Pressing ahead


Pressing ahead

Security and efficiency are the order of the day when specifying the right pipes and fittings. Bill Barlow, UK Business Unit Director for Conex Bänninger, discusses why press fit technologies are fast becoming the product of choice for domestic and light commercial applications.

Speed and safety of installation are arguably the key drivers for any heating engineer or plumber, regardless of which product is being installed. Naturally, time means money, but a balance has to be struck between a quick turn around and making sure that projects are delivered to the standards customers expect.

Where pipes and fittings are concerned, this drive towards greater efficiency has appeared to move at greater pace than any other. Whilst press fittings are now well established in the market - Conex Bänninger developed the first product for the domestic market in the early 1900s – the popularity of traditional solder and braze methods have remained strong, with many installers feeling comfortable with what they consider a more permanent fitting.

The increasing time pressures on installation, coupled with tightening legislative requirements for flame licenses and working in close spaces has brought press (and push) fittings to the fore in recent times; a move that has changed perceptions, or rather misconceptions, about press and boosted its popularity.

Why use press fittings?

The overriding modern appeal of press fittings is rooted in ease of installation, good design and the fact that it does away with many of the health and safety requirements and logistical constraints of solder and braze fittings. The influence of such factors plays a key role in the decision making process and in part explains one of the appeals of press.

The time saving element is another major appeal; the process is up to three times faster - and negates the need to stay on site for hours after completion, which can often be the case with a flame-based fitting.

Health and safety at work is paramount, and to undertake any welding works, the company installing must obtain a hot works permit in order to legally complete the job. For work in confined spaces, this becomes increasingly difficult to obtain thereby delaying the job. Soldering and brazing methods also adds additional administrative and insurance costs into the mix, which press fittings do not.

The risk of leaving carbon deposits, flux, or localised annealing from high-temperature working, is also alleviated by choosing a press fitting, rather than a brazed one.

A further benefit of using a high quality press fittings, like Conex Bänninger’s >B< Press three-point press range is their versatility. Using a flame fitting in a confined space is largely an impractical solution and when working under a sink or in a cupboard space, for example, it is very difficult to correctly make a joint when using these traditional techniques.

There is also a very real risk that the fitting could be left incomplete if the installer cannot get the solder to flow correctly around the joint; which heightens the risk of resulting leaks.

Which press fitting?

Avoiding leaks is naturally a pre-requisite for any fitting, but the choice of fitting can either increase or decrease this risk. It’s because of this that many in the industry choose 3-three-point press over the more common two-point press option.

3-point press is arguably the safest and most secure fitting on the market, because they add an extra layer of protection, ensuring a leak-free, secure and permanent joint achieved.

One major benefit of this three-point press fitting is the ability to immediately identify an incorrectly pressed joint and take steps to correct it, negating the need to drain the system down or the risk of having to return at a later date to fix problem joints, this is achieved by a unique pressing indicator - a specially designed O-ring that has a reduced section in two positions, which, if not pressed correctly, will leak profusely, even at low pressures (from 0.1 to 0.5 bar). When the joint has been pressed correctly, the O-ring material compresses itself to form a secure joint.

Conex Bänninger’s >B< Press fittings, for example, works by making sure that the pipe is parallel to the fitting before contact is made with the O-ring, greatly reducing the chance of damaging the O-ring during assembly.

Tools of the trade

The beauty of press fittings is that they only require a limited number of tools to complete the job (compared to traditional methods).  In addition, the installation process is straightforward, requiring only a tube cutter, deburring tool, press machine and press jaws.

Traditional fittings will always have their place in the market, and in some instances they are the only option, but there is no doubt that the domestic market is now marching towards press as the preferred option.