Aluminum: lightweight, strong and rust-resistant

April 20, 2017

Lightweight and versatile, aluminum has many uses and can play a crucial role in plumbing, both inside and outside of your home. Familiarizing yourself with the uses and benefits of this popular, low-cost metal can help you form a better understanding of your home’s plumbing system. [Photo Credit: Rost 9-D]

Aluminum: lightweight, strong and rust-resistant

What is aluminum?

Aluminum is the most abundant metal on the planet, comprising a little more than eight percent of the Earth’s crust. Since its introduction into the commercial world, aluminum has become a sustainable material choice for a variety of applications. Once formed, aluminum is alloyed with other materials such as steel, iron, copper and zinc, to create metals with different properties.

Good to know!

Because aluminum is so recyclable, 75 percent of the aluminum produced since its discovery is still in use today.

Aluminum and its common uses

From jewellery to pennies, aluminum pops up often. Because of its versatility, this metal is used in almost all elements of construction, including plumbing. Aluminum can be found in:

  • Wiring
  • Bars
  • Sheets
  • Aluminum tubing
  • Pipes
  • Pipe fittings
  • Duct work and ducting supplies
  •  Casting and scrapes

Aluminum piping and its fittings are essential for plumbing and used for most compressed-air systems, general purpose exhaust applications, and heating- and cooling-systems. You can use aluminum alloy piping to connect an outdoor gas barbecue, or in vents when renovating a bathroom.

Aluminum and water pipes

Aluminum is not a suitable choice for water pipes. From 1997 to 2005, plumbing in many homes consisted of flexible aluminum pipe with brass fittings. It was thought to be less expensive and easier to install than copper and was used for potable, in-floor and hot-water baseboard heating systems.

The reasons aluminum piping is not suited to water pipes include:

  • Pipes are at risk of disintegrating at high temperatures.
  • Pipe fittings were made with a high zinc content, which could restrict water pressure or cause fittings to fail.

Modern homes do not include this type of plumbing. If you are purchasing an older home, it’s a good idea to inquire if it was constructed with aluminum water pipes to avoid potential plumbing issues.

Benefits of aluminum

Advantages of using aluminum in plumbing include:

  • Lightweight: Aluminum is relatively light – one-third the weight of steel.
  • Corrosion-resistant: Aluminum generates a protective oxide coating that has corrosion- and rust-resistant properties.
  • Strength: Aluminum is strong, durable and long lasting.
  • Easy to install and flexible: Aluminum tubing is flexible, making it a convenient choice for ductwork and other difficult-to-install spaces.

Good to know!

Copper coils were traditionally used in heating and cooling. When copper prices skyrocketed, manufacturers began the switch to aluminum, which has many of the same benefits as copper.

From ductwork and ducting supplies, to heating and cooling systems, aluminum is likely to be present in various facets of your home plumbing system. This affordable, lightweight and durable metal has become a popular and sustainable material, one the DIYer is sure to encounter.

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