Durability, Safety, Corrosion Resistance: Advantages of PPSU Fittings for Water Distribution Systems

04. April 2024 | 6 min read

The EU’s revised Drinking Water Directive, passed into national legislation of the member states this year, ensures that Europeans benefit from some of the highest water quality standards in the world. However, the Directive has also made waves in the plumbing industry as the requirements for materials that come into contact with potable water have been tightened further. In light of these changes, we talked with Stephan Müller, Pipelife’s Business Development Manager for Water Distribution and Supply. He explains the impact of the Directive on the industry and how plumbers can preserve their competitiveness while meeting both customers’ expectations and revised water safety norms. 

Pipelife's extended PPSU fittings portfolio

The Change Ahead: Enforcing World-Leading Water Safety Standards

Most Europeans already have access to high-quality drinking water. However, the European Union’s revised Drinking Water Directive (EU) 2020/2184, passed in January 2021, sets even higher standards for materials that come into contact with potable water. After the transition period, the hygienic certification processes and requirements for such materials will be unified across all EU member states.

The new Directive strictly aligns with the zero-pollution ambition announced in the European Green Deal. Tighter limits on multiple chemical substances in the water, such as disinfection byproducts, PFAS, heavy metals, and others, have been announced.

“One major change is that the limit for lead in tap water has been lowered from 10µg/l to 5µg/l,” says Stephan Müller, Pipelife’s Business Development Manager for Water Distribution and Supply. “This new limit is no longer met by some widely used brass alloys in the sanitary industry.”

Pipelife's extended PPSU fittings portfolio

In Search of Sustainable Material Alternatives

Brass has been commonly used in fittings for water distribution systems due to its affordable price and good mechanical properties; however, cost-efficient and lead-free alternatives are available.

One such material is PPSU — a high-performance thermoplastic that has been used in healthcare, food service, aviation and other industries for decades, also replacing metals.

“PPSU has high impact strength, excellent heat- and chemical resistance, as well as long-term hydrolytic stability and biological inertness, making it a trusted material in multiple applications, including water distribution,” Müller explains.

In fact, Pipelife has already been offering PPSU fittings for its popular RadoPress multilayer composite pipe system. In response to increasing customer interest and demand, the fitting range has now been expanded, comprising more than 30 PPSU fittings in DIM 16-32.

By combining PPSU and lead-free alloys, we have created a portfolio that ticks all the boxes.

Stephan Müller, Pipelife’s Business Development Manager for Water Distribution and Supply

Pipelife's extended PPSU fittings portfolio

Last-Generation Plastic Outshines Brass

In terms of installation, there are no major differences between plastic and metal press fittings. If anything, PPSU fittings are lighter, facilitating their transportation and handling.

Just like certified metal counterparts, PPSU fittings have a service life of at least 50 years, equaling the average lifetime of a building. At some parameters, such as corrosion resistance, PPSU even surpasses metal alloys.

“The corrosivity of water in Europe varies a lot; for example, the Nordic countries have soft water, which tastes nicer, but poses challenges to plumbers due to corrosion issues. PPSU fittings can be used with a broader range of drinking waters irrespective of their corrosivity,” emphasizes Müller.

Furthermore, PPSU is an entirely heavy-metal-free material. Even before the revised Directive, PPSU fittings were widely used in countries such as Germany and Austria, where requirements for drinking water quality are particularly stringent. Now, similar norms have been introduced into the national legislation of all EU member states.

“The recently introduced quality standards are very high, even higher than those for bottled water,” Müller sums up. “For organic materials, the certification process covers everything from starting substances used in the recipe to testing the final compound and to  final product — ensuring there is no leaching, excessive bacterial growth, or effects on the odor or flavor of the water.”

Pipelife's extended PPSU fittings portfolio

More Competitiveness for Plumbers

Still, the revised Drinking Water Directive does not mean metals have no place in our water distribution networks. Müller emphasizes that lead-free alloys are available and, despite their elevated costs, have advantages in certain applications:

“Lead-free metals should be used for threaded fittings, as these connections require very high mechanical strength. However, such strength is not needed for pipe-to-pipe fittings, where PPSU offers higher cost-efficiency and corrosion resistance.”

Pipelife’s newly expanded RadoPress portfolio features an array of both lead-free brass and PPSU fittings, offering a wide range of top-quality connections for all installation scenarios.

The expanded fittings catalog allows plumbers to provide optimal water distribution system safety and reliability for their clients while remaining competitive in a rapidly changing market.

“By combining the advantages of high-performance organic materials and lead-free alloys, we have created a portfolio that ticks all the boxes — and we are proud to bring it to our customers.”

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