Electrolysis in Copper Pipe

What causes Copper Pipe to get Electrolysis?

Also known as electrolytic corrosion, copper rot and galvanic action. Electrolysis to copper pipes can happen when stray direct current (DC) electricity causes the copper to break down or disintegrate.

Metals that are different, such as galvanised, steel, brass and copper pipes come into contact with each other can cause electrolysis. It is important to make sure that a metal nail or metal ducting through the ceiling or a star picket in the ground, does not come into contact with your copper pipes. This kind of electrolysis is called galvanic action.

Electrolysis could potentially be due to many modern appliance. An example of this could be a hairdryer which creates a lot of stray DC current, and as copper is a good conductor of electricity, it may attract this stray current. Salt water and acid solutions are also good electrolytes. Moyle Plumbing has found that some suburbs close to the ocean, have electrolysis occur in their copper water pipes.

Stagnant water or inactive plumbing has also been mentioned as a cause of copper rot, or copper corrosion. It is suspected that the low oxygen and high bacterial content in the water may contribute to copper electrolysis. Iron deposits from a rusty hot water heater can also corrode copper pipes. Moyle Plumbing recommends your replace your hot water systems anode every 5 years.

How will you know if your pipes have electrolysis?

Often the problem is not found until you have a water leak. Your copper pipe may have turned green & show pitting.  Once the leaking piece is cut out, you will notice the inside of the copper tube is no longer smooth, but have internal corrosion. A close look will reveal a crater appearance with pitted holes starting to form.

Once electrolysis occurs, it is important to locate the cause. If electrolysis occurs, it will not be long before even the new copper pipe becomes damaged.

Moyle Plumbing recommends you have your house water evaluated by a water testing laboratory if you have electrolysis in both your hot and cold water lines. Your home will need to have the copper pipe replaced with plastic potable water pipes such as a Polybutylene pipe or similar.

If you think your home has electrolysis, give Moyle Plumbing & Gas fitting a call. 

Cheryl Moyle