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Brass vs. Bronze Fitting: Understanding the Differences

Brass fittings

What is the difference between brass vs. bronze fittings? While both are alloys, brass and bronze offer varying characteristics. These, to a large extend, dictate where to use each type of fittings, in addition to influencing their cost and lifespan. To help you understand what these differences are, we compiled this comparison guide.

What are Brass Fittings?

Brass fittings are manufactured using brass. This is an alloy that’s primarily produced by mixing specified amounts of copper and zinc. Fittings made from brass offer several advantages that make them popular in many different applications: they can be brass fittings for gas pipes, water lines, slurry, and so on.

These fittings resist the effects of corrosion remarkably well, plus you can use them on potable water pipes. In terms of appearance, they are smooth and a pale yellow color or golden, and look different from those made from bronze.

What are Bronze Fittings?

Bronze fittings are made from an alloy that majorly contains copper, tin, and a few other materials in smaller quantities. Unlike brass, these fittings are typically rough on their surfaces, seeing that they’re primarily made using the sand-casting method. They’re also practically sand-blasted before being machined.

Visually, bronze fittings are a reddish brown color that gives them a distinct appearance. In terms of performance, you can use them in high chorine and high salt level applications. They resist damage in these conditions better than brass. For a more detailed view of the difference between brass and bronze fittings, see below.

Brass vs. bronze fittings
Brass vs. bronze fittings in appearance and surface feel
Resource: https://www.cruisersforum.com

Brass vs. Bronze Fittings

When compared, bronze and brass fittings for water or any other application differ in a number of ways. Here, we will see how the two options compare in terms of the following: materials used to make them or composition, malleability, ability to stand up to corrosion, strength, best applications, and cost.

Material Composition

Brass is made by mixing zinc and copper. On the other hand, bronze features a blend of copper and tin, with small additions of several other materials. Each material makes the alloy and, therefore, the fitting to possess some distinct properties.

Most notably, the presence of zinc gives brass fittings their yellow color, while tin produces the reddish brown color of bronze fittings. Given their composition, bronze fittings are hard and mostly manufactured by the sand-casting method, while brass is softer and easily forged.

Malleability

In terms of malleability, brass is the softer material. This makes its fittings easier to manufacture and less susceptible to cracks. As a result, Bronze is harder and prone to cracks, in addition to being more difficult to take through the manufacturing process.

Corrosion Resistance

Comparing bronze vs. brass fittings for the ability to stand up to corrosion, here is what you need to know: Both fittings stand up to corrosion remarkably well. However,

To help prevent that, fittings made of brass are normally plates with a special protective coating, or bronze fittings are used. Brass, being resistant to the corrosive action of chlorine, is usually where the chemical is present in high levels.

Strength and Durability

Brass is the more ductile material, and fittings made of this material will last longer than those made from bronze. Having said that, it’s worth noting that bronze will not wear as easily was bronze, seeing that it’s a harder material.

In marine applications, bronze fittings withstand the salty conditions better. Therefore, depending on the type off application environment, bronze can last for years as well, sometimes even outlasting brass. So it highly depends on the operating conditions.

Cost

Different types of fittings, whether brass or bronze, can cost different amounts. However, brass fittings are easier to make, given the materials malleability which makes it less challenging to forge or machine. So they’re generally less expensive. Bronze is harder, and less manufacturable. These options make bronze fittings to typically cost more.

Application

Fittings made from brass are best used in plumbing, or lines that carry water, both in residential and commercial or even industrial settings. Their lower lead level makes them safe for potable water.

If the medium flowing through the fittings has high levels of chlorine, bronze fittings are more suited. Alternatively, brass fittings that feature a protective coating that prevents the leaching of lead into the water are used.

Generally, it’s recommended to use brass fittings for water lines, and both potable and waste water installations. For pipes that carry gas, too. Bronze fittings are mostly suited for the harsh conditions of marine applications or the oil and gas industry.

Bronze fitting
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Can you Mix Brass and Bronze Fittings?

It’s not recommended to mix brass and bronze fittings. Each material has its advantages and drawbacks, especially when used in certain applications. For example, mixing bronze and brass pipe fittings in a marine environment can lead to what’s called galvanic action or corrosion.

This is where different metals in an electrolyte produce an anode and cathode, and the anodic metal slowly starts to dissolve. In other applications, it may be possible to mix the two.

However, that would still depend on the specific use. If your lines are meant to carry drinking water, it’s advised to only use brass as it presents no harm, or you can use a type of bronze that has lower lead levels in its composition.

Conclusion

Fittings are available in several different materials such as bronze, brass, and copper. When choosing between brass vs. bronze fittings in particular, several factors come to play. These include their various characteristics that make each suitable for specific applications. Brass fittings are most popular in plumbing lines, while bronze fittings are best suited for the oil and gas industry or marine conditions.

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