Official distribution of aluminium pipes - sizes from 1/4" to 4 1/4".
Why aluminium over copper?
The conversion of copper tubing to aluminium tubing in the automotive industry was completed decades ago. Now you find only all-aluminium heat exchanger units in the industry.
HVAC&R systems are not the same. But aluminium is becoming the tube material of choice in HVAC applications, too. Why?
You obtain a lighter heat exchanger when you use aluminium for both tubes and fins, as opposed to copper tube and aluminium fin solutions. An all-aluminium system improves the galvanic balance of the materials, giving better corrosion resistance and less heat transfer performance degradation during its service.
You also get more design flexibility with aluminium, and recycling is easier.
Many people are familiar with how easily copper conducts heat. Although it is true that the thermal conductivity of aluminium is half that of copper, in a heat exchanger, the difference in this property is entirely negligible for heat transfer performance. The reason is the fact that heat exchanger performance is dominated by the airside interface conductivity, so the actual, measure performance difference between copper and aluminium heat exchangers is limited.
One more important point that favors aluminium tubing is its immunity to formicary corrosion.
Formicary corrosion is caused by a chemical reaction requiring oxygen, water and an organic acid, induced by common lubricating oils. It is a type of premature failure with copper in air conditioning units. It has been a long-standing problem with copper tubing for HVAC&R application.
Formicary corrosion only occurs in copper-based alloys. Aluminium is immune to it. Consequently, replacing copper with aluminium creates a dual benefit of lower initial raw material costs and a reduction of warranty costs, since it is estimated that 10 percent of indoor heat exchangers fail prematurely due to formicary corrosion.