According to regulations January 4, 2014 marked the date when, nationwide you could no longer use leaded solder on plumbing pipes. Since that date has come and gone we would hope nobody is still using leaded wire. According to websites like Get The Lead Out it looks like there are some exceptions to this rule including nonpotable applications in industrial, irrigation, bath/shower drains, toilets and other purposes not intended for human consumption. So if you do have a supply of leaded wire left there are still some opportunities to use up what you’ve got, legally. This is probably also how big box stores and plumbing suppliers are still even allowed to sell the product but the rumor is these products will not be available much longer from the larger suppliers.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is the agency who will regulate the Reduction of Lead in Drinking Water Act under federal law that amends the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). The new law reduces the permissible levels of lead in the wetted surfaces of pipes, pipe fittings, plumbing fittings and fixtures to a weighted average of not more than 0.25%. Products that meet this standard are referred to in the law as “Lead Free.”
Silver Solder Option – This is the closest alternative for soldering lead free with the main difference coming in melting point. The leaded solder typically have melting points between 360-420 degrees Fahrenheit while the silver solder commonly have a melting point 430 or higher. This basically means many plumbers will need to relearn how to solder even if they’ve been doing it for years. The margin for error in damaging pipes with the higher temperatures is also much greater for new hires or experienced plumbers alike.
Press Tool Connector Option – The other alternative that is becoming much more attractive is to move to cold press connections instead of soldering. We took at look at the 3 most popular brands of press tools (Ridgid, Milwaukee & Rothenberger/GreenLee) not too long ago in our post A Press Tool for Any Occasion. Of course the price of admission to get into a press tool is higher but for larger companies the added cost to retrain their staff and then potentially warranty problems caused by switching to silver solder could well exceed any tool investments.
Certainly we are not experts in the plumbing industry and we would not begin to give anyone legal advice as to what they should do with it comes to EPA guidelines, regulations or enforcement. We are happy to provide the following references to help everyone learn more about these new regulations and encourage you to continue to learn more .
Are You Ready For Lead-Free 2014? – wateronline.com
Understanding The Laws – gettheleadout.com