The open flame produced by a traditional, propane soldering torch occasionally poses an unavoidable fire risk. Specifically, the plumber must take great care when soldering pipes near combustible compounds, such as an air conditioner's refrigerant lines and water heater's gas supply pipes. The electric soldering tool offers a safe, flame-free method of soldering and actually requires less skill and labour than traditional soldering. Learn about electric soldering tools and equipment to determine if electric is the way to go for your project.
Electric Pipe Soldering Tool
The most essential piece of equipment for electric soldering, the electric pipe soldering tool, appears similar to a stubby pair of pliers. This tool's straight, hinged handles attach to a set of two C-shaped heads. The tool's heads are specially designed to tightly clamp over copper pipes of various diameters. An electrical cord protruding from one of the tool's handles connects to an electrical socket and supplies the tool with power. To use this tool, a plumber clamps the soldering tool's heads over a joint between pipes or fittings. A set of plates on the interior faces of the tool's heads transfer electrically generated heat to the pipe or metal. Once the pipe or fitting reaches the proper temperature, the plumber applies solder to the joint.
The pipe cutter prepares pipes for electric soldering by cutting them to size. This manually-operated plumbing tool slices through a copper water supply pipe's wall with a sharpened cutting disc. The tool's cutting disc protrudes from the interior of a roughly C-shaped head. A knob at the tool's side enlarges or decreases the size of the head's opening, also called a "mouth." To use a pipe cutter, a plumber places the tool's mouth over a copper pipe, tightens the cutting blade against the pipe and rotates the tool around the pipe to create a cut.
Emery cloth is a type of sandpaper used to abrade metal surfaces. Plumbers use emery cloth to abrade and clean metal pipe and fittings prior to soldering. Plumbers purchase emery cloth in small rolls. To use emery cloth, a plumber tears a small piece off a roll and rubs the cloth against a pipe's exterior or fitting's interior. Whether using electric soldering tools or traditional torch tools, pipes and fittings must be cleaned prior to soldering.
Flux and Flux Brush
Flux, applied with a flux brush, cleans a pipe's surfaces when heated. A plumber applies flux to pipes and pipe fittings prior to soldering. As the plumber's electrical soldering tool or torch heats the pipe, the flux melts and removes oxidation. Flux is available in small tins. A thin, stiff-bristled brush often accompanies a tin of flux.