Advantages of Tubing vs. Piping

Advantages of Tubing vs. Piping

Joe Mainello | September 12th, 2018

Depending on your application, you may consider whether you need tubing or piping to convey your material - but you may find one superior to the other. Tube bending improves fluid-flow characteristics by creating compact systems with smooth directional changes. The 45 or 90-degree elbows used in piping systems frequently increase turbulence. Tubing systems produce better flow characteristics due to the smooth internal surface and reduce flow loss and drag. Tubing systems also support high pressures and typically a higher strength to weight ratio than piping.

The demands placed on today's fluid systems are much tougher than they were years ago. Leaks that were once considered a nuisance are now categorized as fugitive emissions or hazardous spills, which can cause a plant to shut down. Modern processes are pushing higher pressures, flow, and temperature requirements every day, and the basic concepts of connecting pipe have not changed much over the years.

Tubing provides a solution to tougher regulations and increasing stresses on fluid systems. Both tubing and piping carry fluids in industrial applications, but tubing offers several advantages over piping. Tubing is easier to install and maintain, costs less and performs better than piping.

Tube fittings are designed not to leak, even under severe application because they have either a mechanical metal-to-metal seal or seal with an elastomer to a mating component. Whereas a threaded pipe connection requires heavy equipment to cut threads and use pipe dope or TFE tape to minimize leakage. Tubing offers greater flexibility in systems with fewer connections, meaning fewer potential leak points.

Tubing can usually be installed faster and cheaper than piping. Tubing is cut to length and then deburred, the fittings are tightened onto a nut. Studies have shown that the installation of a 1” tubing system takes about 12 minutes per connection. Compare that to a 1” schedule 40 pipe, which requires about an hour to cut, prep, and align. This often lasts an average of 48 minutes. The cost of skilled pipefitters required to install piping systems makes tubing a financially wise choice.

Tubing systems also reduce overall installed costs. Tubing in most cases is less expensive than piping. Even with tube fittings have a higher cost than pipe components, in the long run, systems save money due to reduced downtime and simpler assembly and disassembly.

With the improved fluid-flow characteristics, improved sealing ability, ease of installation and maintenance, and reduce overall installation costs, tubing may be a better option over piping for your application.