Soldering iron is basically the easiest and most common method to join copper pipes. However, there are often instances where soldering cannot be used and other methods have to be applied to join copper pipes. Some of the available options include use of copper glue, compression coupling and the relatively new quick connect installation.
Just as the name sounds, this is glue that is specifically meant for joining copper pipes together. The glue contains lead-free materials and is thus safe for plumbing purposes. To use copper glue, cut the leaky part of the copper pipe and clean the surface thoroughly. You should also clean the inner surface of the copper section that will be used to bond the pieces. Once the surfaces are clean, apply the glue on all surfaces that will come into contact and leave for a few minutes. Push the pieces together while twisting slightly until there is no further movement. After a while, the glue will dry and hold the pieces firmly in place.
This involves the use of ready-made copper pieces that are used to join pieces of standard copper pieces. The method is relatively easy to implement and involves cutting the damaged part of the pipe, fitting the compression piece and tightening using a wrench on one end while holding the other end steady.
Quick connect installation
This is the easiest method to join copper pipes without solder. Quick connect parts are made to instantly attach to copper pipes without the need for additional equipment. The process is as simple as cutting off the damaged part of the pipe, cleaning it and fitting the quick connect part until it registers a slight click. The part will then hold the pieces firmly in place. This is however still relatively new.
Bad solder connections occur due to a variety of reasons and differ in the manner through which they occur. We look at the most common causes of bad solder connections, what makes them bad and possible ways around them. Solder balling is the formation of little balls of solder on unwanted points within the workspace. There are various reasons that lead to the formation of solder balls. These include poor resist coatings, gassing of flux, turbulence, spitting, poor workmanship and wrong preheating.
Why they make poor connections
Solder balls often form points of connection between components that should not have contact. This may lead to short circuits and component damage. The presence of solder balls especially on small surfaces such as printed circuit boards also makes for a very unsightly piece of work. However, solder balls in themselves have no other direct effect on the outcome of soldering besides these.
Causes of and ways around solder balls
Gassing of flux is the main cause of solder balls in wave soldering. The flux starts to gas owing to poor waving conditions and flux parameters. The gassing effect causes solder to disperse randomly and not stick evenly to the intended surface. This causes the formation of solder balls. Turbulence is the shaking and movement of the printed circuit board during operation. These cause molten solder in its liquid state to spit to random parts within the circuit board and cool at these points forming little balls, solder balls. Poor workmanship involves any combinations of very many errors resulting from the quality of work from the operator. Common errors involve poor tinning, excess or insufficient preheating, wrongly-set workspace and use of unregulated soldering irons. These factors all cause solder to spit which then causes the formation of solder balls. Common solutions will include sharpening your soldering skills to avoid spitting, using good quality flux and operating at the correct levels of heat.
Copper pipes are the most widely used types of pipes for plumbing systems. When damaged therefore, it is important to take into account various factors involving soldering in plumbing systems.
In 1986, the American congress enacted the safe drinking water amendments effectively banning the use of lead in potable water systems. The provisions are quoted as:
- Prohibition on use of pipe, solder or flux in public water systems that is not lead free
- Special public notice requirements for lead
- State enforcement and prohibition and special public notice for lead
- Definition of lead free materials
- Ban on lead water pipes, solder and flux in veteran’s administration and department of housing and department of housing and urban development insured or assisted property.
- Designation of lead solder as a hazardous substance when solder contains more than 0.2 percent lead
- Requirements for warning labels on lead solder
These regulations pretty much banned the use of lead-based solder in plumbing of pipes that have access to a public water system. Lead poisoning has varied effects often depending on the level of exposure and the time. This implies that copper water pipes have to be joined using other methods or soldered using lead-free solder such as tin-silver-copper. After the enforcement of anti-Lead regulations, most manufacturers changed to this alloy as a replacement. The tin silver copper alloy is used by more than two thirds of manufacturers in Japan. Like the 60-40 alloy, this alloy has a very low melting point though not as low as that of lead-tin alloy.
Soldering on copper pipes however results in shortcomings that can easily be solved through use of other methods such as welding and brazing. For large pipes, soldered joints will be very weak and lack the sheer and tensile strength attained through welding.