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Can I Use Galvanized Pipe for Water Heater? (Explained)

The galvanized pipes came into existence around the 1960s. Since then, it has been used all around the world for water line supply.

There was a time when lead pipes were used for drinking water supply lines and also for water supply to households for domestic purposes. 

However, galvanized pipes replaced the lead pipes as research showed that the toxins that the lead pipes contained possessed serious health hazards.

In this article, we will be discussing whether or not we can use galvanized pipes for water heaters and other interesting facts related to it.  

Can I use galvanized pipe for water heater?

The galvanized pipe cannot be used in the water heater. The steel in the galvanized pipes is readily harmed by direct contact with hot water in a water heater. Hence, the galvanized coating begins to peel away, resulting in corrosion. Thus, galvanized pipes should not be used for water heaters.

Galvanized pipes are usually made by the process of galvanization, where the iron and steel are covered with a protective zinc coating. 

As long as the galvanized pipes are being used in open water systems, there is no threat or health hazard as the released ions from the galvanized pipes are in direct contact with the oxygen.

But, as soon as galvanized pipes are used in a closed water system, they lose all access to direct contact with oxygen from the air. One such vital example of a closed water system is a water heater.

Several things take place when galvanized water pipes come into contact with hot water. Firstly, the matter of concern is that the ions and heavy metals such as lead that are being released from the galvanized pipes become confined to the water heater as it is a closed water system.

As a result, the ions and heavy metals cause corrosion due to a lack of oxygen. 

Secondly, as the galvanized pipes come into direct contact with the hot water in a water heater system, the protective zinc layer that was galvanized into the body of the galvanized pipes starts coming off slowly.

Thus, despite having legal codes allowing the use of galvanized pipes in residential and commercial establishments, it is highly recommended not to use galvanized pipes, especially for water heaters.

Why shouldn’t you use galvanized pipe for water heater?

You should not use galvanized pipe for water heater for the following reason –

The formation of rust in the pipe:

As they are commonly used in water lines, galvanized pipes are in direct touch with water. When it comes to transporting hot water, galvanized pipes become more corrosive.

Even though the pipes appear to be in good condition on the surface, corrosion causes rust to build within them after a certain period of time. Once rust begins to form within galvanized pipes, it does not stop, and fresh layers of rust grow on top of each other.

Moreover, the protecting zinc layers eventually get entirely corroded as a result of this constant rust production. Therefore, galvanized pipes should not be utilized for water heaters.

Less supply of water due to low water pressure:

Due to corrosion, the galvanized zinc layer starts to come off the galvanized pipes. Consequently, the peeled off flakes start to accumulate inside the pipe, which slowly starts to block the water supply line.

As a result, while using water, we can notice that an adequate amount of water is not being supplied due to low water pressure inside the pipe.

Health risk:

The protective zinc layer that starts to come off due to corrosion inside galvanized pipes also has lead and heavy metals mixed with it.

These harmful metals can enter your food chain via any medium. For this reason, using galvanized pipes in water heaters or any other line poses significant health risk.

Untimely leaks:

Hot water inside the water heater makes the pipes fragile, causing rust formation inside. Therefore, even though your galvanized pipe might look fine from the inside, it is not that good on the inside portion.

Thus, you can often face untimely leakage from your galvanized pipes.

Can you use galvanized pipe tankless or gas water heater?

No, you cannot use galvanized pipe on tankless water heaters. Since they are maintained without a tank, rust begins to form on their exterior layer. Furthermore, additional heavy metals begin to clog and obstruct the pipe.

Moreover, tankless water heaters require direct or power vents to discharge the heat. If it uses shared vents with other devices that are connected by galvanized pipes for its operation, it will generate a lot of problems.

As a result, it is strongly advised against using galvanized pipes with tankless water heaters. Galvanized pipes are also not recommended for use in gas water heaters.

Galvanized pipes are inappropriate for use in gas water heaters due to their galvanized covering. Because of direct contact with hot water, the coat flakes begin to fall off, clogging the gas water heater’s pipe lines. 

As a result, you may have unequal water distribution, rusty water supplies, and other issues. Thus, galvanized pipes should not be used in tankless or gas water heaters. 

Is galvanized pipe good for water lines?

Galvanized pipes are not good for water lines. Because, despite the fact that it replaced lead pipes in the 1960s due to several advantageous properties, galvanized pipes nevertheless provide some health risks that might affect us in a variety of ways in our daily lives.

If the pH of the water that flows through your water supply is low, it signifies the water is acidic. Thus, the galvanized pipe will become corrosive and the galvanized coatings will begin to peel away.

The water supply would wash away the peeled-off coatings. By distorting the color of the water, this may also cause rust to form inside the pipes.

Therefore, galvanized pipes should not be used for water lines. For installing water lines, some suitable alternatives to galvanized pipes that do not constitute a health threat are advised. 

What is the life expectancy of galvanized pipe for water heater?

The life expectancy of galvanized pipe is the subject of healthy debate among plumbing companies all around the world.

Galvanized pipe has a life expectancy of 80–100 years, according to some, but just 40–60 years according to others. This, however, may vary greatly depending on how it is constructed, maintained, and cleaned, as well as where it is put.

When it comes to water heaters, the galvanized pipes are constantly moist and wet. As a result, if utilized in water heaters, the pipes will not survive more than ten years. Because after this time, the zinc layer begins to corrode and peel away from the galvanized pipe’s body.

If the galvanized pipe is not zinc-coated, it will begin to corrode within 1 to 2 years, generating rust inside the pipe’s body.

Galvanized pipes should not be used for water heaters because they are continually in close touch with hot water, which significantly reduces their life expectancy. 

What type of pipe is used for water heaters?

You can use the following type of pipes for water heaters –

CPVC pipes:

CPVC stands for Chlorinated Polyvinyl Chloride pipes. These pipes are considered the best choice for water heaters as they can prevent chlorine corrosion.

Moreover, their heat distortion ability is top-notch in closed water systems such as water heaters. Thus, CPVC pipes can be used for water heaters.

Copper pipes:

Copper pipes are also one of the best options for use in water heaters. It is durable, long-lasting, and has dynamic heat resistance capacity.

Besides, copper pipes are a plumber’s favorite choice as their installation is quite easy. They have a high degree of adaptability, allowing for multiple connections in water heaters.

PEX pipes:

You may also use PEX pipes for your water heater because they are exceptionally resistant to heat. Copper pipes are far less durable than PEX pipes. Compared to copper pipes, they are also less expensive.

These pipes are much more stylish and simple to handle for plumbing applications in terms of weight and design. If you have a limited budget, PEX pipes are an excellent choice because they are excessively cost-effective.

Final thoughts

You cannot use galvanized pipes in water heaters. Because the galvanized pipe is quickly impacted by direct contact with hot water. As a result, the galvanized coat starts to come off, which causes corrosion inside. Thus, it is strongly advised against using galvanized pipes in water heaters.