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Why Water Pipes Are Often Made of Copper

  • May 2, 2019

Copper isn’t used strictly in the production of electrical wires. While its highly conductive properties make it ideal for electrical applications, copper is also frequently used to make water pipes. In residential homes, commercial buildings and municipality water systems, copper water pipes are common. Upon reading this, though, you might be wondering why copper is used to make water pipes rather than other materials or metals.

It’s Nontoxic

Copper is nontoxic, meaning it won’t leach harmful substances into potable water. During the early 1900s, water pipes in the United States were often made of lead. Unfortunately, this led to thousands of lead poisoning cases, with many U.S. cities banning the use of lead water pipes in the 1920s. Today, federal law prohibits the use of lead water pipes, so many builders and plumbers choose copper as a safer, nontoxic solution for their water systems.

It’s Antimicrobial

In addition to being nontoxic, copper is antimicrobial. As water flows through a copper pipe, the metal kills bacteria and viruses on contact. Using copper pipes isn’t a foolproof way to prevent all forms of waterborne illness, but it can certainly help to lower the risk of such illnesses.

Rustproof and Corrosion Resistant

Copper is both rustproof and corrosion resistant. Since it doesn’t contain iron, copper doesn’t rust. Only metals containing iron, such as steel, can rust, making copper water pipes naturally protected against this phenomenon.

Copper water pipes can corrode, but copper offers a higher level of corrosion resistance than many other metals. It’s not uncommon for copper water pipes to last for 50 years — sometimes even longer. The rustproof and corrosion-resistant properties of copper allow water pipes made of this metal to withstand countless years of use.

It’s Ductile

Another reason copper is used to make water pipes is because it’s ductile. In other words, copper water pipes can be bent and deformed without causing fracture. If a copper water pipe won’t connect to a fitting, its ductile properties allow it to be physically deformed. Copper water pipes can still fracture when exposed to enough stress, but it takes greater force to cause fracturing than with other metals.

It’s Inexpensive

With nearly 6 trillion tons of the metal residing in the Earth’s crust, copper is readily available and, therefore, often costs less than other metals. When used for entire water systems, copper pipes allow builders and plumbers to save money. For these reasons, copper has become a popular metal used in the production of water pipes.

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