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Replumbing: Solder or Threads for Ball Valves

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seized123
seized123 Member Posts: 297
edited October 2023 in Plumbing
Plumbing 101question: I'm replacing a lot of ball valves etc. and a few stretches of copper pipe throughout the house. Our water takes a toll on valves and although it takes a long time they eventually go to hell (very high total dissolved solids, and chlorides). In anticipation of me or someone having to change them again someday, I thought (after someone suggested it elsewhere on this forum) it might be better to use threaded valves rather than sweated, for ease of switching them out. But that would mean two extra fittings (npt to sweat adaptors) per valve plus a union somewhere to make it easier. (If I soldered I would still put in unions so to replace a valve I wouldn't have to unsolder a whole bunch of other things, and I figure I have seen no unions in my plumbing leak so far.) What would you do? I know soldering is traditional, but that doesn't by itself mean it's better. But if soldered joints are much more reliable than threads with teflon and dope then I guess I would go that way.

Comments

  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 15,784
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    I would solder them and then exercise them every 3 to 6 months.

    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment
    Mad Dog_2PC7060MikeAmann
  • HomerJSmith
    HomerJSmith Member Posts: 2,468
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    I prefer solder. It's cheaper and you are going to cut the pipe with threaded valves to remove the valve, anyway.
    Buy quality ball valves.
    Mad Dog_2
  • WMno57
    WMno57 Member Posts: 1,343
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    What about traditional rebuildable stem valves instead of ball valves?
    I DIY.
    Mad Dog_2MikeAmann
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 5,735
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    Replace all the stretches of copper with pex with ball valves. How old is the copper?
    NJ Steam Homeowner. See my sight glass boiler videos: https://bit.ly/3sZW1el
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 15,622
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    Sweat valve and no unions they leak. If someone know how to solder properly they will not have leaks
    SuperTechMad Dog_2MikeAmann
  • Intplm.
    Intplm. Member Posts: 2,006
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    What would you do? You ask.
    Spend the money on correcting your water quality and then solder valves on.
    Or replace the copper with pex tubing.
    Threaded valves would not be as practical in this case.
    But really......the best thing to do is get your water treated.
    Mad Dog_2
  • seized123
    seized123 Member Posts: 297
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    Most of the piping is 33+ years old, most of the ball valves probably younger because a few got replaced when other stuff did (new well pressure tank, numerous HW heaters, etc.)
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 9,747
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    You can buy NPT valves with a union built in, but I would be inclined to just put a coupler someplace that was easy to sweat. Copper unions are the one fitting I have had issues with leaking but it doesn't develop over time, it shows up immediately. Could flare one side and use a flare adapter too, that would cost less than the union.

    I used NPT valves at the service so they would be easier to replace. Out in the system I would use NPT valves but only because a NPT adapter is cheaper to replace than a valve if I screw up sweating it and it is pretty easy to destroy a valve if you end up heating it for a prolonged time trying to take it back apart to fix a joint that didn't wet properly.
  • Intplm.
    Intplm. Member Posts: 2,006
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    Dare I say it........... Maybe use shark bite ball valves?
    Mad Dog_2SuperTechMikeAmann
  • Intplm.
    Intplm. Member Posts: 2,006
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    ChrisJ said:

    Intplm. said:

    Dare I say it........... Maybe use shark bite ball valves?




    LOL !!!! Excellent.


    ChrisJ
  • hot_rod
    hot_rod Member Posts: 22,258
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    3 piece ball valve or union end
    Bob "hot rod" Rohr
    trainer for Caleffi NA
    Living the hydronic dream
    mattmia2SuperTech
  • WMno57
    WMno57 Member Posts: 1,343
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    I've owned homes on well water for 30 years. Had problems with both ball valves and valves with packing nuts and removable stems. I've had ball valves stick open and closed. On a traditional valve, just loosen the packing nut, open or close the valve, then tighten the packing nut.
    Had one very old worn out stem valve in a location that would have been difficult to sweat. Went to the local big box store, bought a new China sweat valve that looked similar. Removed the guts of the new valve and screwed them in to the old valve body. Still using that one. No leaks.
    Ball valves are faster to open and close. Other than that, I don't get the hype.
    It's easy to say treat the water. What about the valves upstream from the treatment? What about the valves on untreated lines for drinking and gardening? Water softeners just swap calcium and magnesium for sodium. Wouldn't surprise me if a buildup of sodium deposits could kill a ball valve.
    Like anything, there are varying levels of quality. I've worn out several laundry ball valves. The quarter turn is nice, but they don't seem to last.
    I DIY.
    mattmia2
  • Mad Dog_2
    Mad Dog_2 Member Posts: 7,106
    edited October 2023
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    A Good Made in USA 🇺🇸 full port Ball valve like an Apollo cannot be beat.  Please don't use a Sharkbite...you can do better than that. They are great for a quick temporary repair.  Soldering is fun. Class is in session..ill show ya    Mad Dog 🐕 
    Intplm.mattmia2SuperTech
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 5,735
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    Soldering is fun! I solder a lot on my retro computers, but I use them for fun, not for useful work anymore :wink:
    NJ Steam Homeowner. See my sight glass boiler videos: https://bit.ly/3sZW1el
    Mad Dog_2SuperTech
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 15,784
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    Soldering is fun! I solder a lot on my retro computers, but I use them for fun, not for useful work anymore :wink:

    That's a very odd comment.

    You'll find none of your electronics work without some kind of soldering.
    Yes, it's usually performed by machines now because they're better and faster at it. But, repairs are still done by hand.
    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment
    Mad Dog_2
  • ethicalpaul
    ethicalpaul Member Posts: 5,735
    edited October 2023
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    OK I'll send you my phone and laptop if they break and you can fix them with your soldering iron :smile:

    Replying here instead of making a new reply :) Yeah I believe you can do it, I have seen the youtubers with their setups doing that tiny work. I have done a little SMT with my soldering iron, but not the teeny tiny stuff
    NJ Steam Homeowner. See my sight glass boiler videos: https://bit.ly/3sZW1el
    Mad Dog_2
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 15,784
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    OK I'll send you my phone and laptop if they break and you can fix them with your soldering iron :smile:

    I have an electronic microscope and a hot air soldering setup.

    So,
    I do have the tools to do it. But I'm getting older and my hands aren't up to it.
    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment
    Mad Dog_2ethicalpaulSuperTech
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 9,747
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    A full port ball valve has a lot less restriction than a globe valve.

    Sodium salts are generally very soluble, magnesium and calcium salts much less so, that is why water softeners replace other ions with sodium ions, sodium doesn't form deposits.
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 9,747
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    ChrisJ said:


    Yes, it's usually performed by machines now because they're better and faster at it. But, repairs are still done by hand.

    Wave soldering has been a thing since the 60's or so.
    Mad Dog_2
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 15,784
    edited October 2023
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    mattmia2 said:

    ChrisJ said:


    Yes, it's usually performed by machines now because they're better and faster at it. But, repairs are still done by hand.

    Wave soldering has been a thing since the 60's or so.
    I've used such a machine. Though I'm not sure that it was a big one, but it was interesting.

    But no one is wave soldering boards for ipads and cellphones. Those are baked in an oven after a machine spreads solder paste through stencils onto the boards and machine places all of the parts. I haven't personally run those, but I have watched them do it.

    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment
  • seized123
    seized123 Member Posts: 297
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    Lots of helpful comments I'll address soon, but first I'd just like to touch on:
    Mad Dog_2 said:

    A Good Made in USA 🇺🇸 full port Ball valve like an Apollo cannot be beat.  Please don't use a Sharkbite...


    No, I won't use a Sharkbite.

    Would you buy the Apollos that are made in China? (I recently learned they're not all made here.)

    At supplyhouse for 3/4 inch it's maybe $14 versus $26, but I'd pay that if it's worth it. The only thing is, there's an argument that says if water's going to attack these valves anyway and I'll be changing them I might as well get the cheap ones, although that may not make sense - I guess the question is, does whatever makes the made in USA ones better with normal water (if they are better) also make them better against my attack-dog style water? (Pretty deep question, actually.)



  • Mad Dog_2
    Mad Dog_2 Member Posts: 7,106
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    No! ..USA 👶 Apollos are superior.  The Chinese ones Apollo International are decent, but nolo contendre.  It's worth it.  I appreciate you paying more for American Made.  I'm heartbroken that Wolverine Brass is shutting down their  South Carolina Foundry, but atleast they'll be using Apollo USA 🇺🇸 Mad Dog 🐕 
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 15,622
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    It used to be that if the handle said "Apollo" it was USA. If the handle said "Apollo International" it was foreign made. Don't know if that holds true.

    I would hope that usa valves can be repacked etc where as the foreign valves are probably throw aways. Can't really say what is the better choice in your case.
    Mad Dog_2
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 15,784
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    Mad Dog_2 said:

    No! ..USA 👶 Apollos are superior.  The Chinese ones Apollo International are decent, but nolo contendre.  It's worth it.  I appreciate you paying more for American Made.  I'm heartbroken that Wolverine Brass is shutting down their  South Carolina Foundry, but atleast they'll be using Apollo USA 🇺🇸 Mad Dog 🐕 


    Rumor on the streets is valves made in Italy tend to be very good. What have you found?

    I have no idea if it's true, but the ones I have seem to appear and feel good, but no idea on longevity etc. I think all of the Uponor ones I have are from Italy as well. I've been using Uponor's "Pro" valves that seem really decent.

    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment
    Mad Dog_2SuperTech
  • WMno57
    WMno57 Member Posts: 1,343
    edited October 2023
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    mattmia2 said:

    Sodium salts are generally very soluble, magnesium and calcium salts much less so, that is why water softeners replace other ions with sodium ions, sodium doesn't form deposits.

    Anything dissolved in water (including sodium) will leave a deposit when the water evaporates.
    Matt and MadDog and most of the Pros here, know not to connect a boiler to a sodium ion exchange water softener. I'm going to go over the whys of that, because its important, and counterintuitive for people with water softener experience, but not boiler experience. That was me, my first year here before @hotrod turned the light bulb on for me.
    Calcium and Magnesium are inversely soluble in relation to temperature. As water is heated, calcium and magnesium precipitate (or plate) out and form scale, especially on hot surfaces. Sodium is increasingly soluble in relation to temperature (just like sugar, ask a candy maker about this). As water gets hotter, sodium is increasingly dissolved and stays in solution. Less scale should be good right? Yes, softened water is good for water heaters. Water is continuously run through the water heater, and over time a lot of scale could build up.
    SOFTENED WATER IS BAD FOR BOILERS. In a boiler the water is not continuously renewed, but instead recirculated round and round. Boilers are also 40 to 90 degrees hotter than water heaters. The sodium stays in solution and raises the electrical conductivity of the water, causing electrolysis and corrosion of the boiler.
    On boilers, scale is a lesser evil than corrosion. Scale was not a big deal on old boilers with large passageways. On the new high drama boilers, it might be a good idea to clean the heat exchanger annually. Or even better, fill the boiler with distilled water. Starting with marginal water that has dissolved solids (electrical conductivity), and adding a "treatment" with more dissolved solids might raise electrical conductivity even higher. Don't guess, test.
    A red herring is the discussion about pure water being "hungry" and eating the boiler. Get real. It's almost impossible to obtain pure water. Commonly available distilled water is nowhere near pure.
    I like water softeners. I've had them in all my rural homes. Boilers and vegetation (plants), don't like them, and some people prefer the taste of hard water. For bathing, laundry, dishwashers, water heaters, and Mr. Coffee, they are wonderful.
    I DIY.
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 9,747
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    Of course if you evaporate water everything dissolved in the water that can not evaporate is going to be left behind. Sodium ions aren't going to bond to the parts of a plumbing system in any appreciable amount under normal conditions.
  • Mad Dog_2
    Mad Dog_2 Member Posts: 7,106
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    Italian valves and German are high quality, but I always try to buy American First.  I'm repiping a 3 Zone HW boiler.  I'll be using a Caleffi Feeder w Guage (Love those), Webstone Flanges, Taco Circs, Spirovent, a United Nations install.  Mad Dog 🐕 
    SuperTech
  • hot_rod
    hot_rod Member Posts: 22,258
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    Every single valve and moving part in hydronic systems is at the  mercy of the fluid. Exercising helps, but we have not found a way to make valves bulletproof

    The more you heat the water the more potential for minerals to cause problems 

    Pros snd cons to all the different designs. Ball valves are quick snd friendly to flow, high Cv
    Bob "hot rod" Rohr
    trainer for Caleffi NA
    Living the hydronic dream
  • seized123
    seized123 Member Posts: 297
    edited October 2023
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    These have been very helpful comments. Opinion seems to go towards soldering and no unions, so I think that's what I'll do. Which brings me to another Plumbing 101 question:

    Say you are swapping out a ball valve on a length of pipe, say between two elbows, the setup is rigid so you don't have any play, and there's no need to replace the whole length of pipe. (Most of this would also apply to just putting in a valve where there wasn't one before.) Where would you cut (and/or unsolder), and how would you get the new valve on? (Probably more than one way to do this.)

    I could make an inexperienced guess that you might:

    1) Cut the pipe on both sides of the old valve making at least one of the cuts a couple inches away from the end of the valve for extra space. Alternatively I guess you could make two cuts on one side of the valve to take out a segment of pipe then unsolder the other side of the valve using the gap from the removed segment to lift the valve away (again assuming no side-to-side play).
    2) Into one side of the new valve insert short length of pipe as a nipple, onto that slip a non-stop coupling. Push the coupling down towards the valve as far as you can.
    3) Slip the other side of the valve onto the main pipe and on the side with the coupling slip the coupling onto the main pipe and solder everything.

    I guess you'd have to make the coupling-side cut far enough for the overall length of the valve plus nipple plus coupling, but small enough so that the coupling can hold both the nipple and main pipe when you slide on the coupling. There's probably a systematic way to mark the length of this cut knowing the length of the new valve, the nipple, and the coupling, but if so I don't know it.
  • ChrisJ
    ChrisJ Member Posts: 15,784
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    @seized123 for what its worth I've never had issues with unions leaking.   Not on gas or water but it sounds like others have.

    I wouldn't use them just because it's an added expense, possible failure point and more work for no reason.


    Single pipe quasi-vapor system. Typical operating pressure 0.14 - 0.43 oz. EcoSteam ES-20 Advanced Control for Residential Steam boilers. Rectorseal Steamaster water treatment
  • seized123
    seized123 Member Posts: 297
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    @ChrisJ yup I think I'll go without unions. Please see my post just before yours, thanks.
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 9,747
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    Use a slip coupling.

    Or use a flare fitting like I did:










    Intplm.
  • seized123
    seized123 Member Posts: 297
    edited October 2023
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    Okay @mattmia2, “slip coupling”, and that makes me think, slip the coupling onto the main pipe, then position valve, slip coupling onto nipple. Makes more sense than putting coupling on nipple and sliding onto main pipe, because this way the size of the coupling doesn’t matter.
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 15,622
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    @seized123

    A slip coupling is just like a regular coupling except it has no stop in the middle. You can push a piece of copper tubing right through a slip coupling.

    To get a valve out cut the tubing off at one side of the valve flush with the valve body on the side that has room for a coupling, Then unsweat the other side and pull the valve off. You can usually manipulate the tubing to get the valve off with one side cut, If you have to cut on either side of the valve do that. Clean it up and put the valve on one side, The other side gets a short piece of tubing and the slip coupling
  • seized123
    seized123 Member Posts: 297
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    @EBEBRATT-Ed, now I know exactly what to do. Consider me instructed. Those ball valves won’t know what hit ‘em.

    @mattmia2 it looks to me in those pix like you chose to go with sweat x thread adaptors to threaded ball valves. I think maybe you were the one who suggested that possibility in another thread (?) maybe the one where I wanted to do all copper under the sink instead of flex lines and chrome compression fittings. If that was you, I did take your suggestion to use threaded for the under sink stuff, anticipating having to swap out valves in a few years. In that case I had soft tubing with a union to the faucet shanks, so swapping will mean just undoing the union and unscrewing the valve to get it out; further motivation was that desoldering the old one and resoldering the new one in is much less attractive in the cramped area under the sink (perhaps a big part of the universal popularity of flex lines). For the present project it’s all exposed pipe in the basement, lots of room to solder, so I’ll try that.
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 9,747
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    The leacking globe valve was npt. It goes to a silcock. I think the reason I did it with npt 20 some years ago was because I was trying to replace the remaining steel piping before I moved in and with the NPT valve I could do the connection to the silcock after I got the water back on and i could screw in the new pipe without soldering to the valve in place. Might have just been what i had or found at home depot too.
    Since it was already NPT I replaced it with an NPT ball valve although I tend to use NPT valves and adapters anyhow after burning up a sweat ball valve trying to sweat it to a pipe that was dripping a little intermittently.

    This is under my kitchen which is one of 2 small areas in may basement that don't have hard ceiling so there is a lot going on up there so it is an area that is difficult to sweat pipe in without burning something. I cut the pipe in a somewhat more open area to unscrew the old valve and screw in the new valve. I used a flare fitting to reconnect the pipe where I cut it.

    I thought that valve was leaking through a porosity in the casting but after replacing it it looks more like it was just leaking at the bonnet and probably could have been repaired.
  • Mad Dog_2
    Mad Dog_2 Member Posts: 7,106
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    Slip coupling...just make sure you mark pipes so that the couple is equidistant on each side.  Mad Dog 🐕 
    mattmia2
  • seized123
    seized123 Member Posts: 297
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    Mad Dog_2 said:
    Slip coupling...just make sure you mark pipes so that the couple is equidistant on each side.  Mad Dog 🐕 
    Another pro tip I would not have thought of.
    Mad Dog_2
  • Mad Dog_2
    Mad Dog_2 Member Posts: 7,106
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    Ask me how I know....hard lessons.  Tuiton..mad Dog 🐕