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I thought pipes were made of copper; is this not true? Home was built in the early 1980s.

I have a call in to the water testers, but wanted to research on my own a bit before they call me back. I am not very optimistic about their being able to give me a reason for the aluminum — they pretty much just do the testing, I think.
The local municipal water supply reports no surplus of anything.

I am electrician. I have worked in construction for years. I am also a scraper on the side. I collect scrap metal to take to the metal recycling yard for money.

I collect my own copper wire scraps, of course – but I will also collect any metal worth hauling. Aluminum is definitely worth hauling.

I have worked at many whole home re-models. I have never once seen aluminum plumbing pipes. Never heard of it. Several plumbers know me, they would have set it aside for me at jobs. I am not a plumber, but I can almost guarantee that such a thing is never found in Florida, where I live.
posted by Flood at 4:12 AM on February 23, 2011

The standard in the US post-war was galvanized steel plumbing until somewhere around the late 60s-early 70s when the switch was made to copper. A house built in the US in 80s would have almost certainly been copper plumbing. It’s possible the original builder would have used an alternative, say at the special request of the owner if it was a custom build.

It’s also possible a previous owner could have made modifications.

Aside from copper, the only thing really used in the US is PEX, which is plastic. But the only other option is galvanized steel. But then you might have lead in the water (if anything), not aluminum.

I don’t even know where one could get aluminum plumbing. Never heard of it. And I can’t imagine why anyone would want to use it.
posted by thatguyjeff at 7:33 AM on February 23, 2011

Do you mind if I ask why these measurements were being done?

THanks so much so far, everyone!
We have sediment/residue in our tub after the hot water evaporates. The local utilities people said it was probably just calcium but since it’s often gray or sandy colored I wanted to make sure. (BTW this particular Heidleberg U is in Ohio.)
The aluminum-heavy test only came from that bathroom (tub) tap with a hot water sample. I think now after doing a whole lot of googling that the elevated AI levels are maybe a normal product of the hot water heater’s anodyne rod, and that it goes away with cold water.
If this makes no sense and you’re still reading, please do let me know!
Thanks again.
posted by Tylwyth Teg at 3:20 PM on February 23, 2011

Ask MetaFilter I thought pipes were made of copper; is this not true? Home was built in the early 1980s. I have a call in to the water testers, but wanted to research on my own a bit before

Aluminum piping: is it safe for water circulation in an aquaponics system?

I found the plans to basically create a condenser out of aluminum pipe by running the pipe under ground, then back up and coiled in a 55 gallon drum in order to serve multiple purposes. 1) Draw humidity out of the air and collect the water 2) cool the air to run to a green house 3) cool down the water in the aquaponics system

However I haven’t been able to find a ton of information on using aluminum in an aquaponics system other than that it can corrode? Does anyone have any warnings or information on why I shouldn’t add about 40 feet of aluminum piping that water would circulate through??

I suspect the plans used aluminum because of its heat sink (heat transference) properties only.

Aluminum not only will corrode in water it will also oxidize and put those new aluminum compounds into the water.
Aluminum, while less expensive than copper has those corrosion and oxidation issues in the presence of H2O, making it not ideal for aquaponics since the aluminum can be fatal to fish, copper can too but it takes a lot longer for that to happen.
Plastics do not transfer heat or cold fast enough to be good for a condenser system, they do work well for most piping setups though.

One other thing about aluminum, it dissolves in the presence of alcohol and should never, ever be used for any part of a distillation apparatus.

List of Bryant RedHawk’s Epic Soil Series Threads We love visitors, that’s why we live in a secluded cabin deep in the woods. “Buzzard’s Roost (Asnikiye Heca) Farm.” Promoting permaculture to save our planet.

The few millimeters of plastic are not relevant unless there is a good conductor on the other side. And earth isn’t really a good thermal conductor. I doubt you would notice the difference. Besides that, you can cover more area with the plastic piping (for the same price).

Edit: A material that does not corrode and is less expensive than copper (which does corrode a bit)… I don’t think stainless steel is less expensive. Glass would be a pain to work with.

Joshua Segatto wrote: Is there a metal that would be safe? While plastic piping would work (I’ve looked in to using like drip irrigation pipe which is super cheap), as Bryant pointed out, I don’t think that the water would cool as quickly as if it were a metal pipe. Additonally, I don’t think condensation would happen above ground either by using plastic pipe (point 1 of my original post)

The plumbing code is pretty much set on copper as the safe drinking water metal pipe carrier.

As long as you aren’t trying to get a lot of condensation, then pex will work for most of your piping needs.
I have friends in Australia and NZ that do aquaponics setups with pex but they use “waterfall” coolers to bring water temps down.

List of Bryant RedHawk’s Epic Soil Series Threads We love visitors, that’s why we live in a secluded cabin deep in the woods. “Buzzard’s Roost (Asnikiye Heca) Farm.” Promoting permaculture to save our planet.

What you want is the pipe used for baseboard hot water heating. It’s copper pipe with aluminum fins pressed on for maximum heat transfer to air.
Here is a listing on ebay- http://www.ebay.ca/itm/Slant-Fin-Fine-Line-Hydronic-BaseBoard-30-5-Fully-Assembled-Enclosure-Element-/322357925230?hash=item4b0e07956e:g:zT0AAOSwo4pYTzO1

Search for Hydronic Baseboard Pipe or something like that on Amazon or ebay.

Joshua Segatto wrote: According to everywhere I read. Copper piping is a huge no no in Aquaponics due to it poisoning the fish and because aquaponics water is acidic and will corrode it as well. so that’s not an option.

With all metals, acidity is the problem. Neutral water will dissolve a little metal anyway, but acidified water (rainwater – carbonic acid; surface/groundwater – plant acids; for example) will increase the per mil of metal in the water. These are often called often called ‘soft water’. Copper is the least problematic pipe metal, lead the worst. Stainless steel (usually with nickel) is less good than cast iron or rolled steel. But in all these cases, the best help is to remove the acid. Naturally, this happens in water from limestone rocks, where calcium and magnesium increase the pH, lime coats the pipe inside and metal take-up is minimal. Do it yourself? Add soil-conditioner slaked lime in small amounts to the water – most any farmer will have some. Or throw some old mortar or concrete chunks into the tank.

David Croucher wrote: Naturally, this happens in water from limestone rocks, where calcium and magnesium increase the pH, lime coats the pipe inside and metal take-up is minimal. Do it yourself? Add soil-conditioner slaked lime in small amounts to the water – most any farmer will have some. Or throw some old mortar or concrete chunks into the tank.

Isn’t limestone / concrete also a no no in aquaponics due to the effect it has on imbalancing the PH?

Creating sustainable life, beauty & food (with lots of kids and fun)

Jim Fry wrote: I have no idea if this is true history/science, but it makes a good story. At one time aluminum was very valuable. It’s was just so hard to mine and extract. But it was finally figured out and aluminum became a very cheap and widely used metal. Some folks believe it helped win the war against the National SOCIALIST German Workers Party (the scum nazi’s) because the factories of our great American Republic were able to produce so many aircraft and the Allies were able to bomb the socialists into surrender. But, the use of aluminum had become so pervasive during the war effort, that there were great factories left idle after the war. So they (quite naturally) started building peacetime products. And thus everyone starting using aluminum pots and pans for cooking and as dinner ware, and as pizza pans. A couple decades later, Alzheimer’s became prevalent. Some folks think there’s a connection between “brain disease” and aluminum). I don’t know if aluminum is a death metal or not, but I personally will not use it for anything not structural or electrical. Cast iron pans and glass glasses are much better when food and drinking is concerned. I wouldn’t use aluminum if you or fish or plants are going to be drinking the water. It’s not very permaculture like if you do the cost effective thing, but in the long run poison yourself (or the soil or the animals).

There is a lot of evidence for this, as well as poisoning of fish. In every way I view it as a no-go.

Joshua Segatto wrote: I found the plans to basically create a condenser out of aluminum pipe by running the pipe under ground, then back up and coiled in a 55 gallon drum in order to serve multiple purposes. 1) Draw humidity out of the air and collect the water 2) cool the air to run to a green house 3) cool down the water in the aquaponics system

However I haven’t been able to find a ton of information on using aluminum in an aquaponics system other than that it can corrode? Does anyone have any warnings or information on why I shouldn’t add about 40 feet of aluminum piping that water would circulate through??

They have a heating pipe system that is a layer of plastic layer of aluminum and another layer of plastic. Called aluminum PEX, I believe, but I used a generic version. I used this in a commercial aquaponics system and had no troubles with it. The metal never contacts the fish water. But I had it full of heating water and the outside was in the fish water, you might have to seal the ends in a way that covers the slight aluminum edge or just use the pipes as a heat exchanger like I did and have the water in the pipes not mix with the water of the system with a small circ pump moving the heat out. The way the fittings are you probably could just put a small amount of silicone on the edge and then crimp it and the fishwater would never get there, however, if you are using the fish water directly you could have clogging issues– so I’d just keep the water separate, but there are many ways to skin a cat so I’m sure you could if you want to save having another pump.

1) Draw humidity out of the air and collect the water 2) cool the air to run to a green house 3) cool down the water in the aquaponics system. However I haven’t been able to find a ton of information on using aluminum in an aquaponics system other than that it can corrode?