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Old 01-05-2008, 08:26 PM   #1
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sprinklers - pure curiosity


why are water sprinkler lines always galvanized steel and never (as far as i have seen) copper ?

who wants to deal with darn threaded pipe when copper is so beautiful (for water) ... but i am sure there is an explanation.

thx,

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Old 01-05-2008, 08:51 PM   #2
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sprinklers - pure curiosity


The heat may seperate the connections.

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Old 01-05-2008, 09:07 PM   #3
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sprinklers - pure curiosity


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The heat may seperate the connections.
I doubt that's it. Try unsweating a copper pipe full of water. It isn't happening even with an oxy/acetlyne torch which burns hotter then a house fire ever will.
Maybe copper isn't rated for the pressure in the sprinkler system? Copper is going to be more prone to leaks at the higher pressures.

Last edited by Marlin; 01-05-2008 at 09:10 PM.
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Old 01-05-2008, 09:26 PM   #4
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sprinklers - pure curiosity


Some places they use copper for sprinklers but the main reason is cost, it's more than 20x the cost of steel (fittings/labor/solder/etc) installed . The only galvanized pipe for fire sprinklers is XL pipe which is schedule 10, black schedule 40 is the norm. Many guys use poly pipe now, it's the cheapest and easy for retrofits.
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Old 01-05-2008, 09:45 PM   #5
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sprinklers - pure curiosity


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Some places they use copper for sprinklers but the main reason is cost, it's more than 20x the cost of steel (fittings/labor/solder/etc) installed .
That's true today but thirty years ago steal was probably about the same price as copper once you work in labor. I can sweat a 3in joint much faster then I can thread and make up a 3in pipe, it's probably five minutes a joint faster to use copper on 3in. That's today, thirty years ago the threaders weren't as powerful as today, fifty years ago they would have been doing it by hand so copper would defiantly be a lot faster.
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Old 01-05-2008, 09:48 PM   #6
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sprinklers - pure curiosity


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Originally Posted by amakarevic View Post
why are water sprinkler lines always galvanized steel and never (as far as i have seen) copper ?

who wants to deal with darn threaded pipe when copper is so beautiful (for water) ... but i am sure there is an explanation.

thx,

- a -
It is a cost issue. Even before the fairly recent astronomical rise in copper prices, it was still many times the price of iron. Imagine the cost of two inch copper, which is often the size of the supply lines for a sprinkler system.
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Old 01-06-2008, 12:02 AM   #7
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sprinklers - pure curiosity


I don't know that copper looks any prettier over time unless it was varnished....but that is really funny because I first thought you meant lawn sprinklers....anyway most of the time fire sprinklers are covered by a drop ceiling so I guess I am wondering why the concern over pretty.
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Old 01-06-2008, 09:00 AM   #8
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That's true today but thirty years ago steal was probably about the same price as copper once you work in labor. I can sweat a 3in joint much faster then I can thread and make up a 3in pipe, it's probably five minutes a joint faster to use copper on 3in. That's today, thirty years ago the threaders weren't as powerful as today, fifty years ago they would have been doing it by hand so copper would defiantly be a lot faster.

I grew up in a family of plumbers and plumbing contractors. Copper has never been anywhere near the cost of iron pipe. I was doing piping thirty years ago and it was never done by hand. Even thirty years ago 3" was roll grooved at less than 10 minutes per joint, 3" copper fittings are estimated at 15 min per solder joint, 45 min for a tee connection. Most pipe over 2 1/2" would be grooved in the shop and just hung and clamped onsite. Sprinkler fitter companies buy pipe and fittings by the pound and not by the piece. Let's go with the facts here and not assumptions. It has always been about price.
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Old 01-06-2008, 11:27 AM   #9
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sprinklers - pure curiosity


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Originally Posted by bigMikeB View Post
I grew up in a family of plumbers and plumbing contractors. Copper has never been anywhere near the cost of iron pipe. I was doing piping thirty years ago and it was never done by hand. Even thirty years ago 3" was roll grooved at less than 10 minutes per joint, 3" copper fittings are estimated at 15 min per solder joint, 45 min for a tee connection. Most pipe over 2 1/2" would be grooved in the shop and just hung and clamped onsite. Sprinkler fitter companies buy pipe and fittings by the pound and not by the piece. Let's go with the facts here and not assumptions. It has always been about price.
I said fifty years ago it would have been done by hand, not thirty. I meant thirty years ago you didn't have a Ridgid 300 machine, you had something more bulky and probably slower.

It does not take 45 minutes to solder a 3in tee. If that's what it takes most people then I deserve a huge raise. I did forget about the roll grooving and was thinking of threading. I've seen plenty of sprinkler systems with 3in or larger threaded pipe though. In fact I just watched the steamfitters cut out a system with 4in threaded trunks. You're not going to thread or even roll groove and make up the fitting in ten minutes though.

How do you cut and groove the pipe in the shop? It has to be pretty difficult to get every measurement ahead of time then assemble it all on sight. Thats another benefit of copper, it's much easier to cut and solder on site then to cut black pipe and thread or roll groove on sight. That's a benefit copper has lost due to the large easially portable threaders though.

I wish I had a code book here, I bet copper isn't approved. The company I work for isn't licensed to do sprinkler work so I don't know for sure. The next time I see the steamfitters though I'm going to ask why copper wasn't used .

Last edited by Marlin; 01-06-2008 at 11:30 AM.
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Old 01-06-2008, 10:59 PM   #10
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sprinklers - pure curiosity


Copper is used for fire sprinkler work. Copper is more expensive, but gives better flow rates. Labor is less than steel.

CPVC is used for fire sprinkler work. The plastic is orange only and heavier than normal plastic. It is more expensive than normal plastic. It is cheaper than metal, lighter, better flow rates, faster to hang.

Black pipe, usually schedule 10, is lighter than 40. It does not last as long in dry systems. We see some start to rust out in 10 years or less. Schedule 5 is false economy. We normally replace 10 w/40. It is tough to get into attic spaces. We do charge more, but our customers are looking for quality, not cheap.

Galvanized is best for dry systems, wet can be black or galvanized. Again cheap rules.

We groove 2" and larger. We thread less than 2". I like Sock-it fittings because of hte labor savings, but they cost much more.

There is a difference in quality in pipe fittings. we use only domestic when available.


I did hear of a LDS Church job where the specs called for domestic pipe/fittings. The contractor used import. The building passed the local inspection, but not the church inspection. The contractor had to replace the sprinkler piping.

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