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Installers have been increasingly turning to press-fit plastic piping over recent years as they exploit the benefits of flexible piping across a range of applications. However, there is another solution which combines the advantages of plastic and metal piping systems. Here, Antony Corbett, product manager for Geberit, examines the benefits of multi-layer piping and the advantages its simple press connection can bring to installers and their customers.
Plastic piping for supply pipes is certainly a versatile option for installers, with its bendable construction and single skin plastic piping offering quick installation times and flame-free jointing. Opting instead for a multi-layer piping system can bring together the strength and stability of metal systems, with the flexibility and corrosion resistance of plastic. So, how exactly does the technology work and what are its benefits for installers?
Multi-layer piping’s multiple benefits
Multi-layer piping systems such as Geberit Mepla consist of three layers: an outer plastic layer made of polyethylene (PE-RT) which protects against corrosion and mechanical damage, a central aluminium layer which makes the pipe strong yet flexible and, finally, an inner layer, also made of PE-RT, for a smooth internal bore and corrosion resistance.
It’s this technology which offers a single solution for all potable water and heating supplies for domestic and light commercial projects, as well as industrial applications such as compressed air and cooling water systems.
Strong and stable
The one advantage of multi-layer systems is the improved strength and durability compared to purely plastic piping – but, importantly, without compromising on transportability or weight as is often the case with metals.
The aluminium layer, for example, offers the mechanical stability necessary to ensure that the pipe remains in position but also flexible enough to enable it to bend into the required position. This same aluminium also provides the pipe with an oxygen diffusion barrier, making it suitable for central-heating systems and, of course, making it detectable by electronic devices after installation.
Finally, this unique construction of multi-layer piping means that installers can have complete ease of mind that the system will not leak. A system from a reputable manufacturer will also have a fail-safe method of checking for unpressed joints.
Ease of installation
Multi-layer piping offers installers the benefit of easy installation. Multi-layer piping can be adjusted to the on-site conditions, with installers even able manipulate the piping to follow the line of curved architectural features.
Pipes of 16mm, 20mm and 26mm can be manipulated effortlessly by hand to reduce the number of fittings required, which saves time and money during installation. Larger diameters up to 50mm can also be bent without risk of de-lamination or kinking using an appropriate tool.
Opting for press fit systems will also eliminate the requirement for hot works and, with it, the associated health and safety considerations and cooling down period – and the only tools needed to form a reliable and tight connection are a cutter, deburrer and press tool.
The polyethylene inner layer of these systems mean that it is resistant to cracking, ageing and general wear and tear. They are also non-reactive and corrosion resistant, making them suitable for all water qualities. The low internal surface roughness of the inner layer, meanwhile, also means that it is more difficult for limescale and biofilm to adhere to the smooth surface providing resistance to scale build-up.
These systems also offer acoustic insulation properties, resulting in less noise during water passing through the pipework compared to metal piping. Leading manufacturers will, also, offer protective caps on fittings and pipes for added hygienic safety.
Boosting sustainability credentials
These pipe systems are 100% recyclable – so, in addition to the many installation and operational benefits of multi-layer piping, a good quality system can also help to reduce the carbon footprint of a building. Multi-layer piping is lightweight and has a low intrinsic scrap value when compared to metals such as copper, reducing the risk of thefts from site.
An important consideration for installers is that multi-layer systems are a poor heat conductor, with Geberit’s Mepla system offering thermal conductivity of 0.43 W/mK, losing around 800 times less heat than copper piping. Another key benefit is five times less expansion than PEX and eight times less than polybutylene pipes, so it can be bracketed similarly to copper pipe.
Realising the benefits
Multi-layer systems can offer installers real efficiency and productivity – not to mention the fact that they can be used across a range of applications. As product innovation and technology changes, installers must look at how to innovate – and expand their product knowledge and offer too.