Pipe Fittings: Types, Materials, and Maintenance
Any functional pipe system relies on a wide range of pipe fittings to connect different parts of the system and ensure a smooth flow. Fittings provide the necessary connections and play a significant role in controlling, throttling, and directing the fluids or gases.
Like their various applications, there are numerous fittings available to match the specific function you need them to perform in a piping network. So, in this article, we will explore the most commonly used fitting types and their applications, the materials they are made of, how to maintain pipe fittings, how to select the right pipe fitting for your system, and more.
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Common Types of Pipe Fittings and Their Applications
Pipe fittings and tube fittings are widely used in any plumbing system to make a straight connection between different parts or sections. They adapt to various sizes and shapes, so they are sometimes referred to as adapters.
Fittings serve a wide array of applications, such as branching, redirecting, regulating, controlling, throttling, and more. That is why, they come in many types. Some of the most common ones and their purposes are discussed below.
To change the direction of the flow, we should use a curve fitting called elbow fitting. The curve is mostly 90 degrees or 45 degrees. However, there is a certain type of elbow fitting with 180 degrees, also called straight elbow fitting.
Besides, elbow fittings are available in various materials and sizes.
Tees look like a T, so there are three openings. They are used to create branches and split the flow into two different directions. Also, they can combine two different sources into one single flow.
Tees are also made with different materials and come in different sizes. Some examples of tee fittings are: Reducing tee, wye tee, straight tee, female and male branch tee, etc.
When two pipes, with the same diameter, cannot easily join together (cannot be welded or threaded) to form a straight line, couplings do the trick.
There are various types of couplings, such as flexible coupling, rigid coupling, universal coupling, split muff coupling, and many more. So, you would not have any problem finding a coupling that matches your system’s requirements.
When there is a need to connect two pipes of different sizes, we need a reducer to make the transition possible. The concentric reducer maintains the centerline and the eccentric reducer shifts the centerline.
Sometimes regular repairs are necessary in a system. For that purpose, a detachable joint can make for an easy disassembly and reassembly of different parts. Union fittings are the best choice to make a detachable joint.
Additionally, there are two main types of unions; slip-on union which is easily installed by hand, and threaded union which needs a wrench to be tightened.
Flanges are used to connect any parts of the system, like valves, pipes, etc., with the help of bolts or screws. They look like flat discs and provide a strong, leak-resistant joint.
Also, you can get them in various types. Weld neck flange, socket weld flange, blind flange, and RTJ flange (or lap joint flange) are some examples of flange fittings.
As crosses look like a cross, they have four openings. These four-way fittings are used to make branching connections to allow the media to flow in multiple directions.
Equal cross fittings are suitable when the pipes are of the same size, and reducing cross fittings are used when the branching pipes have different sizes.
Caps and Plugs
When you need to temporarily close off a pipe, caps and plugs provide a temporary closure. In this way, they prevent any contamination. In addition, they can be used to seal off the sections of a system that are not used.
Valves can start or stop the flow of the fluid or gas, or even obstruct the passageway partially, to adjust the flow rate, control the flow, and direct it. Although they are a kind of fitting, they are usually considered a separate category of process equipment.
What Materials Are Pipe Fittings Made of?
To make fittings right for any conditions, they are made of a variety of materials.
- Steel: Steel fittings are durable and strong, and can resist high temperatures and pressures well. Carbon steel, stainless steel, and alloy steel are common types of steel used to make fittings.
- Copper: Copper fittings are malleable, so they can be shaped easily. In addition, they are corrosion-resistant and have a good thermal conductivity. These features have made them popular in plumbing.
- PVC: PVC fittings can be cheaper and lighter. Besides, they show good resistance to chemicals and corrosion.
- CPVC: CPVC fittings share the advantages of PVC fittings, but they are also suitable for higher temperatures.
- Brass: Brass fittings are not only visually appealing but also resist corrosion really well. They are mostly suitable for lower pressures.
- Ductile Iron: Ductile iron fittings are exceptionally strong and durable. That is why they are popular in industrial settings.
- ABS: ABS fittings are light and durable. Also, they can resist chemicals and low temperatures.
- HDPE: The main distinguishing feature of HDPE fittings is their excellent chemical resistance.
It is essential to select the right material for fittings based on the conditions and applications to ensure they can perform their functions properly. We will discuss how to select the right fitting in the following section.
Do you wish to know how much budget you should allocate for the pipe fittings? Call to request a quote.
Factors to Consider When Selecting a Fitting
When it comes to selecting an appropriate fitting for your piping system, you should consider the factors below to guarantee its functionality, efficiency, and safety.
Consider the Specific Requirements of Your Pipe System:
This means you should have an understanding of certain conditions, including what kind of fluid or gas will the system transport, its flow rate, pressure, and temperature. Also, you should have a clear picture of the system design. Besides, some environmental factors, like humidity, temperature, etc., can also play a role.
Pay Attention to the Compatibility of Materials:
It is important to make sure the materials used in the fittings and other parts of the system are compatible. They must also be compatible with the media being transferred. This is essential to avoid potential chemical reactions, contamination, and leakage.
Match the Sizes and Dimensions:
Although this is an obvious factor to consider, and probably the first one, still there are many cases in which the incompatibility of inner and outer dimensions of different parts has led to safety issues and the dysfunctionality of the system.
Evaluate the Function of The Fitting:
What do you expect of the fitting? Do you want it to change the direction of the flow, make branches, prevent backflow, combine different sources, etc.? Based on the application, you can decide what specific type of fittings you have as options.
Ensure the Pipe Fittings Are Standard:
Choosing standard products is necessary to guarantee the safety and reliability of the fittings. The fittings must comply with industry standards and codes, as well as, local regulations.
Consider the Installation and Maintenance:
Some fittings are easy to install and do not require specialized tools or a professional to be installed, while others can be assembled and disassembled easily. Additionally, knowing about the specific maintenance considerations helps you decide if a particular pipe fitting is suitable for your purpose or not. (We will discuss pipe fittings maintenance in the next section.)
Make Sure the Pipe Fittings Are Available in The Market:
Select a fitting that can be found in the market and that you can get from reliable suppliers and manufacturers. This is particularly important for systems that are expected to operate for a long time.
Above all, we do recommend consulting with an expert to make an informed decision.
How to Maintain the Fittings in a Piping Network
To maintain the integrity and proper performance of the fittings, pay attention to these pipe fittings maintenance tips and considerations.
- Inspect the fittings regularly. It is crucial to address any issues immediately. Therefore, having a schedule for regular inspections is a good idea to detect minor problems and solve them before they get bigger. Look for any signs of damage and leakage. These problems usually occur where fittings are connected to other parts.
- Tighten the bolts, apply sealants, and replace gaskets once in a while to avoid leakage and have a secure connection.
- Take some measures to protect fittings from corrosion. For example, use corrosion-resistant materials or protective coatings.
- Clean the fittings of debris and dirt regularly.
- Flush the piping system periodically to avoid clogging and ensure an efficient flow. This reduces the stresses and unnecessary pressures on the fittings.
- Some fittings need regular lubrication. Follow an expert’s advice or the manufacturer’s instructions to see how often you need to lubricate the fittings.
- Do not postpone repairs and replacements.
- For bigger networks, documenting and recording the installation dates, maintenance and cleaning activities, repairs and replacement, etc., is necessary to track down the roots of recurrent issues and make some improvements.
All in all, monitoring the fittings and other parts and equipment helps to extend their lifespan, and make the system more reliable and safer.
Call to order custom-designed products for the specific requirements of your piping network.
FAQs about Pipe Fittings
There are some common questions that we usually get when talking to customers about fittings. Here, we answer some of them.
What Type of Pipe Fittings Are Best for Higher Temperatures and Pressures?
This mostly depends on the material the fitting is made of. Stainless steel is usually the best choice. It offers great resistance to high temperatures, pressures, stresses, and corrosion.
What Is the Most Common Type of Pipe Fittings?
Well, we cannot name only one, as the use of a fitting depends on the function you have in mind. However, elbows, tees, and couplings are widely used in different plumbing and pipe systems.
How Should I Choose a Fitting?
Choosing the right fitting is essential. You should consider the function you want it to perform, the media being conveyed in the system, the system design, and the conditions, such as the temperature, pressure, etc.
For more details, read the section above about factors to consider when selecting a fitting.
Can I Install a Pipe Fitting Myself?
It depends on the type of fitting and your system’s conditions. Some fittings are simple and you can install them with your hands, a wrench, or any other common tools, while others need specialized tools and techniques.
How Can I Prevent Leaks in Pipe Fittings?
Several factors should be considered.
- Choose the right size and dimension,
- Make sure the material is compatible,
- Proper installation,
- Apply the right sealant or gasket,
- Maintain and inspect them regularly.
What Type of Material Is Good for Hygienic and Sanitary Conditions?
Stainless steel is exceptionally resistant to corrosion. It is also compatible with different materials. So, it is normally the best option for sanitary conditions, such as food processing and pharmaceuticals.
Can I Reuse a Pipe Fitting?
Fittings can be reused if they do not show any signs of wear, degradation, or any other damage.
Order Top-Notch Pipe Fittings and Other Process Equipment from Wherever in the US
We have reviewed the most commonly employed fittings in pipe systems. We also talked about the importance of regular inspection and maintenance as well as the considerations in selecting the right pipe fitting.
Now, if you need any type of fittings, valves, actuators, and other process equipment, you can simply order at ‘Process Valve and Instruments’. Our office is located in Birmingham, Alabama, but we deliver your purchases as soon as possible wherever you are in the United States.