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Thread: Black Iron Pipe

  1. #1
    DIY Junior Member Soto's Avatar
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    Default Black Iron Pipe

    Can someone please explain to me how good BIP is for a closed loop hydronic system? (I know it is not at all good for potable water supply due to the rust issue.)
    My system is 60 years old, baseboard hydronic heat. I have all the pipe exposed (since I am remodeling the basement) and this is an important time when I either need to replace all this BIP or leave it alone. I have had two different opinions from two different plumbers. #1 says it's a great looking system, artfully crafted, and I should leave it alone except there are 2 or 3 small pieces of galvanized in there that he says I should replace while it is exposed. He says it will probably last more than 100 years. #2 says that galvanized lasts longer than BIP and that both will significantly deteriorate after 40 years so I should replace it all with copper.
    For what it's worth most of the BIP is shiny and fairly new looking. It looks great to me. There are a few rusty areas right where the fittings go in to the baseboards, but those are the exception. There are NO leaks; I have a new mod/con boiler installed last year. The house is 4300 SQFT and we are talking lots of pipe... THANKS!

  2. #2
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer jadnashua's Avatar
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    IF, and that can be a big IF, the boiler has a good, working, air extraction system and doesn't leak (as indicated by needing to refill it with water), then the water inside of the pipes is now fairly inert - any rusting that would have happened, has already happened, since with no leaks, or new water being added, there's none left to react with anything. Probably within the first week or two, the oxygen that might have been trapped in the water would react with the iron, and all the rust that could form, has formed, and it stops - no more corrosion can occur without additional oxygen. Same with anything else that might have been in the water, chlorine, etc., once it reacts with the metals there, there's nothing left in the water. Then, other than erosion from the water moving through (and that is minimal if the system was designed properly), it could last for a very long time.

    So, what you have could be in great shape, or it could be about to spring leaks everywhere. If it is tight, and you don't refill, it's probably okay.

    Repiping with say pex might allow you to gain some room, since the tubing could be run more like wire rather than rigid pipe, but probably isn't worth the effort unless you have problems now. My unprofessional opinion...
    Jim DeBruycker
    Important note - I'm not a pro
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer; Schluter 2.5-day Workshop Completed 2013, 2014

  3. #3
    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
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    Heating systems have been installed with black steel pipe, (iron is a different product and more expensive), since they were developed, so I would have to say that with that longevity, you should not have any problem using it.

  4. #4
    Journeyman & Gas Fitter Doherty Plumbing's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Soto View Post
    Can someone please explain to me how good BIP is for a closed loop hydronic system? (I know it is not at all good for potable water supply due to the rust issue.)
    My system is 60 years old, baseboard hydronic heat. I have all the pipe exposed (since I am remodeling the basement) and this is an important time when I either need to replace all this BIP or leave it alone. I have had two different opinions from two different plumbers. #1 says it's a great looking system, artfully crafted, and I should leave it alone except there are 2 or 3 small pieces of galvanized in there that he says I should replace while it is exposed. He says it will probably last more than 100 years. #2 says that galvanized lasts longer than BIP and that both will significantly deteriorate after 40 years so I should replace it all with copper.
    For what it's worth most of the BIP is shiny and fairly new looking. It looks great to me. There are a few rusty areas right where the fittings go in to the baseboards, but those are the exception. There are NO leaks; I have a new mod/con boiler installed last year. The house is 4300 SQFT and we are talking lots of pipe... THANKS!
    BIP is a GREAT choice for running hydronic systems. With a properly working air scoop your system shouldn't rust much at all. However doing some general maintenance can be a good idea. This could include introducing some rust inhibitors into the boiler system and even some solvents can be added that will break down loose chunks of rust that have accumulated over time.

    Copper I find is probably the BEST material for hydronic systems however it's quite a bit more expensive (depending on the size of the piping). However labour to install it is usually cheaper because it's quicker to work with if you're having to cut a lot of custom BIP pieces.

    Maybe look at having a pot feeder installed on the system so you can do the chemical thing that I talked about earlier.

  5. #5
    DIY Junior Member MAoilTech's Avatar
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    We Use Blk Mal fittings & pipe, Oxygen in any hydronic heating system is a killer proper installation of the unit can avoid air issues, Copper has a higher heat Conductor rating over blk mal thus we use blk over copper, Headers should always be pipe in Blk limit the lost of BTU's.

  6. #6
    DIY Junior Member MAoilTech's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Soto View Post
    Can someone please explain to me how good BIP is for a closed loop hydronic system? (I know it is not at all good for potable water supply due to the rust issue.)
    My system is 60 years old, baseboard hydronic heat. I have all the pipe exposed (since I am remodeling the basement) and this is an important time when I either need to replace all this BIP or leave it alone. I have had two different opinions from two different plumbers. #1 says it's a great looking system, artfully crafted, and I should leave it alone except there are 2 or 3 small pieces of galvanized in there that he says I should replace while it is exposed. He says it will probably last more than 100 years. #2 says that galvanized lasts longer than BIP and that both will significantly deteriorate after 40 years so I should replace it all with copper.
    For what it's worth most of the BIP is shiny and fairly new looking. It looks great to me. There are a few rusty areas right where the fittings go in to the baseboards, but those are the exception. There are NO leaks; I have a new mod/con boiler installed last year. The house is 4300 SQFT and we are talking lots of pipe... THANKS!
    You dont have to re-pipe go with Plumber #1 as for plumber #2 send him on his way.

  7. #7
    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
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    quote; plumber #2 send him on his way.

    And tell to find someone else to pay for his new truck.

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