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Thread: Lead vs Lead-Free solder

  1. #1
    DIY Junior Member pjw's Avatar
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    Default Lead vs Lead-Free solder

    I'm no professional, but I've been successfully sweating joints for many years. I haven't had that much success with the lead-free stuff. Good thing I still have lots of leaded solder around.

    I only do plumbing around the house, so I'm not putting anyone at risk other than us (and I'm no kid), but I can't seem to transition to the lead-free stuff. It seems to flow differently and just doesn't seem to "run into" the joints in the same way that the leaded solder did. And, yes, I know enough to keep the stuff clean and fluxed.

    Last time I replaced our electric water heater, it was a nightmare - I used the lead-free and when I was done, the connection leaked like a sieve. I tossed it all and got out my old stuff and...NO LEAKS.

    I'm using a Bernz-O-Matic Mapp gas torch. Like I said - I'm no professional, but always trying to improve what I do. Any advice?

    Thanks very much!

    Paul in New Jersey

  2. #2
    Remodel Contractor GabeS's Avatar
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    I don't think you are supposed to use the 50/50 stuff on water supply pipes. That's for heating systems. On water supply I would definetely use lead free.

    They have easy flo solder that is supposed be easy to work with. The melting temperature is lower and stay melted over a wider range as I understand it.

    I don't see why you are having a problem with the lower lead content solder. It should be the same. If you know how to solder, then you should be able to use any kind of solder. I don't see a reason why one type would work with you and not the other.
    Gabe

    Don't follow my advice, I only know a thing or two about a thing or two.

  3. #3
    Master Plumber Redwood's Avatar
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    I have no problems with lead free solder...
    It's the law!

  4. #4
    Illinois Licensed Plumber SewerRatz's Avatar
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    What happens to the people that move into your home after you are gone? Trick is to buy good quality lead free solder and a good flux. I have had issues with a cheap roll of lead free solder. I normally get Sterling solder by Lenox, and use No-Korode flux. Mapp gas should get you more than hot enough to make the solder flow.

  5. #5
    That's all folks! Gary Slusser's Avatar
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    He's probably over heating and that's causing the problem.

    And he really should have his water tested for lead, and use the first draw, meaning after sitting in the plumbing for 8 hours. Many private wells and city waters have acidic water, even more so since about 1990 when the allowable pH range was changed to the more acidic 6.5 to 8.5.
    Gary Slusser Retired (= out of business)
    Click Here to learn how to correctly size or program a water softener.
    CAUTION, as of Nov 12 2013 all YouTube videos showing how to rebuild a Clack valve have an error in them that can cause damage.

  6. #6
    Plumber Cass's Avatar
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    Oatey # 95 flux is all I will use...it is hands down the best in my NSHO...

    Last edited by Cass; 04-04-2009 at 05:15 AM.

  7. #7
    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
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    Default solder

    What kind of 'lead free solder" are you using. If it is 95/5 you will have more problems with it. Conventional lead free is quite similar to 50/50 and you should not have any transition problems with it.

  8. #8
    Forum Admin, Expert Plumber Terry's Avatar
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    I only do plumbing around the house, so I'm not putting anyone at risk other than us (and I'm no kid),
    And this is why the State licenses plumbers.
    Using lead solder plumbing is unsafe.
    Lead was banned in the 80's

    So maybe you are old, and the lead has already done it's worst on you.
    But when you sell your home to a new family with young kids, your "gift to society" will just keep giving.

    Lead Free solder flows well with water based flux.
    The joints are indestructible too.



    Last edited by Terry; 06-20-2010 at 11:48 PM.

  9. #9
    Plunger/TurdPuncher kingsotall's Avatar
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    Not to sugar coat this topic but I heard that after years lead in pipes are covered in mineral buildup and essentially are not harmful. I throw this out there because I value all the plumbers' oopinion on here and wonder what the consensus is in general with ya'll.

  10. #10
    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
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    Default lead free solder

    I have the same opinion and stated it in a reply that deleted itself before I could post it. In addition the amount of solder exposed to the water in a typical properly made joint is very, very small, and once the surface lead was absorbed, the water would have to "EAT" into the depleted solder to get to additional lead in the solder. The typical "bad" joint which may be more prevalent than good ones in the average house, would have NO solder exposed to the water because the solder would not reach the end of the tubing and corrosion would seal the missing portion very quickly. It was similar to the asbestos, radon, and other "catastrophies". When one crisis was taken care of the "Nadar's Raiders" of the world had to find a new cause or they would have had to find real jobs. The Low Nox heaters of Southern California may be the next one.
    Last edited by hj; 04-04-2009 at 04:04 PM.

  11. #11

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    Sterling Taramet is the best, I've been using it as long as I've been lead-free. It is both stronger than Silvabrite and takes less heat.
    Steve's Plumbing Service

  12. #12
    That's all folks! Gary Slusser's Avatar
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    There are many areas in the US that have low pH (acidic) and little hardness in the water. That type water will not lay down a protective layer over lead solder or inside the copper tubing. And people anywhere with a water softener will not have any hardness.

    That is why the EPA and all states came up with the Lead and Copper Rules in the late 1980s and required 'lead free' solder, flux and brass. The allowable lead content in water was reduced to 50 ppB(illion). It accumulates in the body. Humans do badly with very little lead in their diet. It causes neurological problems and greatly effects the brain and then the nervous systems.
    Gary Slusser Retired (= out of business)
    Click Here to learn how to correctly size or program a water softener.
    CAUTION, as of Nov 12 2013 all YouTube videos showing how to rebuild a Clack valve have an error in them that can cause damage.

  13. #13
    Plunger/TurdPuncher kingsotall's Avatar
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    Thumbs up

    Thanks for that post, Gary.

  14. #14
    Radon Contractor and Water Treatment 99k's Avatar
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    I find the the oatey solder with silver in it works and flows great. I tried the oatey 95/5 once and immediately threw the roll in the garbage.

  15. #15
    DIY Senior Member TedL's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hj View Post
    It was similar to the asbestos, radon, and other "catastrophies". When one crisis was taken care of the "Nadar's Raiders" of the world had to find a new cause or they would have had to find real jobs. The Low Nox heaters of Southern California may be the next one.
    I'm sorry you don't believe asbestos poses a serious threat. My wife, who has never smoked, was just diagnosed with mesothelioma, due to exposure to her father's work clothes (insulation insaller) that ended 44 years ago when he became disabled by asbestosis (which killed him before he had time to develop meso). Her aunt died of meso in 1972. Her exposure was to the same source--she lived in the apt. below, and visited daily. My brother in law died of meso 21 years ago. He work several years with his father.

    Look up reliable medical sources and you'll see meso is 99+% associated with asbestos exposure. It is not a myth. You may want to limit your comments to things you know a little more about.

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