Edmonton Valve & Fitting Blog

Weekly posts for northern and central Alberta engineers, plant operators, and buyers.

Tubing vs. Pipe: Which Is Better for Your Job?

by Katie Reid, on Tue, Mar 01, 2016 @ 14:03 PM

Don't let tubing's thin profile fool you. It's simpler and offers fewer opportunities for leaks

Fluid systems are all about moving fluid from Point A to Point B and beyond. Usually there is more than one way to do it. For example, you could use pipe or you could use tubing. Both will get the job done. But consider all the steps (listed below) involved in piping, as demonstrated in this video:

  • Cut the pipe
  • Deburr it
  • Cut threads into the end
  • Install fittings any time the pipe must change direction
  • Cover all male thread ends with PTFE tape or a sealant
  • Tighten the fittings wrench-tight

Right away you run into some difficulties. "Wrench-tight" is subjective. If the elbows are over-tightened, it can damage the threads and cause leakage. If they are under-tightened, such as when you need an elbow to line up properly, you have another opportunity for leakage. Even when assembled properly, a piping system typically has a lot of potential leak points.



If you ever need to disassemble a piping system, it must be done sequentially. That can sometimes cause other threaded connections to move, creating still more opportunity for leaks.

Tubing simplicity

Now consider putting together the same system with tubing. You still have to cut and deburr tubing, but that's where the similarity ends. When you need to change direction with tubing, you simply bend it. Not only does that eliminate the need for extra fittings, but it creates less turbulence and pressure drop in the system than if you use pipe elbows. By using fewer fittings, it results in fewer potential leak points.

If you ever need to disassemble a tubing system, you can start anywhere as no special sequence is required. 

Weight matters

Pipe, of course, is much thicker than tubing of the same inside diameter. Both will contain pressure equally well. The only reason pipe is thicker is to provide enough material for pipe threads to be cut. All that extra thickness along the full length of the pipe means a lot of extra weight. With extra weight comes extra cost for transportation and handling. You have more weight to store, lift, and install. You end up with a much heavier fluid system to support.

If you find yourself dealing with pipe and see that tubing would be a better option for your fluid system, contact us today to find out more information. You can also download the Small Bore Tubing Solutions PDF for more product info.

Additional resources

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