Joining copper pipe can be tough and time-consuming work. That’s why many pipe contractors are trading in traditional techniques like soldering and brazing for pressing.
There’s no one factor that’s driving this shift, though. It’s a combination of challenges that rise to the surface with soldering and brazing — challenges that are eliminated by copper press fittings.
The Headaches That Come with Soldering and Brazing
1. “Slow Installation Times Are Costing Me”
When piping projects extend past their intended timeline, contractors have to contend with the frustrations of stakeholders, as well as their own roadblocks. More time spent on-site translates into increased job costs and also clogs the pipeline so businesses can take on fewer projects.
With faster installation times than their traditional counterparts, copper press fittings help keep more cash in your pocket and expand your reach in the market.
Let’s talk numbers, per the Mechanical Contractors Association of America (MCAA): If you were to solder copper pipe with a ½” 90-degree elbow, it would take 24 minutes to make a single connection. If you were to press that same connection, it would only take 7 minutes. (Please note that the MCAA accounts for cutting and prepping the pipe. Even with all of that similar work done, press technology is still more than three times faster.)
If you think about this in the scope of a project with 800 connections, it’s easy to see the significant impact on time and labor. An installation process that would have taken over 20 days for two tradesmen to complete now takes less than 10 days.
2. “I Don’t Have Enough Workers to Take on Bigger Jobs”
While contractors are feeling optimistic about the healthy flow of business, it’s the shortage of workers that has left many feeling defeated.
In one respect, this shortage can be traced back to the Great Recession — a period where two million workers left the construction industry to either retire or look for a more stable career in another field (many of whom never returned). Meanwhile, a younger generation has expressed less interest in skilled trades as a whole. The combination of these elements has created gaps.
Not only do 70% of contractors find it difficult to meet schedule requirements due to the labor shortage, but 40% noted that they have to turn down opportunities for work because of it.
Because press connections can be made quickly and require less time to learn than traditional methods, copper press fittings allow contractors to take on larger projects with ease. With more business comes increased profits, a wider reach for your brand and greater potential to compete on bids with larger companies.
3. “My Pipe Connections Could Be Inconsistent”
The technique behind soldering and brazing is what many professionals appreciate — in other words, “the art behind the science.” But this “art” can also be responsible for differences in how pipe connections are made. While a professional with years of experience may have mastered the technique, those newer to the field have more room for error.
In soldering or brazing, it’s possible that a pipe connection can be overheated or underheated. (After all, it takes years to master these techniques.) While overheating will also discolor pipe, both scenarios can lead to an improper seal where leaks could occur or pressure ratings will not be met.
Then, there’s an issue that’s specific to soldering: pitting. Caused most often by overheating a joint or using more oxygen than needed in the torch flame, pitting leaves tiny holes along the flux line that weaken the stability of the pipe connection.
With a lightweight, portable press tool, there’s no “advanced technique” to worry about. In seconds, seasoned and new contractors alike can make secure, consistent press connections.
4. “I’m Worried About the Safety Concerns of Flame”
Any time a contractor invites open flame into a piping project, the stakes rise. While smoke and fumes can harm indoor air quality, there’s also the chance that sparks from the torch could cause damage or ignite a fire. When buildings are older, contain flammable products or have confined spaces, this risk becomes all the more problematic.
With copper press fittings, you eliminate the use of flame altogether. This saves you the hassle of acquiring hot work permits and fire watches while improving safety for your workers on the jobsite, as well as those people who utilize the space.
This idea also feeds into the overall efficiency of maintenance. When contractors connect copper pipe with flame, they have to completely drain the entire system. Press connections can be made on a dry or wet system — no need to drain or recharge. In environments like hospitals, where downtime is not an option, this benefit is crucial.
To learn more about how copper press fittings improve your bottom line, download a free copy of our eBook, How Viega ProPress Helps You Grow & Succeed in the Market.