When choosing the right materials for outdoor equipment, it is important to pick the right one for your needs. This can relate to the environment you live in, the weather your region is exposed to, and the specific application you want to use it for.
The two main materials used in modern manufacturing are aluminum and stainless steel, and each has their advantages depending on the situation. But which one is the best: aluminum or stainless steel?
What Are The Differences?
To the uninitiated, aluminum and stainless steel might seem very similar in appearance and consistency, however, there are some notable differences between the two commonly used metals – and it is these differences that ultimately determine their suitability for various different tasks.
Stainless steel is a much stronger metal than aluminum, and as such is more suited to manufacturing products designed to support weight and withstand harsh elements such as adverse weather, cold, and heat.
The benefit of aluminum, however, is that it is lightweight, and thus is more suited to products that require mobility. However, this by no means limits this useful substance, and there are numerous ways that aluminum can be used both inside and outside of the home.
While both materials are resistant to rust and corrosion, each has specifically different approaches to handling it. Stainless steel is made from iron, chromium, nickel, manganese, and copper – and the chromium in particular is added as a corrosion inhibitor.
It is also non-porous, which means that cold and moisture cannot permeate it as easily as other materials. Aluminum on the other hand is also protected against corrosion, namely due to the passivation layer on the outer surface.
However, under extreme conditions – such as highly acidic environments – aluminum can rapidly corrode. The same can be said for aluminum that has been oxidized – after which it will turn white and often become ‘pitted’.
Aluminum has a much better thermal conductivity than stainless steel – allowing the heat to pass through it without causing damage to the structure. This is why aluminum is so useful for things like car radiators and air conditioners, where changes in temperature are frequent.
However, stainless steel is more suited to higher temperatures, and can withstand environments exceeding 400 degrees. This makes it much more suited for heavy industry, and for manufacturing of strong and sturdy consumer products.
Aluminum is cheaper than stainless steel, which is one reason why it is used so readily in manufacturing at all levels.
Aluminum is also more workable than stainless steel, and as such is often used to create more intricate metallic products or components. Stainless steel might be tougher, but it is this strength that makes it unsuitable for intricate work.
When compared to aluminum, stainless steel is much easier to weld, which makes it a good component to use within heavy industry.
Unlike other metals, stainless steel is actually a poor conductor of electricity. This is different from aluminum, which is actually a really good conductor – a fact that often leads to the metal being used in power cables and other electrical instruments.
Effect On Food
Stainless steel doesn’t generally react with food and liquids, which is why it is commonly used in the utensils we use to eat with. Aluminum on the other hand can have a distinct impact on the taste and color of some food stuff.
What Does This Tell Us?
From the information above, we can draw many conclusions regarding which metal is better, and under what circumstances this fact is true.
Strictly speaking, stainless steel is a much more suitable material for products requiring strength, rigidity, and environmental resistance.
This is one reason why it is used in heavy and light manufacturing, being included on a number of products ranging from automobiles, machinery, heavy duty equipment, and all the way down to consumer products like eating utensils.
With regards to the outdoors, and products we might have in our yards, stainless steel is usually used more frequently than aluminum, due to the fact that it is stronger, more capable of holding the weight of human beings, more sturdy and immovable by the wind, harder and heavier to steal, and resistant to corrosion.
Its lack of heat and electrical conductivity also means that it is safer for outdoor use, as it cannot conduct things like lightning.
However, when it comes to aluminum, the material has many more uses with regards to intricate manufacturing, food storage (such as soda cans), and many applications that require the conductivity of heat and electricity.
However, aluminum is also lightweight and durable, meaning that for items that require mobility and human handling are often made from this material. These items can include things like kitchen equipment (toasters, kettles etc), as well as other more intricately detailed products and components.
So, Which Is Better?
This obviously depends on your needs, but generally speaking, the strength, density, durability, lack of conductivity, and corrosion resistance means that stainless steel is more suited for exterior items. However, you will certainly pay more for them compared to aluminum.
And there we have it, everything you need to know about aluminum and stainless steel, and which metal is the best! It’s true that both metals certainly have their advantages and disadvantages, which makes them both suitable for a number of different applications.
However, as this article shows, there is a clear winner, which goes some way to explain why it remains such a popular material used within manufacturing.
So if you are looking to buy the right product for outdoor use, or indoor if you are interested in choosing the right metal for your project, then be sure to consider what your intentions and expectations are – as this will allow you to make the right decision!