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The True Cost of Bad Pipe Supports


If you’re shopping for pipe supports, watch out for the dangerous trap of cheap products. Here’s how it works: A manufacturer shoots you a low bid. So you settle for cheap or makeshift pipe supports, assuming they’ll be good enough. 

You think, “What’s the worst that can happen?”

Unfortunately, neglecting your piping system can be catastrophic. In one recent case, it caused a pipe leak that cost a pipeline company $60 million

And the costs of bad supports are even more widespread. Thinking about using low-quality supports? Give it another thought. Here’s what bad pipe supports are really costing you:

Bad Pipe Supports Waste Energy

If you want your system running at peak performance, you’ll keep an eye on energy use. The more efficient your system is, the more money you’ll be saving. Alarmingly, there are a few ways bad supports could be throwing away precious energy:

  • Escaping heat: Oftentimes, poorly made pipe supports don’t feature proper insulation. Without protection from direct metal-on-metal contact, heat from your pipes can jump across metal and escape your system. 

  • Poor flow: If fluids and energy aren't running smoothly through pipes, it adds pressure to your energy source. Bad, or poorly installed, pipe supports may sag or encourage corrosion. These clogs and disruptions can overload your pumps, leading to breaks, shutdowns, or higher energy costs.

  • Stopped production: Every time you have to shut down your operation, it costs money. And it takes extra umph to get things up and running again. Cheap pipe supports can cause breakdowns that wreck profits.

They Cause Unnecessary Wear

Wear may seem like a small thing, but every little point of friction is amplified when you’re dealing with a powerful piping system. In one recent case, a major refinery came to us because its pipe supports simply couldn’t hold up to vibrations. They were snapping from constant impact. 

In other cases, seemingly small instances of wear can add up and cause full-on breakdowns. Overall, bad pipe supports ignore a few fundamental hazards. 

Metal-to-Metal Damage 

If your pipe supports don’t reduce metal-on-metal contact, it could be wearing down your pipes. When pipes scrape against the hard surfaces of I-beams or unprotected supports, it grinds away the pipe’s outer layers. Additionally, if supports don’t stand between dissimilar metal pairings, it could cause galvanic corrosion.

Thermal Expansion 

Want your pipes to last longer? Control movement. The more your pipes rub against harsh surfaces, the closer they are to breaking down. So if your pipe supports aren’t reducing the movement caused by thermal expansion, they’re contributing to wear.

Related: Download the APP Vendor Comparison to effectively evaluate the  capabilities and products of four pipe support manufacturers →

They Add Noise and Damage

A loud jobsite can drive a team crazy. But it comes with even worse consequences. If a piping system is growing louder and louder, it could mean supports are wearing out. That could be disastrous. Here are some reasons bad pipe supports may be causing noise, and damage, in your system:

  • Loose fittings: If you hear excessive rattling, it might mean your supports don’t fit your pipes. And that’s bad news. If pipes are constantly banging against supports or surrounding objects, something has to give. Eventually, either your pipes will rupture or your supports will break. 

  • Inadequate vibration reduction: Quality pipe supports, such as VibraTek Hold Down Clamps, are fitted with a special lining that absorbs vibrations. This dampens vibrating pipes and cushions the blow of rumbling metal. If supports in high-energy systems don’t include similar protection, it can cause loud noise and destruction.

  • Little or no control: If you’re noticing loud groans or scraping, it might mean you’re missing quality pipe supports. In many cases, these are signs of ineffective pipe restraints. Quality pipe restraints will reduce friction, control movement, and keep pipes from moving wildly. 

They Come with Long-Term Costs

Possibly the biggest consequence of bad pipe supports is long-term costs. It doesn’t matter if supports cover a problem now when they’re costing you money in the long term. There are a few ways bad pipe supports can hit your wallet in the long run:

  • Production stoppages: Cheap pipe supports don’t save you much if you have to constantly stop production to replace them. That’s why they need to be made of high-quality material and include a durable design.

  • Pipe ruptures: If a pipe ruptures or leaks, it could ruin your reputation, cost a fortune, and put lives in danger. That’s why pipe supports should reinforce pipes and stop the wear that causes pipe failure. 

  • Corrosion: According to U.S. Department of Transportation data, corrosion caused almost 20 percent of pipeline incidents between 1998 and 2017. If pipe supports aren’t actively protecting your system from corrosion, they aren’t saving you in the long term.

  • Excessive welding: Every time you have to weld, you’re inviting extra costs. Welds come with specialized labor and ongoing inspections. That’s why pipe supports should limit welding during installation and save you money later on.

Choose Pipe Supports That Improve Your Piping System

If you care about the long-term value of your piping system, you won’t settle for bad pipe supports. And the best way to know the difference between quality supports and garbage is research. 

Ready to get started? Read our Complete Guide to Pipe Shoes and learn everything you need to know about spotting quality pipe supports.