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Tubing Vs. Pipe

This article discusses compression tubing as it compares with threaded pipe when it comes to efficiency, longevity, and ease of use.

Wherever there are fluids that need to be transported you’re bound to find a vast array of threaded pipe connections including elbows, tees, and unions stretching as far as the eye can see. With each connection the project grows more complex. Every turn means one more elbow. One more elbow means cutting, threading, sealing, and installing two more connections. It’s a compounding problem. In this article we are going to discuss the safer, simpler option that can easily replace pipe for applications up to two inches.

Image by LEEROY Agency from Pixabay

The Glory Days of Pipe

In the past pipe has been the king of fluid transportation. Originally, it was designed 1864 to be the national standard of plumbing. Since then, it has been used for everything from house hold needs to natural gas production and other industrial applications. However, over the years, as fluid networks have become more and more complex pipe has stayed the same.  And while threaded pipe has served well over the years, at some point fluid transport needs to update.

So What Is the Modern Solution to Fluid Transportation?

Obviously, compression tubing, also known as instrumentation tubing. This is the safe and simple solution mentioned earlier. It is easy to install, versatile by nature, and it requires very little maintenance. However, these are not the only factors that set tubing several steps ahead of pipe. Let’s dig in, and see what really seals the deal for tubing.  

Tubing is thinner and stronger than pipe

Greater strength helps tubing contain higher pressures than pipe even with thinner wall thicknesses. Thinner wall tubing means huge weight savings over similarly sized pipe installations. Additionally, thinner wall thickness allows tubing to be easily bent and shaped as necessary to fit the application. Bending the tube in a smooth curve instead of a hard elbow reduces the turbulence in the line. Subsequently, tubing is ideal for tight spaces since it can be custom formed to stay tucked out of the way.

Tubing Uses Significantly Fewer Fittings

Since tubing can be bent a full 180° many elbow joints can be removed from the design reducing leak points.

Diagram showing the comparison of leak points between pipe and tubing

Fewer joints also means fewer times the tubing must be cut. Also, since tubing doesn’t need to be threaded, tubing can be installed with out the aid of heavy tools or threading equipment. Furthermore, fewer fittings helps installers produce clean, tidy, and professional looking work.

Most Carefree Method of Plumbing

Tube fittings are not only one of the simplest systems to install, but also require the least amount of upkeep. Each fitting acts as a union meaning you can separate and rejoin the fittings at any point in the system with just a pair of wrenches. Tube fittings are also much less prone to leaking over time. Partly, this is dependent on the accuracy of the original make up. However, this is also due to the fact that tubing is more flexible. That flexibility allows the tubing to transmit less vibration through the line unlike rigid pipe. Once installed, tube fitting are nearly “set and forget”, taking very little additional care after installation.

The Caveat (That Really Isn’t a Caveat)

There will ways be someone that wonders “what’s the catch?” In this case the catch lies in making sure that you installation is performed accurately. Unlike pipe, you don’t just tighten till the right amount of force is reached. You have to tighten the tubing connection just enough but not too much. All manufacturers of tube fittings provide a gauging tool that helps installers reach this point of perfect compression. However, gap gauge tools can easily get lost or forgotten all together.  

So, Why Isn’t That a Caveat?

Superlok has released the answer to forgotten and ignored gap gauges. The i-Fitting from Superlok incorporates a gap gauge built right into every fitting. Just tighten till the ring pops off to make perfect connections every time. In fact, the built-in gap gauges are so accurate that they warranty for life against leaks and failures.  

Summing It All Up

When it comes to building or updating fluid networks, tubing is a great choice. In conjunction with Superlok i-Fittings, tubing can’t be beat. No other system provides the carefree installation and maintenance while also guaranteeing no leaks for life.

The Author

Ethan McNeese
Marketing Specialist
Ethan is our resident content marketer, blog author, YouTube host, and general knower of things. When he's not at his keyboard working on new web pages and videos, he's usually out in the shop wrenching on valve assemblies, developing diagrams for projects, or praying for rain.

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