Pinhole leak in copper tubing... Cause and Cure -your opinion?

Discussion in 'Plumbing Forum, Professional & DIY Advice' started by tototalitarian, Apr 30, 2014.

  1. tototalitarian

    tototalitarian New Member

    Messages:
    49
    Location:
    California
    This weekend I replaced several feet of copper tubing (hot water pipe)due to a pinhole leak.
    After extensive reading , there appears to be major fingerpointing , either at the chloramines in the water or cheap pipe or pH too acidic , etc.
    I replumbed this house 17 yrs ago and used only higher quality pipe.
    there are "blue" barnacles on the inside of the pipe, pointing to some electrolysis activity.
    The solutions are.....
    1) add a Phosphate feeder- device puts phosphates into the water where a type of phosphate(orthophosphate) is added in-line to "coat the inside of the pipes", therefore adding protection. Many many water districts already add orthophosphate to the waters.... I dont know if its added to my water supply, if so, it did not work
    2) add a Catalytic carbon house filter to remove chloramines in my water...the issue is, if the chloramines in my house water are removed, then there could be microbial build up in my pipes
    3) there is a device that is a sacrificial powered anode sold by Copper Knight... www.copperknight.com which makes total sense , BUT there is almost NO info on it from users or reviews of any kind.
    I would have thought that with the widespread pinhole issues, more information on this unit would be available on this device.
    Note, sacrificial anodes are commonly used in industries , and of course in our water heaters.....why has this device not been covered more if it truly is a solution.???
    Question: have any of you used the Copper Knight successfully or do you have an opinion on this product ????
    Last edited: Apr 30, 2014
  2. Reach4

    Reach4 Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    2,844
    Location:
    IL
    Non-expert comments:

    Measure your pH. Test papers are readily available.

    Do not use red-striped copper pipe ("M") for your water. Blue stripe ("L") is thicker. Green-striped ("K") is thicker still. I would switch failed lines to PEX or CPVC if that is permitted where you are. Just make sure that copper that you replaced is not being used as part of a ground system without adding wire to give a proper protective ground.

    Your thought about sacrificial anodes for plumbing is interesting. As far as I can tell, it is not as simple as one would hope. If it were done, it would probably be better to use a low voltage DC power supply made for the purpose, and use non-consumed anodes. This is used for big pipelines.

    Where was your leaking area? Was it near the water heater?
  3. DonL

    DonL Jack of all trades Master of one

    Messages:
    4,534
    Location:
    Houston, TX
    That Radio Active water must have reached California now.

    Do they allow CPVC there ?

    It works better for water with a high Glow rate.


    Good Luck.
  4. tototalitarian

    tototalitarian New Member

    Messages:
    49
    Location:
    California
    response...

    -pH of water is 7.2 (not considered acidic)
    -thin copper or thicker copper pipes...whats really the difference... if something is corroding the pipes, its only a matter of time...so, the issue is....something is attacking the pipes....
  5. tototalitarian

    tototalitarian New Member

    Messages:
    49
    Location:
    California
    response

    -no radioactive water
    -when I switch out the 1/2" copper, I will go with PEX.
    if I can figure out the best route to arrest the corrosion, I hope that I no longer have copper pipe issues.
  6. Reach4

    Reach4 Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    2,844
    Location:
    IL
    Was the leaking near the water heater? I have seen a posting that an electrical connection between hot and cold pipes stopped some corrosion.
  7. tototalitarian

    tototalitarian New Member

    Messages:
    49
    Location:
    California
    the leak was the hot water line, but was approximately 15 ft from the water heater, there was at least one other hot water 1/2 inch line before this one that leaks....
  8. Smooky

    Smooky Member

    Messages:
    656
    Location:
    NC
  9. DonL

    DonL Jack of all trades Master of one

    Messages:
    4,534
    Location:
    Houston, TX
    It could be nothing more than cheap Copper.

    It may have been made from recycled material.

    A few beer cans may have been in the mix.


    Copper in wire is better than Copper uses to make "Copper Looking" pipe.
  10. SHR

    SHR Member

    Messages:
    139
    Location:
    Minnesota
    The copper pipe wore out. Most likely root cause is improper or no reaming of the pipe cuts at the fittings. Turbulence downstream from these joints lead to pinhole leaks. Most of the other causes you note can contribute to the problem and sometimes are the only cause. Even the best pipe from reputable suppliers is subject to this now common problem. There is nothing you can do to stop or reverse the damage. Replace all the copper with PEX piping with pex plastic fittings and you should be golden.
  11. tototalitarian

    tototalitarian New Member

    Messages:
    49
    Location:
    California
    ???????


    How does one attribute turbulence as the cause of a barnacle or inside blue build up where the pinhole was isolated as the cause for failure of this pipe?
    this was high quality pipe, purchased 17 yrs ago before the influx of crappy materials.
    Last edited: May 2, 2014
  12. DonL

    DonL Jack of all trades Master of one

    Messages:
    4,534
    Location:
    Houston, TX
    It could be a reaction from the chemicals or salts used in water treatment.

    I heard that they are now turning sewage back into drinking water.

    Do you have a water softener ? Are You on city water ?
  13. tototalitarian

    tototalitarian New Member

    Messages:
    49
    Location:
    California
    no water softener, I am on city water, pH 7.2.
    significant # of folks in the area have issues with pinhole leaks.
  14. SHR

    SHR Member

    Messages:
    139
    Location:
    Minnesota
    I understand you installed this pipe 17 years ago and did not use cheap pipe. To reiterate what I previously posted: It does not matter if the copper pipe was the best of worst quality, they all are failing at a disturbing rate. The blue inside the pipes is a normal coating of common bacteria present in all copper installations. It is harmless.

    If you did the copper install yourself, are you sure you thoroughly reamed all cuts prior to install? Most people do not thus the many problems with copper pipe in your neighborhood. Water conditioning equipment has nothing to do with your issue.
  15. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Messages:
    22,352
    Location:
    New England
    pH is one part of the water issues, but not the only one. It can still be quite reactive and damaging to metals because of other things in the water. There are places where plastic pipe is the only thing that lasts. Some hate it, but you do what you have to do.

    The city should be able to give you a copy of their latest water test results - they are required by law to perform this regularly, and make it available. Seeing that may help explain what's going on. But, as said, there are some mechanical things, like failing to resize the pipe after cutting it that can cause turbulence and eventually cause pinholes. Proximity to caustic chemicals (is this near the washing machine where you use bleach?) under some conditions could cause problems.
  16. tototalitarian

    tototalitarian New Member

    Messages:
    49
    Location:
    California
    the leak was not close to the washing machine, approx 15 ft away.not close to any chlorine bleach) As mentioned before , the EXACT place where the fairly large barnacle (inside the pipe) is, IS the place where the pinhole leak was. I marked the outside of the pipe prior to cutting the pipe and replacing it. the previous poster indicated that the blue marking is harmless, in fact, there is a direct connection with the barnacle. Also, if you are saying that turbulence is causing a leak, I dont understand how turbulence can cause a pinhole leak as opposed to a general thinning over a larger part of the pipe wall?
    Last edited: May 3, 2014
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