ASCO Torch Blog
Brazing and Soldering Safety January 17 2015
Working with industrial gases can be a dangerous proposition. When using torches, whether Oxy/Acetylene or Air/Acetylene or any other flammable gas mixture, great care needs to be taken. Air/Acetylene torches burn at approximately 2700 degrees Fahrenheit and Oxy/Acetylene outfits’ burn at approximately 5000 degrees. As you can see from the chart below, according to NFPA the incidents of accidents caused by torches are quite extensive. Each year, millions in property damage, hundreds of injuries and even death!!
Brazing and Soldering Safety Executive Summary
The U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated average of 5,230 structure fires per year involving torches, burners, and soldering equipment between 2006 and 2010. These fires caused average annual losses of 10 civilian deaths, 210 civilian injuries, and $255 million in direct property damage each year. Of these fires, 3,140 occurred in properties other than homes, and 2,090 occurred in homes.
What this chart doesn’t tell you is that MOST of these fires are preventable. A common sense approach to any job involving flammables is the first rule of safety!! Make sure that the acetylene torches you use are in good working order. This maybe the most important aspect of preventing accidents. Faulty, leaking or old hoses are the number 1 source of accidents involving torches. If your acetylene hose is old or does not have spring ends, replace them. When brazing, do not throttle back on your tip. Anyone who has seen his tip glow “cherry red” is not using their torch properly and is inviting an accident to occur. The use of flame retardant blankets is another example of being a responsible and safe torch operator. Some contractors and lay people use smoke pipe or tin as a buffer between the material they are using and the combustible material they need to protect. Smoke pipe and tin get hot!! They do not give the proper protection needed in most applications. A flame shield or blanket is the best and safest way to prevent accidents from occurring. Flame shields, spring ended hoses and torch equipment in general can be found at www.ascotorch.com
The next issue is having a proper work station. When using torches, make sure that the tank / tanks are secure. Tanks that are not secure can fall over and damage either the valve or the hose, causing a fire. Always keep a fire extinguisher handy in case a fire does start. Keep any combustible material away from the work station; (rags, wood, cardboard boxes) don’t keep anything around that can distract you (radios, I pods or even cell phones) and of course do not smoke around ANY industrial gas tank. Don’t use lighters when firing up your outfit. Spark lighters work better and are inherently safer. Don’t bring torch outfits into a home or business until you are ready to use them and then remove them immediately after you are finished.
These steps may seem obvious or inconsequential but gauging by the statistics, there is nothing obvious or inconsequential about safety when it comes to industrial gases and the use of torches.
High Temperature Torch Kits Vs Low Temperature Torch Kits January 17 2015
In a previous article we talked about the differences between using Oxy/Acetylene torches and regular Air/Acetylene torches Now that we have established that although some guys prefer using Oxy/Acetylene torches, the easier and more economical way to braze and solder is with the more conventional Air/Acetylene torches.
That being said this article will deal with the differences between using a high temperature “Turbo” type torches and a low temperature “Prestolite” type torches. There are 2 basic ways to join copper and brass to themselves and each other. Brazing and Soldering. It is in this area that we are discussing the differences in the high and low-temperature tips.
Let’s look at some of the differences between Torch Kits.
High-temperature tips offer the following attributes:
- Generally burn at a temperature of 2500 to 2700 degrees
- Have a short hot flame that is designed to wrap around the fitting
- Use more gas than the low-temperature outfits
- Are usually of the quick disconnect design
- Have a high pitch whistle
Low-temperature tips offer the following attributes:
- Generally burn at as temperature of 1500 degrees
- Have a longer more brush like flame
- Use less gas than high-temperature tips
- Are usually of the screw-in design
- Much quieter than the high-temperature tips
Since brazing takes place at approximately 900 degrees the high-temperature tips would seem to be the more logical choice. Whereas both tips will reach the target temperature, remember it’s the temperature of the material being brazed that has to reach the brazing temperature. That being said, the higher the temperature of the flame the quicker the base material will reach the correct temperature needed for brazing to take place. High heat is also necessary for good adhesion and capillary action to occur when using silver-based solder.
Soldering occurs at approximately 400 degrees. This means that far less heat is necessary for soldering to occur. The low-temperature tips would be a better fit in these applications. Since less heat is needed the low temp tips will use less gas making them more economical to use. When doing service work generally the low-temperature tips are the better choice in that you are only soldering a couple of joints.
The problem with either application is that the high-temperature tips come with a quick disconnect design and the low-temperature tips are of a screw-in design.
The easy solution to this is at www.ascotorch.com where you can get both the high-temperature and low-temperature tips in both screw-in and quick disconnect designs.
Turbo Torch vs. ASCO Torch Equipment December 17 2014
Best Torch Equipment on The Market
Because of the advent of certain products like Pro Press, Shark Bite and Pex tubing the need for torches to use for joining pipe has diminished quite a bit. These products are fairly new however and the long term quality of them is still largely unproven. This being said the most effective and sure fire way to secure joints is still brazing and soldering. This leads us to the question of which is the best and most economical torch on the market.
The “Name” and most popular torch out there is Turbo Torch. Victor has done a fantastic job of marketing their product. In fact Torches are known throughout the industry as “Turbo Torches”, but are these actually the best torches on the market? They do burn hotter than any other torch on the market (2700 degrees verses 2500 degrees) and are certainly a better option than Oxy Acetylene but they are also the most expensive torch on the market and their durability is also suspect.
In today’s market most companies do not pay for a tech or mechanics tools. It is up to the individual to procure their own tools. That makes it very important that not just guys starting out but even the veteran mechanics and techs to get the most bang for their buck.
Turbo torches sport a Plastic handle and the tips are of a stainless steel construction. This is also true of Goss, Uniweld, Presto and all other major brands. The swirl combustion that generates the Turbo heat is made of a 3 flute construction.
The exception to that is Goss which boasts a multi-port flame. It however burns at a temp of 2200 degrees and is therefore less effective. Their supply tubes are crimped together to the mixer assemblies and the tips sit on 3 ball bearings in the handle.
All of these brands are interchangeable making it possible to have a multi manufacturer set-up and are basically of the same quality. The exception to this is ASCO Torches.
Whereas ASCO Torches are also interchangeable with all other brands they sport a solid brass handle that is much more durable. The tips have a 4 flute construction. Turbo Torches are especially noted for having a feathery end to their flame while ASCO Torches with their 4 fluted tips have a tighter swirl for a better wrap around on fittings, without the feathery end.
The tip ends are also made of a heavy grade brass so they hold up better to abuse and are threaded onto the supply tube. This makes them easy to clean and they are replaceable. When Turbo tips burn out they need to be totally replaced.
ASCO tip ends can be replaced without having to purchase an entirely new tip. Their handles have a 4 ball bearing seat for a tighter fit. In fact Turbo tips fit better in ASCO Handles than their own. ASCO set-ups also come with spring ended hose for better durability and most importantly are about 15 to 20% less expensive than Turbo Torches.
Air Acetylene VS Oxy Acetylene December 17 2014
When to us Air Acetylene or Oxy Acetylene
In brazing or soldering applications, the question is; what is the best, most efficient and economical way to get the job done. The 2 best ways are Air Acetylene and Oxy Acetylene. There are benefits to both. The benefits to using Oxy Acetylene are: By far it has the hottest flame (5000 degrees vs. 2700 degrees) and can get the job done the quickest, especially on piping 3” diameter and up. It is sturdier than some plastic handled torches so it holds up better to abuse (ASCO handles would be the exception because of their heavy brass construction) and the gases last longer therefore you can braze / solder more joints without having to change the tanks.
There are also drawbacks to using Oxy Acetylene set ups as well.
For example, it is a more cumbersome set-up. It has a much bigger handle and bulkier hose. This makes it much harder when in tight spaces or if you are brazing / soldering smaller diameter pipe. It has 2 tanks instead of 1 to carry around and the flow of gas needs to be regulated closely.
Replacement parts need to be specific to the manufacturer (you cannot mix and match different manufacturer set-ups) and it is a more expensive set-up as you need 2 tanks. Finally since copper melts at around 2500 to 3000 degrees there is less room for operator error so not to melt or distort the pipe.
Air Acetylene set-ups offer a better and more economical alternative to brazing and soldering.
The use of just 1 tank makes it much less expensive and easier to carry and store. The handle and hose are far less cumbersome to use. It is ideal for tight spaces and smaller diameter pipe, while still offering the ability to be effective on the larger diameter pipe. Whereas oxy acetylene is almost twice the temperature and the 2700 degree heat takes a little longer in brazing applications it virtually eliminates the possibility of distorting or melting the metal. Air Acetylene equipment is also completely interchangeable. Regardless of manufacturer all Air Acetylene equipment will work together. In all, the Air Acetylene set ups are definitely the way to go for everyday use in plumbing HVAC and AC/R applications.
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