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Stainless Steel VS. Carbon Steel Pipe Fittings: Which is right for Application

The choice between stainless steel or carbon steel is a question many designers, engineers, plants, and industry workers face at some point. Carbon steel and stainless steel pipes are both good choices to use in various things. However, if we get down to the basics of various steel alloys and their uses, you must better determine the type of steel that fits your application’s needs.

As we all know, most steel variants have many uses. However, even if you work with steel every day for non-pressurized or corrosion sensitive purposes, you may have never stopped considering what the difference is between regular mild steel and stainless steel. Here in this blog, we will discuss steel and how carbon steel pipe and fittings are different from stainless steel pipe and fittings.

carbon steel pipe
Meaning of steel

Steel is a type of metal known as a basic alloy. An alloy is two or more natural metal elements that meld together to make a unique metal. When we talk about steel, we talk about the kind of metal alloy that is a mixture of iron or at least one other kind of metal. Most types of steel have several metals in the mix, though their amount may differ.

Carbon steel

Carbon steel is basic steel that comes in a combination of carbon and iron. It may contain other substances in unmeasured amounts or traces. Carbon steel is classified by the amount of carbon content mixed with iron. Low-to-mid carbon steel is likely to have less than 0.3% carbon, while a high carbon may contain up to 2%. The differences in content percentage are often selected based on weldability. Carbon is known for its ability to withstand high temperatures and strength/stress.

Stainless steel

Stainless steel is created by adding chromium to the alloy. While basic carbon steel may only contain up to 2% carbon, stainless steel has a focus on general corrosion with at least a content of 10% chromium. Other elements may be present in stainless steel in immeasurable amounts with carbon steel.

The most significant characteristic of stainless steel is that it doesn’t corrode or rust as easily. Avoiding corrosion is a unique property for steel, as most mild steel is mainly made of iron, and iron tends to rust quite quickly when exposed to a regular oxygenated atmosphere.

Considerations for steel pipes

If it is becoming hard for you to decide between the carbon and stainless steel options for your pipes, here are several factors you can consider:

Substance

The first deal-breaking factor when you need to decide on the metal is to find out if it can carry out some corrosive media such as saltwater or processing chemicals. If so, you will want a metal that will not react as readily. It is probably preferable choose a stainless steel pipe, but double-check the properties of the materials you will be working with to check if they react.

Temperature

Carbon steel pipes are known for their ability to withstand high heat and are great for steam pipes. However, if you are trying to work with extreme climates (for example, transporting cryogenic liquids) a different grade of pipes is essential.

Cost

Fortunately, both carbon steel and stainless steel can be very affordable in comparison to nickel alloys. Carbon steel pipes are frequently ranked as the least expensive steel for piping, but stainless steel is also usually right behind. It allows you to choose the right material that fits the best to project without having to make significant considerations regarding costs.

Appearance

If your pipes will be visible and appearance is in the list of considerations, knowing the finish of these steels will help. Stainless steel usually has a shine that can hold up if exposed to the weather and other elements. On the other hand, carbon steel is darker and usually has a matte finish once painted. Unfortunately, it may also rust if exposed, deteriorating in appearance. Galvanization is also an option.

Conclusion

Carbon steel pipes are a popular choice for a great variety of uses. Vent and steam pipes, municipal pipes, and sewage pipes are often made of carbon steel. It would help if you considered the extra properties you might need in chemicals or temperatures. The above details can help you decide the correct steel for you.

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