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Brass vs. Stainless Steel Valves

23rd Jun 2021

Brass vs. Stainless Steel Valves

Selecting the proper materials for your plumbing system is a hefty responsibility. You've got to consider price points, durability, and resistance to safety hazards like corrosion.

It's a tough choice, so it's best to use the guide below to ensure you get the right component when choosing between brass vs stainless steel valves.

Brass vs Stainless Steel Valves: Which is Better?

Numerous differences separate the quality of brass and stainless steel valves for one reason or another. While brass is an excellent general-purpose metal you can use in a broad range of plumbing jobs, stainless steel has other applications that might make it the superior choice instead.

For one, stainless steel valves are much better in terms of corrosion resistance. In fact, this is the main reason why these components are approved by the Food and Drug Administration for handling food and beverage, while brass valves are not.

Still, this doesn't mean it's invulnerable to corrosion. Different types, such as the kind that causes red stains or green-blue stains to appear on the surface or the one that causes leaks, can still affect stainless steel valves. Stainless steel valves can also last much longer than brass and can resist higher temperatures.

On the other hand, brass valves are the preferred option in many residential and commercial plumbing systems. It's also a much better choice for welding, which can reduce labor costs and project duration.

Because of their different strengths and weaknesses, brass or stainless steel valves can't be named objectively better than one or the other. Instead, you might find that one suits your needs more conveniently by reading through the following pros and cons.

Brass Valves: Pros & Cons

As noted above, brass is often the material of choice for residential and commercial plumbing systems. It's also widely appreciated in the petrochemical and marine industries due to its relatively high corrosion resistance, malleability, and durability.

Yet, not everything about brass valves is great. Here's a balanced look at the possible pros and cons of working with brass valves.

Pros

Brass solenoid valves are usually an excellent choice for many plumbing systems. They're available in two main forms: leaded and no-lead options. Of course, you'll want to choose the no-lead option if you're working on a system for drinking water.

The main benefit of brass valves is that they are a cost effective option. Despite the lower price, they aren’t necessarily inferior to the alternatives in most situations.

Cons

Brass is more susceptible to corrosion than stainless steel. It is not recommended for use in environments that can cause the valve to break down, such as in salt water.

Perhaps the biggest con for brass valves is that even some no-lead options carry a low risk of lead contamination if they succumb to corrosion. Of course, this isn't a big deal if your brass valve isn't part of a system you've built for drinking water. On the other hand, this may make people repairing or renovating their plumbing for potable water think twice.

Note that brass's possible lead release is directly related to its zinc content. The more zinc the valve contains, the more lead it might release.

Stainless Steel Valves: Pros & Cons

Stainless steel is known for its durability and longevity across several industries. Some might be tempted to think that this metal is inherently better than brass in its entirety.

Yet, stainless steel valves do have some weaknesses that may cause you to reconsider which is best between brass vs stainless steel valves. Here are some key points to keep in mind.

Pros

Stainless steel is famously durable, so there should be no doubt in your mind that it wins over brass valves in this category. Stainless steel valves also take the cake in terms of pressure ratings and temperature tolerance, outperforming other popular metals like:

  • Brass
  • Cast iron
  • Copper
  • Ductile iron

It's also very well-known as a highly corrosion-resistant material, making it the strongly preferred alternative for marine water and commercial brewing systems (stainless steel ball valves are especially preferred).

Keep in mind that there are many different grades of stainless steel used for making valves, such as 304 and 316. These two are among the most popular types of stainless steel valves, also used for marine water and food production.

Pay attention to the number, because this will tell you a bit about the elemental makeup and its unique strengths.

For example, stainless steel 304 valves are highly corrosion resistant because of their high nickel concentrations. However, 316 would be the better choice to defend against corrosion because of the presence of nickel and molybdenum (a chemical compound that contributes to the steel's strength and hardness). Selecting the right grade of stainless steel for the job can greatly improve the system's performance. Additional advantages of stainless steel valves include:

  • Relatively low maintenance costs
  • Maintaining substances' purity that comes into contact with the stainless steel component
  • FDA-approved

Cons

There are really not many drawbacks to discuss for stainless steel valves. These are some of the best options for residential and commercial applications and offer great versatility as well. Perhaps the most apparent difference between stainless steel and brass valves is that the former are typically available at higher price points, making cost its primary disadvantage.

The difference in price is significant between 304 and 316 stainless steel valves. 304 is more expensive than brass, but much more cost effective than 316, and is durable enough for most configurations.

Additionally, stainless steel valves do tend to be slightly heavier than other materials. If weight is a critical factor in your project, you'll need to be very careful about your calculations.

Conclusion

Brass and stainless steel valves are both excellent choices of material for your plumbing job. Yet, they each perform well in varying conditions. With this guide and high-quality valves from Electric Solenoid Valve, you'll get your project done right with ease.