Become a Lord of the O-ring with our five facts
When it comes to championing great plumbing inventions, you’d be hard pushed (get it?) to find people who are as vocal as the JG Speedfit team. And next to the trusty push fit, we’d have to select the ever-reliable O-ring as one of the simplest, yet most common components used in the professional plumbing industry. The O-ring – or toric joint as it is also known – is present in most fluid power systems today, and one of the most integral components for any piping system. It’s highly likely you’ve used large numbers of O-rings throughout your career to date, but how much do you know about them? In this blog post, we reveal some of the things you probably don’t know about the O-ring.
1. O-rings are not just for plumbing
You are probably aware that O-rings play an important role in push fit fittings in the plumbing industry. It’s the part of the pipe connection that is used to make a seal, preventing any risk of leakage from the water inside. It has low insertion forces and allows the pipework and fitting to rotate. This simple seal guarantees the smooth performance of the plumbing system and resists both the internal and external pressures faced.
Were you aware though, that O-rings are also used in a number of other industries? This simple, yet functional invention, is often used for sealing elements or for energising elements for hydraulic slippers seals and wipers. The high-performance properties of the O-ring have made it common in almost every field of industry including aerospace, automotive, and general engineering.
2. O-ring failure is quite rare post installation
This may surprise many, but O-ring failure post installation, is quite rare nowadays. Instead, most recorded O-ring failures are a consequence of poor installation, or a lack of knowledge about the product. Sharp edged pipes can cut or displace the O-ring during installation, and leaks can also be caused by inserting a poorly scored pipe into the fitting. Scoring damage can act as a miniature trench underneath the O-ring, creating recesses where water ingress occurs.
The best way to reduce the likelihood of a pre-installation O-ring failure is by specifying a high-quality O-ring product at the start of a job. Ensuring that any O-rings you carry in your toolbox are tested to industry standards will boost your confidence that the end user has a system which will not burst and cause inconvenience.
To further mitigate the risk from scored pipes, JG Speedfit developed a Superseal Insert that has its own O-Ring that gives an additional seal within the internal bore/port, and is always in perfect condition.
3. You can calculate the performance of an O-ring yourself
One way to understand the strength and durability of an O-ring is by looking at the internal pressures they have been designed to work under. For example, EPDM rubber O-rings used by JG Speedfit are rated at 12 bar when used with cold water. As a comparison, this is about four or five times the air pressure of a typical car tyre, which is around two bar. Whilst you would never exceed your recommended tyre pressure by a factor of five, JG Speedfit’s internal laboratory tests for our O-rings have found that they can be subjected to fluid pressure tests at 60 bar without failure.
4. There are several organisations that can also advise on O-ring quality
WRAS, together with ASTM, ISO and DIN, are widely-respected regulators of O-rings. These products can achieve WRAS Material Approval if the material used to manufacture them does not contaminate the water flowing through them, therefore satisfying the requirement of regulations and bylaws. Additionally, you can be sure of product reliability if you specify an O-ring from a manufacturer that is based in the UK, such as JG Speedfit.
5. An O-ring was used as part of Thomas Edison’s light bulb patent
Ok, so technically it wasn’t an O-ring as we know them today, but a round rubber ring was used as part of Thomas Edison’s light bulb patent back in 1882, 14 years before the O-ring was patented. It was while developing automotive brakes when inventor Niels Christensen perfected the O-ring design though, with the product being sold en masse to the military during World War II for use in aircraft.
A component delivering benefits to a multitude of industries, the humble O-ring has a lot in common with the push-fit a simple component that is as important to plumbing today, as it is to other industries.