electrolysis


Quote:
Originally Posted by DaVinciRemodel View Post
We maintain a house for a customer and about once year a copper pipe joint will just break open. The house is only 10 years old. We surmise that there was a bad batch of solder used or there is electrolysis going on.
Building in downtown Ottawa isn't even a decade old and has at least a pipe burst each year. Culprit has been ring solders by shoddy plumbers.
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Old 01-28-2018, 09:28 AM   #14
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Re: Copper Pipe Electrolysis


We had a leak in one of the bays where my shop is. The sweat joint just popped off. You could see that the solder didn't penetrate the joint. Not enough flux or bad technique. Either way, the pipe should burst before the joint should pop.
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Old 01-28-2018, 09:32 AM   #15
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Re: Copper Pipe Electrolysis


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We had a leak in one of the bays where my shop is. The sweat joint just popped off. You could see that the solder didn't penetrate the joint. Not enough flux or bad technique. Either way, the pipe should burst before the joint should pop.
Sounds like a ring solder, looks like a nice joint, doesn't leak at first, but it's a ticking time bomb.
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Old 01-28-2018, 09:51 AM   #16
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Re: Copper Pipe Electrolysis


My house was re-plumbed from copper to pvc 20 years ago. Pin hole leaks would develop in the middle of an 8' run.

The only thing that is still copper is the piping at the boiler. It has to be metal 24" before a transition to pvc can start.

I get pinhole leaks at least once a year...in the middle of a piece or at the outside edge of an elbow.

I just asked the guys that worked on the boiler what could be done and they pretty much said...nothing...it was because of the well water.

PITA. i even bought a wifi water detection gizmo and put it on the floor next to the boiler. Works great but I wish I didn't have to worry about it in the first place.
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Old 01-28-2018, 09:54 AM   #17
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Re: Copper Pipe Electrolysis


Quote:
They used a mix of type L soft and straight runs were red label.

Most of the copper here ended up going and being replaced with blue label and type L soft.
It was my understanding that K was the strongest and used for gas L was the second strongest and M is the softest and was the most likely susceptible to corrosion by electrolysis due to the thin walls.

As I understood it if you weren't using gas then you could use any of the pipes safely would just be more expensive to the installer.
Is this more to it?
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Old 01-28-2018, 09:56 AM   #18
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Re: Copper Pipe Electrolysis


Often L is even specified on plans because if it's heavier gauge.
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Old 01-28-2018, 09:59 AM   #19
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Re: Copper Pipe Electrolysis


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Sounds like a ring solder, looks like a nice joint, doesn't leak at first, but it's a ticking time bomb.
That's exactly what it was. You could see a small bit of solder got into the joint. I'm sure they used flux, and where it got hot enough drew the solder in. But the majority was on the edge of the fitting.

My guess was they heated the pipe and not the fitting.
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Old 01-28-2018, 10:24 AM   #20
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Re: Copper Pipe Electrolysis


No excuse for bad solder joints if You're using a torch that's up to the task.

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