It is very common for DIY plumbers to use soldreless connectors like SharkBite and GatorBite because you don’t have to sweat a copper pipe. I use them myself when I have to connect two different types of materials (i.e. mating copper to pvc pipe, etc.) but to get the ultimate confidence that the joint will not leak, I still like to use my trusty Benzomatic torch.
There are three main fuel types for portable torches (excluding acetylene which almost always used in a commercial environment):
- Butane – various small containers (think of lighters)
- Propane – usually comes in blue metal bottles
- Max Power Propylene** – usually comes in yellow metal bottles
- MAPP vs Propane
- Dealing with any type of highly flammable gas deserves the utmost respect. Make sure to read Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) from Berzomatic.
** You may have seen some Benzomatic fuel bottles with “MAPP” labels. MAPP gas is a trademarked name belonging to Linde Group, previously to Dow, for a fuel gas based on a stabilized mixture of methylacetylene (propyne) and propadiene. The name comes from the original chemical composition: methylacetylene-propadiene propane. MAPP gas is also widely used as a generic name for UN 1060 stabilised methylacetylene-propadiene (unstabilised methylacetylene-propadiene is known as MAPD). MAPP gas is widely regarded as a safer and easier-to-use substitute for acetylene. In the spring of 2008, true MAPP gas production ended in North America when production was discontinued at the only remaining plant making it. Current products labeled “”MAPP” are in fact MAPP substitutes. These versions are stabilized liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) with high levels of propylen such as the Max Power Propylene (a.k.a. MAP/Pro).
Although for most copper pipe sweating jobs you can either use Propane or Max Power Propylene, I recommend using the latter as it can heat copper pipes faster and hotter than propane (for the latest gas type comparisons, check Benzomatic.). When you are cramped in a small corner, twisted like a pretzel, anything that can speed up the sweating job is worth in gold!
NOZZLE / TIP
I started using propane torches with a simple brass torch nozzle that required a Spark Lighter. The setup wasn’t too bad except that you needed two hands to light up the darn thing (quite difficult when you have fluxed copper fitting on one hand).
I then moved up to a trigger start torch nozzle. With it, I no longer needed my spark lighter as I simply needed to twist and press the knob to get it lit. The only downside still was that with the nozzle and the long skinny bottle, it was still difficult to point the flame in a tight spot.
I finally traded up my setup to a “Fat Boy” kit which included a short and squashed fuel bottle, with a trigger start torch with 5 ft hose (kit also came with a belt to mount the fuel bottle). In terms of the convenience and ease of sweating copper in a tight spot is worth the premium price (kit sells for around $65 bucks). In my opinion, this Fat Boy kit is totally worth it, even for a beginner like myself.
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