A product, sold across the world and dominates the US gas pipe market is making life easier – and more profitable – for installers here in the UK. Arguably one of the best-kept secrets in ...
A product, sold across the world and dominates the US gas pipe market is making life easier – and more profitable – for installers here in the UK.
Arguably one of the best-kept secrets in the UK heating industry has to be TracPipe®– the stainless steel semi-rigid gas piping system that’s quickly becoming the recognised alternative to traditional rigid copper or steel pipework installed between the meter and an appliance. While relatively new to the European market, stainless steel semi-rigid gas piping has a 30-year installation history, initially in Japan and then in North America, where the product has captured more than 50% of the US gas pipe market, with a very sound safety record. Here in the UK, TracPipe semi-rigid gas piping is quickly winning friends as a viable alternative to copper and steel rigid gas pipework, but what really seems to attract UK installers is how easy it is to work with and how much time it saves on an installation.
Oxfordshire-based manufacturer Omega Flex Limited says that TracPipe can typically save up to 75% of the time normally required for a steel or copper pipe installation – and that’s the clear message it wants to communicate to UK installers looking for a competitive advantage in a challenging marketplace. “History has proven that once UK installers try the TracPipe system, they’ll immediately see the advantages both in terms of time saved and ease of installation,” said Omega Flex Sales and Marketing Director Tony Dark. “Given the current market conditions, installers can gain a genuine competitive advantage when they use TracPipe. The time-saving benefit alone can enable an installer to quote more competitively and win more work as a result.”
So what exactly is TracPipe?
TracPipe is made of flexible Corrugated Stainless Steel Tube (CSST) with a smoke and fire retardant yellow polyethylene protective cover, in accordance with British Standard BS 7838. The product comes in convenient reels for long continuous pipe runs, in diameters of 12, 15, 22, 28, 32, 40 and 50mm. The recent introduction of TracPipe KITS in shorter lengths of 5, 10 and 15 metres are supplied with TracPipe self-amalgamating tape and available with or without AutoFlare® fittings – ideal for smaller installations, where domestic heating engineers run or replace, undersized lines between gas meter and an appliance. “The key advantage that installers using TracPipe have when quoting to win business is the reduction in labour time and cost – resulting in being able to complete more profitable work in less time, due to the significant timesaving benefits of the product” said Tony Dark. “The corrugated design of the pipe allows it to be run quickly and safely in continuous lengths, bending easily by hand without altering its internal diameter. TracPipe can easily run the entire length of the installation with no fittings between either end and requires no special tools – there’s no need for time-consuming joining, soldering or welding.” At the heart of TracPipe’s design is its patented AutoFlare fitting. AutoFlare male BSP taper threads link all the benefits of TracPipe to traditional pipe fittings – malleable iron, steel etc. – and does so with no special tools. Two spanners, a utility knife and a standard tube cutter suitable for stainless steel, are all you need to connect AutoFlare fittings (see panel). AutoFlare is self-flaring and easy to use. It is self-piloting and the joint seals with normal spanner torque for safe, leak-free connections – no paste or sealing compounds are required. In addition, the new TracPipe-to-copper compression fitting allows it to be connected to existing copper pipework. BSi Kitemarked to British Standard BS7838, TracPipe is suitable for natural gas, propane or butane, (1st 2nd and 3rd family gases), at working pressures to 75mbar. For working pressures above 75mbar reference should be made to The Institution of Gas Engineers Utilisation Procedures IGE/UP/2. Designing an installation using TracPipe stainless steel semirigid gas piping can be performed by reference to the design principles and flow tables included in TracPipe Design and Installation Specification, which is available from distributors or through the company’s website, www.omegaflex.co.uk. (See BS 6891 – Specification for installation of low pressure gas pipework of up to 32mm (R1) in domestic premises (2nd family gas).)
Lekan Shamu, Managing Director of LDS Heating, recently used TracPipe for the first time on a conversion of ten high-spec flats near the Oval Cricket Ground in London. “Using TracPipe we were able to complete work on the flats’ boilers in just two days, despite the fact that some boiler locations changed during the project. If we had been using copper pipe it would have taken a week,” said Lekan. While TracPipe costs a little more than copper, Lekan says that you more than make up for this in the significant amount of time it saves you. “The other great thing about it is that it’s much safer to leave on site,” he said. “Copper pipe has a nasty habit of being stolen.” As a first-time user, Lekan said he had excellent support from TracPipe during the build. “They visited the site and helped with the specification of material. The after-sales support was excellent, and we will definitely be using TracPipe in the future.”
Commercial and domestic
James Redman, Managing Director of R.A. Redman Plumbing and Heating based in Southampton, has been using TracPipe for some time now. “At first we only used it on light commercial projects, but since TracPipe kits were introduced we now use it on domestic installations as well. “It’s so fast and easy to work with compared to copper which, in comparison, takes so long to install. Because you don’t need joints, you just roll it out, secure it in the same way as other materials and connect it.” James says that TracPipe saves so much time it can make the difference between securing a job and losing it. “Sometimes with copper it is necessary to run the pipe on the outside of somebody’s home, and people don’t want to see a pipe. With TracPipe you can simply drill a hole, sleeve it through a wall and run it under the floor,” he said. “It’s great because it’s so much less disruptive.” James has also found TracPipe’s flexibility very useful on larger properties where he is doing simple boiler changes from open-vented boilers to combi boilers, which require a greater flow gas rate from a larger diameter pipe. “We’ve also used it on light commercial installations like nurseries and nursing homes, and it works perfectly.”
TracPipe® and AutoFlare® are registered
trademarks of Omega Flex Limited.
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In this feature, Registered Gas Engineer asks a manufacturer about the most common queries that engineers ask their technical helplines. This month Omega Flex, which makes TracPipe, takes the call. H...
In this feature, Registered Gas Engineer asks a manufacturer about the most common queries that engineers ask their technical helplines. This month Omega Flex, which makes TracPipe, takes the call.
How can corrugated stainless steel tube (CSST) be connected to traditional pipework such as steel and copper?
Although the connection to the CSST is specific to each individual manufacturer, there are several options available such as CSST to male or female BSP and CSST to copper compression. For TracPipe, the connection to the CSST itself is achieved with an AutoFlare fitting, which requires no specialist tools to form the joint. All you need is a wheeled tube cutter with a stainless steel wheel, a utility knife and correctly sized spanners. The AutoFlare fitting forms a gas-tight metal-to-metal seal when correctly tightened, with no need for jointing compounds or tapes. CSST is available in longer lengths so one continuous piece of pipe can be used, reducing the need for joints and therefore increasing the speed of installation compared to traditional pipework such as rigid steel and copper.
Can CSST be used within a protected shaft?
CSST for natural gas installations can be used within a protected shaft containing stairs, lift or other means of fire escape,
provided that it is in one continuous length without joints and the shaft is correctly ventilated. TracPipe has a fire resistance rating of 120 minutes and can be installed in any location where gas pipes are allowed, including, for example, fire escape corridors and car parks.
Can CSST be buried externally?
CSST can be buried externally and normally without the need for additional corrosion protection. CSST manufactured to BS 7838 and/or BS EN 15266 is fitted with a yellow polyethylene jacket that protects it from corrosion. The polyethylene jacket should be closely inspected along the entire length of the pipework to check for any damage or voids in the jacket before it is buried.
When burying CSST externally for domestic natural gas applications, it should have a minimum depth of cover of 375mm when buried in open ground or below traffic. This can be reduced to 40mm if buried below concrete with pedestrian
access only. However, it is important to follow the correct installation standard, depending on the size of CSST being used, whether it is for natural gas or LPG, and domestic or non-domestic. It is also important to remember that
joints must not be buried below ground.
Does CSST have to be sleeved where it passes through a wall?
Where CSST passes through a wall, floor or standing, it needs to be contained within a gas-tight sleeve which itself is ventilated to a safe position, preferably to open air. The sleeve should be made of a material that is itself capable of containing gas, for example, steel, copper or polyethylene. Any gap between the CSST and the sleeve should be sealed with a flexible fire-resistant sealant at one end only, to ensure that any gas escape cannot accumulate within the sleeve. The sleeve itself should also be sealed to the structure using an appropriate building material such as cement mortar.
At what distances should CSST be supported?
CSST is very light compared to traditional pipework materials but it should still be supported at regular intervals and in
accordance with the relevant installation Standard. The size of clip used will also be specified by the manufacturer, but typically you can use the next size up of clip when installing CSST. For example, if you were installing DN22 CSST (equivalent to 22mm) you would need to use a 28mm supporting clip. The reason for this is that CSST nominal sizing is based on internal diameter (ID) whereas copper is based on outside diameter (OD).
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Installing a new heating system in a full domestic refurbishment poses plenty of challenges. Installer met James Redman, of R.A.Redman in Southampton, to find out how a change of approach is reaping r...
Installing a new heating system in a full domestic refurbishment poses plenty of challenges. Installer met James Redman, of R.A.Redman in Southampton, to find out how a change of approach is reaping rewards.
Accepting a job for a complete refit of the heating system in an ageing farm cottage near Salisbury was always going to bring a big set of challenges for James Redman and his team. Not only were the boiler and radiators being replaced with modern, high performance versions, but the creation of a whole new extension for the kitchen meant that the boiler was going to be re-sited.
At first, the prospect of running new pipework seemed to be a daunting one – involving plenty of work for James and even more for his customer. Thinking back to a previous commercial installation that he worked on, James hit upon a successful solution. “When I was an apprentice, I worked on a big installation in London that required loads of new pipework. We used TracPipe and I was surprised by the speed and ease with which we got the job completed,” commented James. “With this job, I needed to be able to get the new pipework fitted quickly – partly because we were working around other trades and partly because the homeowners didn’t want to be left without any heating or hot water. “However, I initially discounted using TracPipe because of the practicalities of buying, using and storing large quantities of it. Then a contact of mine told me about the new TracPipe KITs, which made it the perfect solution for this property.” TracPipe KITs are available in lengths of 5m, 10m and 15m, making them an option for domestic installations. By eliminating the practicality issue of ordering in bulk, TracPipe has become a credible alternative for residential gas pipework, opening up a whole new market.
Tony Dark, Omega Flex Sales and Marketing Director, says, “The introduction of TracPipe KITs in sizes up to DN32 has resulted in so many domestic heating engineers using the product for the first time. We know from experience, that once an installer uses TracPipe just once, they will think differently about how they upsize and replace gas lines in the future.” With the products chosen and the site ready, it was time for the installation itself to start by taking the gas pipe from the meter box to the site of the new boiler. “The installation couldn’t have been easier,” explained James. “We simply created an entry point by lifting a floorboard where the new kitchen will be and then fed the pipe under the floor to the front of the house – going through several rooms on the way.
“Laying the pipe was probably a half hour job – compared to the half day’s work it would have been to run traditional copper pipe through to the meter connection. Plus, it’s far more convenient for us as no-one has to go along the route of the pipe lifting the floorboards, soldering joints, etc. All we had to do then was connect the pipe up at both ends.”
On a full-scale redevelopment, the benefits of TracPipe are apparent. The speed and convenience of the installation means that the job can be scheduled in and completed easily in order to work around the other, more timeconsuming aspects of the project. However, the benefits for James are not just appealing on the trickier jobs – using TracPipe has become a common occurrence on site. “On this occasion it was a great choice. Not least because the customer was so impressed by how quickly we got in and got everything done – when you’re living in a building site, things like that really matter. “I’ve used it on subsequent jobs too where it also saves time, effort and, frequently, money. For example, when fitting high efficiency condensing boilers onto old systems it can be necessary to upgrade the pipework to ensure that the boiler works properly. Using TracPipe means that I can do this in a simple and straightforward manner, allowing me and the team to concentrate on other aspects of the installation.”
Tony comments: “Recent economic times have affected all businesses in the UK. Quoting for work effectively, while protecting your profit margins, is a key factor in staying competitive in a challenging market. Understanding how savings can be made by using innovative, labour and time-saving products like TracPipe to reduce the cost of installation, is literally the difference between winning new customers and losing work to a cheaper quote.”
The project in Salisbury is far from complete for the owners, but James is confident that his will be one of the most stress-free parts of it – not least for his team when they come back in the next few weeks to install the new boiler.
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More and more installers across the UK are experiencing the time-saving benefits of Omega Flex’s TracPipe®. This revolutionary flexible gas piping system is up to three times faster to fit ...
More and more installers across the UK are experiencing the time-saving benefits of Omega Flex’s TracPipe®.
This revolutionary flexible gas piping system is up to three times faster to fit than copper or steel. TracPipe® is easy to cut, it bends easily by hand and requires no soldering or welding. A range of fittings allow for easy connections and simple installation.
TracPipe® is available in 30 to 90 metre reels, but nine months ago the introduction of TracPipe®Installer KITs gave installers the option of buying shorter lengths of TracPipe®and fittings – all in one, easy-to-handle box perfectly suited to the specific requirements of an installation.
“The response to our TracPipe® Installer KITs has been fantastic, and has won over lots of installers who wanted to try the product without having to purchase a large of reel of piping,” said Omega Flex Sales and Marketing Director Tony Dark.
“The feedback we get from installers is overwhelmingly positive, especially when it comes to the time-saving benefit of TracPipe® – saving up to 75% on a installation has to be good news for any installing business.”
TracPipe® Installer KITs are available in lengths of 5, 10 and 15 metres, in diameters of 22, 28 and 32mm – and a recently introduced 15mm.
KITs are available with or without fittings and silicone tape, so installers can specify exactly what fittings they require for a particular job – including the new TracPipe® to copper compression fitting, which allows TracPipe®to be connected to existing copper pipework.
TracPipe® and TracPipe® Installer KITs are available from all major stockists. For information contact Omega Flex Limited on 01295 676 670 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
TracPipe®is a registered trademark by Omega Flex.