Copper Making a "Comeback" in Radiant Heating Applications

January 14, 2000


Copper Development Association Spokesman Participates in Radiant Heating Association Panel Discussion on Tubing Options

NEW YORK -Copper tubing is making a comeback in radiant heating. Copper Development Association spokesman, Andy Kireta Jr., manager of technical projects-tube, pipe and fittings, recently underlined copper's presence in this market at the 5th Annual Radiant Panel Association trade show. In the panel discussion on radiant heat tubing options with Mike Chiles, president of Heatway Systems, and Jim Somers, U.S. marketing manager for IPEX Denver, Kireta explained the benefits of copper tube for radiant heating systems.

" Copper has been used for hydronic radiant heating systems since as early as 1949," Kireta said. "It is re-emerging as the material of choice among many installers because it is the preeminent material for heat transfer," said Kireta. "Copper tube is non-combustible and dependable."

Radiant heating systems installed with copper tube and fittings have distinct advantages. Besides its superior heat-transfer properties, annealed copper tube is much sturdier than rubber and plastic tubing. Soldered copper joints rarely, if ever, break or deteriorate. Radiant systems with copper and brass connections are also easier to install because the fittings are standardized. Installers can find compatible parts at any plumbing supply and don't have to be limited to a single source or manufacturer, as with proprietary systems.

There had been some resistance to the use of copper in radiant heating systems because of the perception that it has a tendency to corrode when in contact with concrete. The objection may have been based on failures of copper tube at the Levittown development in New York State some 50 years ago. Those failures have been attributed to the high levels of sulfur in fly-ash, which was an ingredient in the Levittown concrete slabs. Copper tube should not be used in installations where fly-ash or any other ingredient of the concrete mix results in elevated sulfur content.

Inherent resistance to oxygen permeation prevents pinholes and leaks from forming in the copper tube. Although the makers of rubber and PEX radiant systems have introduced precautionary measures against damage caused by oxygen permeation, they still have not proven fully reliable.

Copper tube has a long, successful application history in radiant systems. According to Kireta, with more than 50 years of performance in the market, copper tube has been the subject of much research and testing and is considered a viable, reliable product for radiant heating applications. "Because copper has been around so long, we know what problems can come up, and we can make recommendations to prevent them," said Kireta.

During the panel discussion, many proponents of other materials pointed to copper's performance characteristics as the standard to which they compare their products.