Ten reasons to swap from copper or push-fit to MLCP
A multi-layer composite pipe (MLCP) comprises a central aluminium layer and an inner and outer layer of a polyethene raised temperature (PE-RT) plastic coating. MLCP piping is increasingly popular and, because of its many advantages, it now outsells copper and push-fit piping across Europe.
Here are ten reasons to swap from copper or push-fit to MLCP.
- Fewer connections
As MLCP pipes can be manufactured in longer lengths than traditional copper piping, they require far fewer connections. The reduction in fittings saves time during installation compared with copper, where new connections are needed for each bend and obstacle. Fewer fittings also save money and lower the chance of leaks occurring.
- Better hygiene
MLCP offers a reduction in biofilm buildup compared with copper. While copper is antibacterial, MLCP piping is protected during transport and storage, reducing the chance of the system containing dirt and bacteria before the installation has begun.
Crucially, plastic pipe is a lot smoother, lowering the chance of limescale forming. Limescale acts as a perfect shelter for biofilm buildup, allowing bacteria to thrive, including Legionnaires’ disease.
- No hot works
The fitting process of MLCP joints eliminates the need for soldering. This improves health and safety and reduces the need for permits. Many organisations, including the National Trust, do not allow solder joints in their properties due to fire risks. When hot works are required on commercial sites, permits and training are always needed.
Using naked flame during hot works increases the health and safety considerations of the installation. Those operating hot works will require the appropriate training. This, along with the required permits, will also increase the overall cost.
- No corrosion
MLCP systems will not corrode as they have an inner polyethene coating. This plastic coating will be in contact with the water, reducing to zero the possibility of contamination from the pipe material.
The reactive nature of copper means it is susceptible to certain types of corrosion. The process of electrolysis, whereby atoms of the copper are pulled away from the pipe wall to combine with molecules of acids and other chemicals travelling through the water, can, over time, result in ‘pitting’ on the surface of the metal. This leads to pipe failure in the form of pinhole leaks. Even the ‘flux’ used to connect copper piping has a similar effect. Flux can also strip away the natural oxidation that occurs on the inside of the pipe, which is needed to prevent corrosion.
As most metals are easily oxidised, increased oxidation of the water causes corrosion of plumbing and metal fixtures, further deteriorating the pipes and increasing the water’s metal content. This increase in the metal content of the water not only results in cosmetic issues such as stains in sinks, but it also leaves a bitter taste to the water, and in some instances, can elevate the metal toxicity to harmful levels.
- No leaks
Preventing leaks is crucial as water damage can be very expensive to repair. MLCP systems are watertight from the moment they are installed for the following reasons:
- components can more easily and safely be transported without any damage occurring
- pipes can navigate bends and obstacles, thereby requiring fewer connections and reducing the chance of a leak
- more connections increase the need for soldering, where problems can arise
- press jointing ensures that the same joint quality is achieved every time
- No consumables needed
With MLC pipework, no extra materials are required during the assembly process; therefore, nothing different needs to be purchased from a supplier and transported to the site. Copper piping requires several different consumables, including:
- an abrasive
Some of these items can be expensive, and all will add to the hidden costs of the end result.
7. More sustainable
MLCP is more environmentally friendly than copper. Not only is copper mined and manufactured into the end product, the use of copper pipes is a very energy-intensive process as the copper must be heated to 1,000 C, resulting in the emission of large quantities of CO2.
The corrosion effect also means that copper has a shorter lifespan than MLCP and will need to be replaced sooner. MLCP is more sustainable over a lifetime as it lasts longer, requires reduced production temperatures, and can be used for different applications.
- Greater flexibility
Pipework installations occur in many situations, including within walls, ceilings, or under floors. This is where the flexibility of MLCP provides many advantages, as the pipework can navigate around bends and obstacles without the need for additional connections or fittings.
- Faster installation
To install a copper pipe, the process you have to go through includes:
- preparing the soldering tools
- cutting copper pipe
- removing the burrs
- cleaning with an emery cloth
- using a brush to clean the fitting
- applying flux to the joint
- heating the joint
- applying extra techniques for difficult to access areas
To install an MLCP, you are required to:
- cut the pipe
- Fluctuating price of copper leads to theft
Tradespeople rely on knowing their costs and being able to quote a standard price to customers. The price of MLCP is very stable, having only risen 7-8% over the last four years.
Conversely, the price of copper is known to fluctuate wildly over the course of even a year, often double what it was just months earlier.
Not only does this make quoting prices difficult, but it can also make copper very desirable to criminals. Copper already has a high scrap value and is susceptible to theft. When prices skyrocket, keeping copper on-site can become a liability, and the risks of theft and disruption become great.
These ten reasons presented above are why many installers are switching from copper or push-fit to MLCP installation. This popularity also means that manufacturers are producing it in greater quantities, bringing the cost down even further and leading to a more sustainable future.