Polyvinyl chloride or PVC pipes are everywhere. People use them for electrical, water mains, and drainage applications.
The ubiquity of PVC pipes is not surprising, really. They are widely available, they are hard and strong, and they are affordable. And because people have been using them since they became standard in the 1960s, people find them easy to use.
Even so, PVC is not the only plastic pipe available. And in some applications, it may not even be the best material. You might want to give HDPE pipes and HDPE fittings a try on your next home improvement or construction project.
HDPE Is More Durable and Flexible Than PVC
HDPE is high density polyethylene, so both HDPE and PVC are plastic materials. Both HDPE and PVC pipes are lightweight and easy to install. They are also both strong, corrosion-resistant, and chemically stable.
However, PVC is more affordable than HDPE, so for general drainage and other applications, when both HDPE and PVC would do, most opt for PVC pipes for economic reasons. Also, as mentioned above, PVC pipes are easy to use, and people have become accustomed to using them.
But did you know that PVC is more prone to failure than HDPE? PVC’s failure rating is 1 in 48,650 events, while HDPE’s failure rating is 1 in 10,000,000 events. Therefore, in applications where your pipes will be subject to fluctuating weather conditions (snow and rain, heat and cold, and wind), HDPE pipes are a better option than PVC pipes.
HDPE is also better than PVC overall when it comes to applications requiring pipe systems that will be exposed to the elements (say, covering fiber builds).
HDPE is more resistant to abrasives (e.g., salt, sand, and dust) and corrosives than PVC. HDPE can also last longer under the sun’s UV rays (20 years or more) than PVC, which can last for approximately three years. These things actually make HDPE systems very suitable in developments and apartments in Dubai and other locations with subtropical desert climes.
HDPE pipes are also more flexible and require fewer fittings. They have a bending radius of 20-25 times their outside diameter. You can also hat-fuse or weld HDPE pipes together, which means strong, seamless, and leak-free joints.
Indeed, while HDPE pipes may cost more as a one-time expense, they may actually offer better value in the long run.
HDPE Pipes Applications in Construction and Home Improvement
The following are some of the typical applications of HDPE pipes in construction and home improvement.
Note that there are many HDPE pipe variants. Different variants have varying uses. Pipes that are suited for above-ground use may not be suited for underground use and vice-versa. HDPE pipes are conveniently color-coded, so you can easily tell which type of pipe is for which application.
Electrical and Communication Conduit
HDPE pipes are suitable as housing for electrical and telecommunications cables. They are impact-resistant, so if they are buried underground, they will serve to protect your electrical and telecommunication lines against damage from shovels or other digging equipment.
HDPE pipes also work great as electrical and communication conduits, even if they are not buried underground. Their ability to withstand the sun’s UV rays and fluctuating weather conditions make them ideal for this purpose.
Gas and Compressed Gas Supply Lines
HDPE pipes may also be used in your house’s gas piping system or gas supply line. You can weld HDPE pipes together using HDPE fittings, and this creates stronger seamless joins. This ensures the pipe will be able to withstand the pressure from within and remain leak-free.
Moreover, the flexibility of HDPE pipes ensures that they are easier to install and may be installed in many different configurations. This ensures your gas piping system will conform to the available space.
Finally, HDPE pipes have excellent chemical stability, which ensures good resistance to potentially corrosive gas compounds.
Water Supply Lines
HDPE pipes are suitable for water supply applications. HDPE pipes are flexible and pliable, and these characteristics give them good fatigue resistance. As such, they can withstand and dampen the shock from the intermittent but recurring surges that are common in water lines.
Traditional water supply lines, moreover, are notorious for leaks. In fact, a study in the United States reported that municipalities lost an average of 16% of their water to leaks.
Such leaks in traditional water lines typically spring from the joints, and these types of leaks are something that the use of HDPE pipes can prevent. Since HDPE pipes may be heat-fused or welded together using readily available HDPE fittings, HDPE water supply lines, particularly the joints, are assuredly leak-free.
Finally, you can use HDPE with potable water. HDPE pipes have excellent chemical stability, so chemicals from the pipe will not leach into the drinking water. They are corrosion-resistant, so they are safe to use even with water treated with chlorine or chloramine.
HDPE pipes are also resistant to bacterial and chemical build-up. Thus, they will not tuberculate, and they will preserve the water’s flow rate.
Hot and Cold Water Delivery
You can also use HDPE pipes for transporting hot and cold water. They can withstand temperatures from -40°F up to 140°F, making them resistant to damage caused by repeated freeze and thaw cycles.
Fire Service Mains
HDPE pipes are also rated for use in underground fire service mains. They are ideal for this application because of their superior resistance to corrosion and abrasion. Their ability to maintain a high rate of flow also makes them specifically suited in firefighting applications.
Note, however, that HDPE is not suited for above-ground firefighting systems.
Wastewater Drainage Pipes
HDPE pipes are also being used in wastewater drainage systems. They are abrasion-resistant, so they will not get damaged by the solid, semisolid, and slurry residues that commonly pass through wastewater drainage pipes. They are also able to withstand and dampen shocks from wastewater surges.
HDPE Pipes for Home Improvement
HDPE pipes can replace PVC pipes in most home applications such as water mains, gas supply lines, wastewater drainage systems, and electrical and communication conduits.
HDPE is plastic, lightweight, corrosion-resistant, and abrasion-resistant like PVC. However, HDPE pipes are generally more flexible, ductile, and durable than PVC pipes. They also have great temperature resistance and can withstand extreme weather conditions.