Simply put, pinhole leaks are a problem YOU WILL face in a domestic high-rise building. You can ask any professional how to prevent them but you will invariably receive the same response, you can fix them but they are absolutely impossible to avoid.
They are often the culprit behind damaged underfloor, flooring and drywall. They contribute to contaminated water supplies and poor flow levels. They push insurance rates through the roof and residents to their limit.
They are also the reason why more property managers are doing what they can to lessen the necessity of future leak repair by presenting their condominium boards with the Rikos solution.
Nearly 100 per cent of residential high-rise buildings utilize domestic hot water recirculation systems to provide hot water to taps on demand. The hot water required to service every suite moves constantly through copper pipes.
This persistent flow, combined with the soft quality of copper, poor system design, and chemically-treated municipal water supplies, leads to a deterioration from the inside of the pipes in domestic hot water recirculation systems. Leak detection isn’t always easy as a pipe that appears strong from the outside, regardless of age, may be on the verge of complete deterioration from within. Even the most up to date leak detection methods and equipment (sensors, acoustic leak detection, etc.) may miss it. Sadly, there are times in which deterioration only becomes noticeable when the inner wall of copper pipe reaches paper thinness, and springs a leak.
So miniscule that it may not even be visible from a distance, that tiny hole is one of hundreds that may be forming, or potentially exist already. Over time, the rate at which they appear will only increase, as the interior of the copper pipe reduces to a fraction of its original thickness.
The Rikos solution can be relied upon to more than double the service lifespan of the pipes within your domestic hot water system, as we employ an epoxy coating which adheres to the interior of the piping, sealing any potential leaks. That epoxy coating is resistant to the variables within your system which make pipeline vulnerable.
The Grand Canyon Effect
The Grand Canyon is a natural marvel in Arizona. It is a property manager’s nightmare within your building’s domestic hot water system. Over the course of 17 million years, the Colorado Plateau shifted and gave way to the rushing Colorado River below. Friction created by speeding waters gradually cut through miles of the earth’s surface, forging the canyon.
Similarly, rushing waters erode copper piping, wearing down its inner-wall and creating miniature “canyons” within the pipe. Instead of exposing over two billion years of earth’s geology, however, property managers are left with nothing but a series of problematic leaks.
THE SCIENCE BEHIND YOUR PINHOLE LEAK PROBLEM
Because of its malleability, cost, light weight, and relative durability, copper is used for domestic hot water pipes in 99 per cent of Canadian high-rise condominiums. During use, a semi-protective film forms on the surface of the interior of the pipe, useful for defending the pipe against corrosion. Unfortunately, a number of factors can lead to a breakdown of that film in concentrated areas. That breakdown is known as “pitting corrosion”, or “erosion corrosion”. When erosion corrosion reaches its breaking point, it manifests in a perforation of the pipe.
Poor engineering and workmanship: A domestic hot water system designed with too many bends creates an unstable water velocity at certain points in the system regardless of tubing size. Water rushing around corners, crashing into the interior wall of the copper pipe repeatedly at the same point creates a pitting in the pipe, leading to a small hole or fissure. The same issue occurs when pipes are crimped by contracting companies using poor tools or or less than stellar methods during the bending process, or when pipes are improperly inserted into fittings before being soldered.
When a domestic hot water system is designed, it is integral that the flow rate in the penthouse is equal to that on the first floor. To compensate for poor design, often times a build company will utilize an over-sized booster pump to achieve proper water flow. The velocity of water rushing through the pipes, as created by the grossly overpowered pump, creates a turbulence which leads to pitting in concentrated areas.
Soft water: Soft water with low-alkalinity, sometimes found in Canadian domestic high-rises, have low levels of bicarbonate. This prevents the interior wall of the copper pipe to develop its protective layer, which leads to later problems. Further, if a poorly designed domestic hot water system causes water stagnation within the pipes, soft water will victimize the copper quickly.
Municipal water supplies: Because chemically-treated municipal water supplies are becoming more common, water used within a domestic hot water system has a different pH balance than it did several decades ago. This chemical treatment often inhibits the development of a protective carbonate layer within the interior of copper pipes. Without this protective film, copper pipes are developing leaks in buildings less than five years old.