Steel pipes are the most commonly used pipes in water supply systems. They are also used in pipelines for natural gas, and sewerage systems. Although comparatively expensive to other pipes, they hold the advantage of being able to withstand high pressures and are available in more convenient lengths, and can also be welded easily, thereby resulting in lower installation and transportation costs. These types of pipes are highly efficient and can be used in small diameters as needed and are 100% recyclable compared to other materials. The pipes can further be melted down and turned into other usable material in industry. Furthermore, the high strength of these pipes and resistance to damage caused by human errors, tree roots, and extreme weather conditions make these pipes the ideal choice for most water and sewerage supply systems.
The disadvantages of steel pipes include thermal conductivity, which is very poor as there is a difference in heat transfer. These types of pipes are usually bonded with aluminum or copper alloy to increase thermal conductivity and improve heat transfer. Cost is another issue, as these pipes are expensive and this is guided by the misconception of being a one-time purchase. However, steel pipes are difficult to fabricate and lack the malleable qualities that other materials have, therefore repairs and replacements of steel pipes are extra difficult.
Basic material properties
Steel is strong, rigid, and has a low coefficient of thermal expansion. It is also heavy (multiple workers may be needed to transport it) and is subject to corrosion. Sometimes it is called carbon steel or black special steel to differentiate from stainless and galvanized steel. All steel, by definition, contains carbon.
Steel often is used for closed hydronic systems because it is inexpensive, especially when compared with other materials in systems with high pressures, and corrosion is relatively easily controlled in these systems. It also is a good choice for steam and steam-condensate systems because it handles high temperatures and pressures well, and corrosion is normally not an issue in steam pipes. However, corrosion is an issue in steam-condensate pipes, and many engineers specify schedule 80 steel pipe simply because it takes about twice as long to rust through as schedule 40 pipe.
If amines (commonly cyclohexylamine, morpholine, or diethylethanolamine (DEAE) are fed properly to neutralize condensate pipe pH, condensate pipes can last the life of the building. Some building owners do not want these chemicals in steam that may be used for humidification because of health concerns; however, not using these amines might require a change to stainless steel (SS) piping or adding a separate “clean steam” system for humidification and for sterilization of medical instruments.