Why Stainless Refrigerant Piping is a Better Investment Than Carbon Steel

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stainless steel refrigerant piping for food processing plant

When deciding on refrigerant piping for your food processing facility, you’re faced with two major options: carbon steel or stainless. While carbon steel, or black pipe, is the industry standard, stainless is a far better investment for your food manufacturing plant due to lifetime costs, maintenance and durability.


When comparing only the pipe material cost, stainless piping is more expensive than carbon steel piping. This often turns people away from this option. However, you need to evaluate all the factors to get a true comparison.


On uninsulated piping, carbon steel pipe must be painted. As with any painted surface, painted pipe must be repainted. Painted carbon steel that is not maintained is susceptible to flaking, peeling and pitting. Mechanical cleaning is also required before it is repainted, adding further costs.

Uninsulated stainless steel pipe does not require paint, reducing its maintenance costs. When you factor in the upfront cost savings for carbon steel, the added cost of painting the pipe should be considered.

Low-temperature carbon steel piping is susceptible to corrosion under insulation or CUI. To prevent CUI, the refrigeration industry often uses special coatings or corrosion-inhibiting gels. These products add considerable upfront costs and should be considered in any cost comparisons. However, stainless steel piping does not require these products.

Physical differences

Stainless steel has considerably higher hoop stress, allowing for thinner walls when compared to carbon steel. This results in significantly lighter pipe which is easy to install and can save structural costs.

For example, with 1,000 feet of 10” pipe:

  • Carbon steel weighs 40,480 pounds

  • Stainless steel weighs 18,681 pounds

As you can see, though it has a higher material cost, stainless steel is a far better investment for your food manufacturing facility than carbon steel due to its lack of maintenance costs, higher hoop stress and easy installation.

If you’d like to learn more about refrigerant piping, email me at foodforthought@stellar.net.



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