Soldering piping is becoming a technique of the past. For decades, mechanical contractors relied upon the tried-and-true technique to join pipes. Today’s contractors are moving away from soldering because it is time-consuming, introduces an open flame to the work environment and requires additional jobsite training for employees. To meet construction market demands, contractors are adopting quicker methods that are also safe and reliable; they are pressing pipe fittings.
Contractors know time is money and the quicker they can accomplish a job, the faster they can move on to the next job. Pressing achieves this goal by delivering several benefits to the industry.
Easy to use
The process of pressing ensures watertight seals will always be achieved, no matter the skill level of the contractor. The worker simply places the open jaw on the press fitting and pulls the trigger on the tool to engage the battery, which then tightens the jaw around the fitting. Manufacturers are now offering new, technologically advanced pressing tools that help detect the accuracy of a pressing and can determine when a press fitting is completed. Additional features on new pressing tools include sensors to automatically stop the piston in the pressing tool when the optimal force is reached, sealing the fitting properly.
Press fittings enable a contractor to get a customer serviced and back up and running quickly, allowing the worker to efficiently move on to the next call. The simplicity of the connections reduces the amount of materials and tools that are needed to complete the task. Unlike soldering, a contractor can press connect a fitting to a pipe without having to drain and dry the system. When soldering copper pipe, water can affect the connection by not allowing the copper pipe to get hot enough to melt the solder. Since press fitting connections are flameless, there is no need to have an open flame and a hot work permit on the jobsite, which saves time and increases safety for the worker.
Copper tubing, stainless steel tubing, PEX and black iron pipe fittings can all be pressed. These different pipe materials are all pressed using the same technique; the only difference is the fitting profiles. It is important to select the appropriate tool based on the fitting’s capacity requirement and compatible jaws or rings when pressing each unique fitting’s profile.
Safety is an ongoing concern in the industry. The 2017 Liberty Mutual Workplace Safety Index reports that overexertion is the largest source of cost (Liberty Mutual Insurance, 2017). The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) details several risk factors that can lead to debilitating musculoskeletal disorders (MDS) such as:
(United States Department of Labor, 2017)
The repetitive use of manual tools can wear down muscles, tendons and ligaments, leading to tendonitis and carpal tunnel syndrome. Fatigue and discomfort caused by poor ergonomics can result in worksite injuries, workers’ compensation costs, a decrease in productivity and setbacks to a job’s timeline.
Ergonomic injuries resulting from overexertion are expensive. The United States Department of Labor estimates that “employers pay almost $1 billion per week for direct workers’ compensation costs” alone (United States Department of Labor, 2017). To combat high dollar direct and indirect costs that occur from MDS injuries, contractors are investing in smarter tools. Ergonomic battery-powered tools, such as pressing tools, provide the power to complete tasks instead of relying on the worker to transfer power. However, it is important to select the right pressing tool for the jobsite.
There are two standard models of pressing tools. The first is a smaller inline version tool that can press up to 1-1/4-inch copper or stainless-steel tubing. The inline version is an ideal option to manage fatigue when pressing elevated piping because it doesn’t require the operator to extend an arm and shoulder for long periods of time.
The second is a larger pistol grip version tool that has the capability to press up to 4-inch copper or stainless-steel tubing and black iron pipe. When selecting a pistol grip pressing tool, it is important to evaluate the balance of the pressing tool.
Plumbers, pipefitters and mechanical and hydronic contractors should also consider the following criteria when selecting a pressing tool:
Pressing tools deliver benefits to the industry that are quickly making soldering piping an art of the past. Increased productivity, reduced risk of injury and ease of use make this approach to pipe joining more appealing. When it comes to adopting the practice, remember to research the options and take time before investing. And, if questions come up, search out a reliable manufacturer to help navigate the buying process.
The Greenlee Gorilla Press tool line features two separate tool platforms: the inline battery pressing tool (INLNPRESS-TOOL19kN) and the pistol grip battery powered pressing tool (PSTLPRESS-TOOL32KN). Both tools quickly press watertight connections in three to four seconds. Gorilla Press tools are engineered with auto-stop technology, which automatically stops the piston when the optimal force is reached, sealing the fitting properly and safeguarding the user’s hands from pinch points. The lightweight ergonomic design, 350-degree rotating head, and LED work light allows for the tools to be used in dark tight spaces.
For more information on the Gorilla Press tool lineup, visit www.greenlee.com