How is aluminium piping an improvement over copper?
We have seen huge increases in the price of copper over the last few years and at the moment there is no sign of this trend ending.
I continue to hear increasing discussion of aluminium pipes as an alternative to copper in air conditioning, it seems that the amount of conversation increases each time the price of copper goes up. Price is incredibly important in a time of shrinking margins, but I thought it was time to talk about whether aluminium is actually a better material that copper for use in air conditioning. Time to start thinking about quality!
The ratio between strength and weight is higher in aluminium than almost any other metal. Why is this important? The significance of this is that at the same time as being much lighter than copper, aluminium is far stronger than you would normally expect a metal of a low weight to be. One way of thinking of this is value per gram.
When considering almost any aspect of the construction industry, it is always going to be easier to work with a lighter material. Not just easier, but also cheaper to work with. In cases where the overall weight of the structure is a concern, aluminium has another huge advantage over copper. Of course, a lighter structure is also easier and cheaper to support.
Although aluminium is lighter than copper, when it comes to the crunch it isnt as strong. Is this a problem though? In my opinion this isnt a problem at all. Since aluminium is a less rigid material it is actually more malleable. More flexible pipes as well as none standard parts are possible in the manufacturing process because of this malleability. For the first time, industrial air conditioning can now be built around the shape of the building or unit, rather than having to be restricted by the properties of a material (copper.)
Aluminium continues to have benefits long after the building process is complete too. It is much easier to repair an aluminium pipe than a copper one, and this is before we consider the fact that aluminium is a longer lasting material. So we now have an air conditioning unit that will last for longer. After soldering (the process for fixing a damaged aluminium pipe) the pipe will actually be stronger than it started out.
There is one final benefit to consider, and this comes at the end of the life of the unit. When the time finally comes to replace the air conditioning unit, aluminium is an easy material to recycle. The government is putting more pressure on industry to recycle, so this is a great advantage for the future. It also means that we should never find ourselves in the same position as we recently have with copper where the cost of the material makes it prohibitive to use in air conditioning. It isnt just the most readily available metal on earth, it is also incredibly easy to recycle, great news!
Article Tags: Over Copper
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
If you work in air conditioning you are bound to be hearing about aluminium pipes as an alternative to copper. Sarah Haines decided to have a look at how they measure up.