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Author Topic: Is copper pipe OK for water?  (Read 4031 times)
Kevin Warnock
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« on: January 05, 2009, 09:31:50 PM »

I've read many posts over the years about what kinds of plastic pipe to use for water in bus conversions. I was wondering if copper is also OK? I am comfortable with installing copper plumbing for water in my house, but have never used plastic. I am putting the water tanks inside the living area, so the supply side of the water system will be heated like the rest of the bus when in use. The waste tanks will be in a heated bay, except for the black tank, which won't be in a heated bay. Copper isn't really that expensive given how little of it I need, so if it's OK to use, I would go that way. I like that I can pressure test it immediately, instead of waiting for the PVC cement to cure, if I were to use PVC. I know almost nothing about PEX.

Thanks
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Melbo
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« Reply #1 on: January 05, 2009, 09:38:59 PM »

I see no reason that you cannot use copper if it is properly supported

I used some copper but mostly pex which is MUCH easier to use and more forgiving and MUCH more flexible.

Watch for places where the copper comes in contact with other surfaces and vibration may be a problem

Use rubber holders and good mounting brackets and you should be fine

Just my opinion

YMMV

Melbo
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« Reply #2 on: January 05, 2009, 09:45:03 PM »

You going to get some flexing in the bus. I can't imagine this would be great long term on the copper. You main concern would be minimizing any rubs. If it were me I would drill the thru bulkhead holes a little oversize and use a good thick grommet. Make sure you secure it well from movement.  I wish I could say I have done it or knew someone who has but I can't. I was thinking of using pex on mine and with the gatorbite fittings it makes it a breeze.
If you decide to use copper please keep us posted on how it turns out and holds up. There seems to be a lot of copper tubing in the engine compartment and mine is holding up ok.

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« Reply #3 on: January 05, 2009, 10:13:24 PM »

MC,

Copper simply looks fantastic in there with all those right angles and parallel runs and all polished up to a mirror gleam.  Simply fantastic!  Look at the 91 Newell bus on ebay for $35,000.  It has the best looking wet bays I have ever seen. Cool

On the other hand:  Pex will stand up to being frozen and not burst.  It will take 1/10 the time to install and cost 1/5 to just throw numbers out there.  I suggest you invest your time (most precious) in other things that need it and have no alternative.  That said, I use copper tubing and sweat the joints and have never had a failure. Huh Tongue Smiley

HTH,


John
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Kevin Warnock
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« Reply #4 on: January 05, 2009, 10:46:06 PM »

PEX will stand up to freezing and not burst? So that means I would not need to winterize the bus if I move to a cold part of the country? If so, that alone seems to indicate I should learn to install PEX. Is there a book on PEX? Where do I buy it? Home Depot here does not sell the tubing, but does sell the connectors. I live in California so my bus has not seen freezing cold so far.

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« Reply #5 on: January 05, 2009, 11:33:14 PM »

I know I said that...but.....  What I meant to say is those that have chosen Pex have said that it is less suseptable to freezing. Embarrassed  I take that to mean that if you freeze the pipes at a lower and lower temp that the copper will split first.  It make sense intuitively that plastic that has some give will handle freezing "better" but I don't think I have ever heard anyone say it was "FREEZE PROOF".  Don't throw out that book on winter proofing your install just yet. Grin

There has been talk that went over my head about a certain typ/mfr of Pex connectors being less satisfactory that the other.  The spendyer one was the best I think.  Get that story straight if you go with Pex.

FWIW,

John
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CraigC
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« Reply #6 on: January 05, 2009, 11:45:57 PM »

In 1995 I did all of my 4104 in copper used unions on each side of in line values. It was beautiful when first installed and polished. I have not keep the polishing up, not worth the trouble in my opinion. I have not had any problems with it. I also live in CA.
 
I recently had to re plumb a house. I bought the tools needed for PEX, it was easy, quick, zero leaks first time. Price very reasonable. it will be very easy to make repairs if needed. I also liked no risk of setting a building on fire.

Like John stated above I saw 3 types of fittings and clamps. My opinion the most expensive crimping tool, and fittings looked like they would do the best job. 

I found everything including instructions on how to use it at Lowe's. I also found some excellent info. about it on line.

In our area all of the new houses have PEX each fixture is home ran back to usually the laundry room each line has it's own shut off.

Freeze proofing you will still have faucets, water pump, values, and etc.
 
I would use PEX and not look back.
« Last Edit: January 06, 2009, 12:16:39 AM by CraigC » Logged

Craig C
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« Reply #7 on: January 06, 2009, 04:48:32 AM »

My Uncle, who is a plumbing inspecter, has said "pex will hold up to some freezing BUT the fittings usually don't." Use that for what you want  Grin
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« Reply #8 on: January 06, 2009, 05:14:42 AM »

We are going with PEX, since it doesn't split instantly like copper does when frozen. The down side to PEX is just that some rodents like to chew on it Sad Cheesy Grin

God bless,

John
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« Reply #9 on: January 06, 2009, 08:00:49 AM »

Years ago I had to remove all the copper in my 06, all had been frozen and had bursted. I went with PEX with push-in fittings, it has frozen twice since and simply pushed the line out of the fittings, no harm no foul. Simply push the lines back into the fittings a WALLA! back in business.>>>Dan
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« Reply #10 on: January 06, 2009, 09:31:52 AM »

I've had copper pipes freeze before. It isn't the first freeze that split the copper.

The copper will stretch permanently some with each freeze until it reaches it's limit, then it splits.
The PEX doesn't take a permanent set when it stretches due to the frozen water. So it returns to size when the water thaws.

With PEX, it is easier to make all your runs 'home runs' from a central manifold. If you are careful in your placement of the tubing, draining the system will be as easy as opening a few valves & letting gravity do the rest.

Having a freeze tolerant system will make future maintenance less frequent.  Grin

PEX also comes in different colors, so it is easier to keep the hot & cold supply lines straight.  Cool
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« Reply #11 on: January 06, 2009, 09:40:21 AM »

As mentioned PEX might be more tolerant but it will freeze and burst. Having said this I would go with the PEX. I'm no plumber but that's what I installed and it worked very well! Another advantage is that if you want to make any changes later it is so simple, the fittings are re-usable with little to no prep. PEX worked very well for me.

Have Fun
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« Reply #12 on: January 06, 2009, 11:50:22 AM »

I used PEX for my plumbing.  I bought Flair-It PEX pipe because it is made with the PEX-A process that makes it more flexible than other PEX pipe.

I used Sharkbite fittings as recommended here, but I do have trouble with two of the fittings leaking.
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Brian Elfert - 1995 Dina Viaggio 1000 Series 60/B500 - 75% done but usable - Minneapolis, MN
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« Reply #13 on: January 06, 2009, 01:05:04 PM »

Pex.  Pex Pex.  Having learnt to sweat joints as well as i do it seems a shame to use Pex but it installs so much faster, and is less likely to split from freezing.  I use the  the solid steel bands that are then crimped, love it.  The crimper come in different designs I like the small one with cammed mech., as it gets into tighter spots.
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« Reply #14 on: January 06, 2009, 01:37:06 PM »

Don't you folks winterize to prevent freezing?  Everybody seems to be praising PEX because it can freeze, but the fittings usually can't freeze.  I turned off valves to the water heater in my old travel trailer and they split with the little bit of water still in them.

I suppose if you are on the road and happen to get caught in freezing weather then PEX might help.
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Brian Elfert - 1995 Dina Viaggio 1000 Series 60/B500 - 75% done but usable - Minneapolis, MN
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« Reply #15 on: January 06, 2009, 01:49:29 PM »

PEX will resist freezing much better than copper. I've had mine freeze a couple of times and no leaks yet.

On the other hand, water pipes are not your only problem. Traps freeze, toilets freeze and waste drain lines will freeze. Tanks will freeze when low but probably not suffer, the drain lines and valves will.

I, too, have done a lot of copper sweating but the Pex is so much easier and you can make those long sweeping curves when necessary.
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« Reply #16 on: January 06, 2009, 01:54:40 PM »

If you are comfortable with copper and can get a good price, then by all means, use it.  My '94 MH is all done in sweated copper and absolutely no problems with it.  PEX is easier but well done copper is so much prettier.
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« Reply #17 on: January 06, 2009, 01:57:19 PM »

I would worry about burning up my valuable Bus Conversion making a mistake installing the copper pipe.  Plastic I can do; my soddering/sweating skills are practically nonexistant. 

We used plastic in the homestead cabin and installed freeze risers every soosss often, plus the entire run was designed with a dedicated low spot winter drain system with vent valves.

Seemed to work, but never got cold enough (+5F outside) to find out.  The soil temperature kept the indoor plumbing above freezing.  In a Bus Conversion, is plastic prefered?   HB of CJ
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« Reply #18 on: January 06, 2009, 04:21:06 PM »

Don't you folks winterize to prevent freezing?  Everybody seems to be praising PEX because it can freeze, but the fittings usually can't freeze.  I turned off valves to the water heater in my old travel trailer and they split with the little bit of water still in them.

I suppose if you are on the road and happen to get caught in freezing weather then PEX might help.
I don't winterize, it's a matter a optimism with me.  I keep hoping one of these winters it won't go below freezing.  The 2 stroke is my effort to help the planet warm up.
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« Reply #19 on: January 06, 2009, 04:50:20 PM »

A lot of energy (heat) is wasted getting hot water delivered with copper pipe. The copper acts as a heat sink until get gets up to the hot water temperature. Not too significant on a short run but at 10 feet or more starts to suck up the $$$.
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« Reply #20 on: January 06, 2009, 05:11:33 PM »

If you crawl in your bay and remove the tunnel covers you will see lots and lots of copper lines, water, air fuel so yes copper will work in a bus.
 I used plastic but if you are comfortable working  with copper, why not?? It might be more expensive, but you are not plumbing the Pentagon.   
In plumbing my bus I made sure that all pipes slope to a drain point. Freezeing/winterizeing problem solved!!
                                     HTH Jim
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« Reply #21 on: January 06, 2009, 08:30:55 PM »

You'll also notice they tend to use copper tubing in buses, not hard pipe like in houses.
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Brian Elfert - 1995 Dina Viaggio 1000 Series 60/B500 - 75% done but usable - Minneapolis, MN
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« Reply #22 on: January 06, 2009, 11:09:16 PM »

There is a fitting that screws onto the shore water hose fitting on the coach.  It has a air valve stem mounted in the center.  It is used to purge the water out of the lines before winter storage.  You first drain all the tanks and with a little air pressure they drain faster (hot water).  Then open a faucet and hit the system with 40 pounds of air.....not 90 although any system connected to a garden hose should withstand 90.  After you work your way through all the faucets in the kitchen, bathroom and outside wash/shower your lines are ready to freeze.  No need to add that antifreeze stuff to your water system.  Pour that antifreeze into the traps of every sink and shower, absolutely.  Way cheaper and way better in my book.

2 cents worth +

John
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« Reply #23 on: January 07, 2009, 05:33:24 AM »

There is a fitting that screws onto the shore water hose fitting on the coach.  It has a air valve stem mounted in the center.  It is used to purge the water out of the lines before winter storage.  You first drain all the tanks and with a little air pressure they drain faster (hot water).  Then open a faucet and hit the system with 40 pounds of air.....not 90 although any system connected to a garden hose should withstand 90.  After you work your way through all the faucets in the kitchen, bathroom and outside wash/shower your lines are ready to freeze.   . . . . .

That doesn't always work, especially if the pipes were poorly run.
That is why I try to hedge towards as many abuse tolerant materials as I can.
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« Reply #24 on: January 07, 2009, 05:59:53 AM »

You'll also notice they tend to use copper tubing in buses, not hard pipe like in houses.

All the pipe in the mechanical channel on every bus I've ever looked at is hard copper. Coolant lines, air conditioner lines, and I think power steering. I think fuel lines and air lines are about the only soft tubing I've see installed by the mfg.

Copper in a bus is not a problem, whether soft or rigid. It just has to be installed properly.

Installing PEX is much easier than copper, but with time and effort copper could be made to make an outstanding installation.

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« Reply #25 on: January 07, 2009, 06:42:51 AM »

The only trouble with copper pipe is the PH in the water needs to be above 6.5 or it will corrode most Cities supplies are 7.0 to 8.0 PH but good well water will be below 6.5    good luck
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« Reply #26 on: January 07, 2009, 07:07:26 AM »

You'll also notice they tend to use copper tubing in buses, not hard pipe like in houses.

All the pipe in the mechanical channel on every bus I've ever looked at is hard copper. Coolant lines, air conditioner lines, and I think power steering. I think fuel lines and air lines are about the only soft tubing I've see installed by the mfg.

Copper in a bus is not a problem, whether soft or rigid. It just has to be installed properly.


Notice though that the tunnel has the least flew of any part of the coach.  If you are putting pipe along the wall, it will have significantly more flex to deal with.

Also, remember that copper HARDENS when it is "worked" -- I'm not sure that this would be a major issue, but again, PEX is flexible.

For me, the fatal flaw with copper is that you need a lot of heat to work it.  Yeah, great, let's use a blowtorch inside a confined space filled with stuff that burns and which might have stray wisps of fuel fumes wafting through . . !

So, do the math.  Copper is bendable, PEX is flexible.  Copper needs heat, PEX is a cold process.  Copper can't handle freezing well, PEX is okay though fittings may fail.  Copper has to be fought into place, PEX is easier to work with.

Looks to me like we have a clear winner in PEX.

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« Reply #27 on: January 07, 2009, 08:46:44 AM »

You'll also notice they tend to use copper tubing in buses, not hard pipe like in houses.

All the pipe in the mechanical channel on every bus I've ever looked at is hard copper. Coolant lines, air conditioner lines, and I think power steering. I think fuel lines and air lines are about the only soft tubing I've see installed by the mfg.

I'll admit I have only seen copper in my bus and one other and it was all tubing.  My bus was built in Mexico as more of an economy model and it only had copper tubing for the A/C lines.  Power steering and coolant lines in my rubber.  The coolant and power steering lines are run through metric plastic pipe (approx 2") through the baggage area for protection.
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Brian Elfert - 1995 Dina Viaggio 1000 Series 60/B500 - 75% done but usable - Minneapolis, MN
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« Reply #28 on: January 07, 2009, 08:55:16 AM »

I used CPVC for the second time because of ease and cost. I now have to replum a 3rd time because all my lines froze and split again. I'm going with Pex this time.
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« Reply #29 on: January 07, 2009, 09:10:22 AM »

If going copper you may want to think about 3/8 tubing. 1/2 line will supply a good flow, but is more water to run while waiting for it to get hot.  Tom Y
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