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Copper or Black Iron for the Header?

Ken_40 Member Posts: 1,320
but steel with cast iron fittings is the correct way. Copper is thin, doesn't handle expansion and contraction well, does not like acids that occur naturally in steamers, and the idea it is "rust proof" untrue.

Use the largest size diameter vertical (out of the boiler) possible. The instructions will tell you minimums. If possible, use as large a size as the outlet tapping. If there's two, use them both. If the first pipe out of the boiler block cannot be 24+" high, consider a drop-header.

Steel pipe, with cast iron fittings are best as well as the least expensive! A true win, win situation. Make sure the dope is Teflon tape, no "paste."


  • Daniel_3
    Daniel_3 Member Posts: 543

    One steam fitter wants to do copper for the header to reduce the possibility of crud and obstruction. Another steam fitter wants to do black iron for the header instead. Help me to see the best choice. As the HO I would like black iron but really I don't see why copper would be a problem. The copper would be 2" off and the black iron would be 3". What do Burnham specs say concerning the Independance header? It's true that copper doesn't corrode as much as iron does. Why is one better than the other?
  • Mark Hunt
    Mark Hunt Member Posts: 4,909

    has nothing to do with it. That black iron pipe will be there 100 years from now. It's all about expansion.

    Copper expands more when it is heated than black iron and solder joints have no room for this expansion. It WILL leak eventually.

    Burnham does not recommend copper piping on their steam boilers. DO NOT pipe the boiler with copper!

    Mark H

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  • Daniel_3
    Daniel_3 Member Posts: 543

    I just got finished reading the steam heating primer in hot tech topics because I remembered the info about this very issue. It turns out that all that you guys have stated is so true. I would also add that copper expands twice as much as steel!! Scary. This makes my decision on the fitter a lot easier now. I'm amazed at how the general population of heating professionals are not privy to this information. I see more how the informed steam fitter is an endangered group.
  • Uni R_3
    Uni R_3 Member Posts: 299
    Fe vs Cu

    "I'm amazed at how the general population of heating professionals are not privy to this information."

    Some are... they're the ones who are knowingly trying to turn a fast buck at your expense without swinging big wrenches and all the fun tasks relating to threading and twisting big pipe. Now the other ones that have never heard why you don't use copper, most have either never seen a steam boiler, or just plain don't have a clue.

    Same conclusion... ;-)
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