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Brass Ball Valve vs. Stainless Steel for Plumbing – Which is Better?

Brass ball valve

Plumbers and homeowners often must compare the brass ball valve vs. stainless steel types for a plumbing job. That can be quite a challenge. Brass is an excellent choice for plumbing ball valves. But then, so is stainless steel. If you need help using either valve, read this guide. We compared them for you side by side.

What is a Brass Ball Valve?

A brass ball valve is a ball valve whose body is brass. Brass is an alloy, or a combination, of copper and zinc. Several other elements, like manganese and aluminum, are sometimes added depending on the required properties.

Brass valves have a pale yellow color, are smooth textured, and have a softness that makes them malleable. You can use them in various situations, especially home plumbing systems that carry drinking and non-drinking water.

What is a Stainless Steel Ball Valve?

A stainless steel ball valve features a steel body, an iron alloy that combines chromium and nickel. In terms of properties, stainless steel is a hard material that can withstand many hostile conditions.

Like brass, stainless steel ball valves suit different applications, including water with a high salt content. It also offers the advantage of withstanding extremely high heat and pressure levels.

Using brass ball valve in the plumbing system
Using brass ball valve in the plumbing system
Resource: https://www.autogeekonline.net

Is Brass or Stainless Steel Better for Plumbing?

In some cases, brass can be a better option. However, depending on the plumbing job type or environment, you can only use it where it suits your application best.

For example, a home plumbing job might require several ball valves to control water flow in various lines. In all cases, brass is a more cost-effective and often best-fitting choice.

If the water or operating condition has a high salt level, like in a marine environment, stainless steel is usually better. As you can see, the type of use dictates your choice when comparing brass ball valves vs. stainless steel valves.

To understand that better, continue below for a quick comparison of the two valves and our verdict on which material is the best for a plumbing line.

Brass vs. stainless steel valve
Brass vs. stainless steel valve: Appearance
Resource: https://youtu.be/khpMfkz4vPw?si=ZtxRxHhUOBbCTsGZ

Brass Ball Valve vs. Stainless Steel Ball Valve

To arrive at a verdict, let’s compare the two valve options for these properties: the ability to stand up to corrosive materials, pressure rating, rated temperature, and softness or hardness.

You also want to know the cost and safety differences between stainless steel vs. brass ball valves when used in water plumbing systems, so we also offer our advice based on that.

Corrosion

When used in plumbing, brass and steel ball valves keep corrosion at bay, especially if the brass is nickel-coated. Stainless steel offers better resistance, allowing its use in high-salt marine environments.

A brass ball valve often has a stainless steel or chromium-plated ball inside, making it a less costly valve with good corrosion resistance. Most brass ball valves also use PTFE seats. That means reduced chances of corrosion where it matters most.

Pressure Rating

For comparison, stainless steel has the highest rating for pressure, with ratings well above 1000 psi. Generally, brass and stainless ball valves can have a rating that surpasses 400 psi for maximum pressure level.

Plumbing pressure levels only go up to 80 psi at their highest, with industrial hot water systems often reaching 360 psi. Both stainless steel and brass ball valves are rated higher than these pressures.

Therefore, when choosing between a stainless vs. brass ball valve for a plumbing system, you can use either valve for the different pressure levels.

Temperature Rating

Brass and steel ball valves work well regarding heat resistance, with both types generally being rated higher than 200° Celsius. However, stainless steel has the highest rating overall.

The operating conditions of plumbing systems rarely exceed 50 degrees Celsius or even reach 100 degrees Celsius. Therefore, you can use steel or brass valves in the plumbing lines of homes and commercial premises.

Hardness

Brass is softer than steel, which makes ball valves made from it easy to machine and weld. Steel is a rigid material. During installation, that means a valve that poses a challenge to seal.

Additionally, with the hardness of steel, you may need to be able to use valves made from it with softer materials. Steel is also heavier than brass and unsuitable if weight is a primary issue in your water line.

Price

You will spend more on stainless steel valves than brass ball valves. That applies to all brass valve types, leaded and unleaded, and for different sizes.

The higher price of stainless steel valves is one of the most significant drawbacks of stainless steel ball valves.

Grade 316 stainless steel valves, in particular, are pricier owing to their superior hardness and corrosion resistance characteristics. 304 steel is less costly but still pricier than brass.

Safety

When used in plumbing systems, brass ball valves must be lead-free or offer the 0.25% lead content recommended by EPA in the US. A lead-free ball valve prevents cases where lead leaches into the water and poses a health risk.

In comparison, stainless steel ball valves do not contain lead, and the US Food and Drugs Agency, the FDA, approves them for use in plumbing lines, especially those that carry potable water.

Brass ball valve for water system
Brass ball valve for water system
Resource: https://www.autogeekonline.net

Brass Ball Valve vs. Stainless Steel Ball Valve: Verdict

So, is brass better than stainless steel for water? The answer is that it depends. In the plumbing world, no project is identical to the other. So, plumbers must select valves based on their material properties and cost, among other factors.

In some cases, stainless steel is your best choice. In others, you’re better off with brass. Here is why, starting with brass:

Brass Ball Valves for water

  • Brass is a good choice for water lines; it is easier to weld, relatively corrosion-resistant, and versatile.
  • Use brass in low-budget projects, such as the simple plumbing of homes
  • Brass is your best option if weight is a concern and you want lighter fittings
  • When using brass ball valves, choose lead-free types if installing them on pipes for drinking water.

Stainless Steel Ball Valve for Water

  • Use a steel ball valve if the plumbing involves exposure to highly corrosive materials or operating environments for corrosion prevention
  • Stainless steel is also an excellent choice if your pipes carry drinking water: it contains no lead.

Conclusion

Brass and stainless steel ball valves are standard options for plumbing systems. Depending on the job at hand, you may choose to use either. Brass Ball valves are cheaper to buy than steel ones and easier to work with. On the other hand, steel ball valves are more damage-resistant but more costly. Your choice, therefore, should take into account all the crucial factors.

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