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What causes Copper Pipes to get Electrolysis?

Copper pipes are a popular choice for plumbing because they are durable and resistant to corrosion. However, over time, copper pipes can develop a problem called electrolysis. This occurs when electrical currents pass through the pipes, causing them to corrode and weaken. If left unchecked, electrolysis can lead to leaks and even pipe failures. In this blog post, we will explain what electrolysis is and how to prevent it from causing copper pipe leaks.

Electrolysis is a chemical reaction that occurs when electricity is passed through a liquid or metal. In the case of copper pipes, the electrical current can come from a variety of sources, such as nearby electricity wires or stray currents from appliances and lights in ceilings. When the current passes through the copper pipes, it causes a reaction between the copper and the water in the pipes, which can weaken and corrode the pipes over time, causing copper pipe leaks.

Common signs of electrolysis in copper pipes are the blue-green discolouration on the pipes. This is created by the formation of copper oxide over time and is a byproduct of the electrolysis reaction. This electrolysis can cause pinholes and leaks in the copper pipes.

Increasingly the most common cause of electrolysis that we are finding is an electrical fault in the earthing of the copper pipes. This is especially true with properties that have been renovated. Unfortunately, locating earthing issues is complex, and we need to use an electrician to confirm or eliminate earth leakage as the cause. Other electrolysis causes can be due to dissimilar metals, such as galvanised, steel, brass and copper pipes, coming into contact with each other.

copper pipe leaks at McDonalds Oxenford from electrolysis

How do you know if your copper pipe has electrolysis?

Often the problem is not found until you have copper pipe leaks. For example, your copper pipe may have turned green and shown pitting. Once the leaking section of the copper pipe is removed, you will observe that the inside is no longer smooth but has internal corrosion. A close inspection will reveal a crater appearance with pitted holes starting to form.

Once a copper pipe leaks due to electrolysis, it is essential to locate the cause. The replacement copper pipe quickly becomes infected if the reason is not found and removed.

To prevent electrolysis in copper pipes, it’s crucial to identify and eliminate the source of the electrical current. This will involve working with an electrician to check for stray currents or power line interference. In addition, it’s vital to use corrosion inhibitors in the water supply to help protect the pipes.

Another way to prevent electrolysis is to use a cathodic protection system. This unique device is installed on the pipe to provide a negative charge, which neutralises the positive charge caused by the electrical current and prevents the corrosion of the pipes.

In addition to these preventative measures, it’s also important to regularly inspect and maintain your copper pipes. This includes checking for signs of discolouration or leaks and ensuring that the copper pipes are appropriately insulated to reduce the risk of electrolysis.

Leaking Copper Pipes Never Fix Themselves

In conclusion, electrolysis is a problem that can occur in copper pipes and can cause significant damage. However, by understanding the causes of electrolysis and taking steps to prevent it, you can help ensure that your copper pipes remain in good condition for many years.

For example, suppose you suspect your copper pipe leaks are ongoing and may be experiencing electrolysis. In that case, you must contact the qualified plumbers at Whywait Plumbing to diagnose and repair the problem immediately.