Confusion in the piping industry is causing damage. Did you know? Corrosion alone has cost an estimated $2.5 trillion worldwide.
Unfortunately, misunderstanding pipe supports can result in more than just high costs: It can lead to leaks, on-site destruction, and the collapse of whole systems. Luckily, we have some good news. Understanding how pipe supports really work can prevent breakdowns and lengthen the lifespan of your entire system.
What are most people missing when it comes to pipe supports? We’ve debunked the top six pipe support myths so you can avoid disasters and strengthen your piping systems.
What’s the Role of a Pipe Support?
The key to spotting pipe support myths is understanding what pipe supports should accomplish. Yes, they add structure to your system, but a quality support will be doing even more. Pipe supports should also stop corrosion, prevent ruptured pipes, and strengthen your whole system.
Specific types of pipe supports, such as pipe restraints, isolators, and pipe shoes all work in different ways. However, they’re up against the same harsh environments. Piping can be highly pressurized, exposed to corrosive elements, carrying corrosive materials, and rubbing against friction-heavy surfaces all at once.
When you map out a plan for pipe supports, consider the main ways that pipe supports should fight these negative forces:
- They stop corrosion
- They stabilize pipes and control movement
- They absorb vibrations
- They elevate pipes and keep them organized
With that overview in mind, you may be wondering what people get wrong when it comes to pipe supports. Here are the top six pipe support myths debunked:
1. It’s Impossible to Slow Down Pipe Corrosion
Corrosion can be sneaky and powerful. Unchecked, it creeps into your system and destroys metal. But at the same time, it’s not easy to see it coming. As a result, its invisible nature makes it easy to write off as an unstoppable, inevitable force.
However, there actually are ways to slow down pipe corrosion and save your piping system.
The first step is to understand where the most vulnerable points in your system live. Corrosion happens when an electrochemical reaction starts. The process pulls electrons out of metal, causing it to rust, deteriorate, or weaken.
But here’s the good news: This means that you can slow down corrosion by sealing off vulnerable spots and maintaining the integrity of your metal pipes or supports.
One way to minimize corrosion is to pay attention to the metals you use. If they’re dissimilar metals, they can kick off galvanic corrosion, which occurs when incompatible metals cause an electrochemical reaction. When the reaction occurs, one metal will pull electrons from the other and cause corrosion.
Beyond avoiding the combination of certain metals, you can protect pipes by reinforcing them with coatings, finishes, or galvanization. You can also add insulation or buffers to keep dissimilar metals from physically touching one another.
Another way to slow down corrosion is to keep pipes from wearing in the first place. As pipes wear down, their protective layers are stripped off, or cracks into which corrosive elements can pool may form. This means that stopping wear doesn’t just keep pipes from impact ruptures; it also eliminates the places where corrosion can start.
In the same way, using things like pipe restraints allows you to control movement. The right restraint can absorb vibrations, cut down on friction, and make it harder for corrosive substances to seep into vulnerable spots on metal.
2. A Pipe’s Foundation Is Solely Responsible for Its Lifespan
Don’t get me wrong, a pipe’s foundation is important. However, too many people assume it’s the only part of piping that dictates the pipe’s lifespan.
If you want to get the most out of your pipes, you should view them as part of the whole system. Pipes on the surface and equipment that’s exposed to the elements can be especially vulnerable to corrosion and failure. Elements like salt, water, chemicals, and bacteria can corrode metal surfaces.
What’s worse, movement can gradually rub off a pipe’s surface and kick corrosion into high gear. At the same time, unrestrained pipes can vibrate or crash into surrounding objects, causing destruction.
All of that means that strengthening your whole system requires a more holistic approach. Think about what finishes and coatings you’re using to protect outer layers of piping. Pipe restraints can help control pipe movement and minimize vibrations. And whenever you add a pipe support, be sure to pay attention to how it controls heat transfer, reduces friction, and promotes the efficiency of other parts of the system.
3. You Cannot Use Dissimilar Metals in Piping Systems
Anyone who’s worked with process piping systems extensively knows that pairing up dissimilar metals can cause trouble. It can lead to a reaction that eats away at metal and compromises piping. However, not everyone realizes that there are ways you can use dissimilar metals in your piping systems without causing corrosion.
One way to stop metal-on-metal corrosion is to add protective layers, by adding coatings or through galvanization. Galvanization works by incorporating a zinc finish into the outer layer of your pipe support. Because zinc is a basic metal, it sacrifices its electrons and retains the electrons of your metal below.
Another way to avoid galvanic corrosion is to add insulation to supports or pipes. In this scenario, you physically separate the two metals by placing a barrier between them.
For instance, if you have piping made of carbon steel and a stainless steel I-beam, resting bare carbon pipes on the I-beam will cause problems. Eventually, the electrons in your carbon pipes can move into the more noble stainless beam. However, you can add a pipe shoe between the two metals. The shoe separates the incompatible metals by lifting the piping off of the beam.
Finally, you can stop corrosion by minimizing the metal’s exposure to electrolytes. If there are points at which dissimilar metals meet, you can slow down corrosion by adding waterproofing, drainage, or sealants. This keeps corrosion accelerators, like water or bacteria, from seeping into crevices and kickstarting corrosion.
4. Stopping Movement Is Always the Best Option
This destructive myth generally has to do with pipe restraints. Some think all pipe restraints should completely stop pipe movement. However, in many instances, pinning pipes down with supports will concentrate vibrations at one point. This can lead to extra stress, broken restraints, or ruptured pipes.
In some instances, it’s better to use a pipe restraint that redirects movement. That might mean letting pipes move more fluently, but in an axial direction rather than up and down. By encouraging pipes to slide naturally through a restraint, that restraint will distribute vibrations and lengthen the life of both the restraint itself and the pipes.
5. Corrosion Always Starts in the Same Place
All corrosion breaks down metal and weakens your system. However, that doesn’t mean that stopping one type of corrosion will protect your pipes from corrosion altogether.
For example, separating dissimilar metals may stop galvanic corrosion, but improper drainage or gaps in joints can lead to pitting corrosion. Pitting corrosion is when corrosive liquids collect in crevices and destroy metal. Although the general corrosion process is the same, the vulnerable spots in your system can vary.
The more you understand the broader causes of corrosion, the easier it is to protect your piping.
6. Pipe Supports Are One-Size-Fits-All
With piping up against so many natural dangers, it would be nice to have a simple cure-all. However, in reality, different pipe systems have different needs. For instance, cryogenic piping systems may call for pipe supports that discourage heat transfer. If you use a reciprocating compressor, you might need a restraint that calms vibrations. At the same time, offshore rigs may benefit from supports with more salt-resistant finishes than indoor systems.
Fittingly, the same goes for how you choose to use pipe supports. Supports are built for several different applications. For example, U-bolts can be a solid solution for transporting materials, but they won’t necessarily hold up if you want to restrain heavy, vibrating pipes.
As a whole, paying attention to the subtleties of your system and finding the right solution can pay off in the long run.
Where to Pick Up Quality Pipe Supports
Overcoming myths about pipe supports should help you understand how to protect your piping systems. And we want to help you lengthen the lifespan of your systems. Looking for a partner that focuses on quality supports? Browse our products here or contact us for a fast quote.