Copper: The Most Reliable Material for Your Water Lines

In the United States, the drinking water infrastructure is entering into what is known as the “Replacement Era,” and decisions need to be made on what is the best materials to use. 

When we choose which materials to replace our current system with, short-term money saving options may look good at first, but investing in your health and durability will have more significant benefits in the long-run. 

Copper is the most common material for service lines today and has been used for pipes for over 2,800 years since the Ancient Egyptians. Let’s look at the benefits of copper piping and why it’s the preferred choice for water lines.


Why Use Copper for Water Pipes

Health and Safety

Copper is a natural material, and the original lead-free piping material. Copper solders and fluxes have been lead-free since 1978. All copper elements for pipes must pass the NSF 61 criteria before being put into service to ensure that it is safe for drinking water. 

Besides, copper is impermeable. If a petroleum or chemical spill happens, your water supply will be safe from contamination. 

Plastic, on the other hand, has been known to allow organics, pesticides, and other contaminants to penetrate piping and infect the water supply, affecting the odor and taste. 

As a natural material, copper is actually an essential micronutrient for human life and exists naturally in most water supplies. Unlike plastic, copper has been well studied, and any all conditions that may lead to copper leaching and potential health effects are well known. 


Material Costs

When you’re looking at replacing your entire water supply system, the cost is going to be a factor in deciding what material you should go with. However, it’s wise to look at the full-lifecycle expenses that can be expected. 

While plastic is a cheaper material, copper’s quality and reliability is actually the most cost-efficient material to use. 

Copper pipes are not only higher quality materials, but they can handle high pressure and stresses without failures. They also handle exposure to UV rays and oxidizing disinfectants, such as chlorine, without risk of cracking or failure.

The average lifespan of a copper piping system is 75 to 100 years. When compared to plastic, which has a 25-year lifespan before needing replacement – and not factoring in the post-installation repairs due to a less reliable material – the cost of installing a copper piping system is far less than the headache of constant maintenance and short lifecycle of a plastic system. 


Copper maintains its value throughout its lifecycle. When you replace copper piping even after 75 to 100 years, you can get 80-90% of the cost when sold for scrap.


Environmental Impact

One of the most important considerations when choosing a material for replacing your pipes is the sustainability factor and impact on the environment. Copper is a natural resource available in abundance in the United States. 

Additionally, copper is one of the only materials that can be recycled without any loss of integrity or its beneficial properties. Old copper pipes, no matter how long they’ve been buried or in use, can be sold back as scrap metal. 

They are then transformed into new copper pipes and fittings, with the same metal purity, quality, and reliability as its first incarnation. Between its long lifecycle and easy recyclability, copper is a genuinely sustainable piping material. 

copper pipe plumbing

A Warning to Note on Copper Pipes

While copper is the safest material for conducting drinking water, there are a few things that you should know and situations to avoid using it. Water that is overly acidic or alkaline, such as well water, may cause corrosion or leach copper from pipes into the drinking water. 

Too much copper in the body can also cause gastrointestinal issues. Fortunately, most municipal water has a balanced pH between 6.5 and 8, which is a safe range for copper piping. 

While it’s a rare occurrence, you should consider the pH level of your drinking water before choosing copper piping. 


Why Does Choosing the Correct Material Matter?

When you’re replacing your water service line, the materials you choose will impact the cost of maintenance in the future, health, and safety of residents, and potential loss of hundreds of gallons of drinking water. 

Problems with water pipes can lead to a high water bill and costly repairs if they’re not appropriately addressed, and oftentimes when a repair needs to be made, you’re digging up people’s lawns and streets, turning the water off to residents, and causing a lot of inconveniences. 

And when issues come up, even a small break or leak in a water service line can cause a sinkhole in a lawn, driveway, parking lot or street, as well as an entry point for contamination of the water supply. 

Inferior materials can allow hazardous chemicals from fertilizers, insecticides, fungicides, and petroleum products to leach into the water system, infecting residents and causing severe health problems. 

Choosing a safe and reliable material to replace your water service lines from the beginning saves you a lot of issues in the future.

While you may never have thought about your water service line before, it’s worth the research. Your pipes are buried far underground, which means it’s out of sight, out of mind. However, that also means that it’s not easy to access or replace them if there are problems. 

Choosing the proper materials to replace your pipes not only reduces the chance of maintenance problems but ensures your water supply is safe for the health of you and your family. Choosing a less superior and cheaper material now can cost you nearly three times or more as much down the line. 

Plumbers say consider using copper to replace your current water lines.

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