PVC Pipe: Numerous Benefits for Numerous Applications

Jim MathisSustainable infrastructure is vital to the well-being of our society and environment. When done responsibly, underground construction helps communities conserve and move energy, process waste, store water and more. Pipe is a major component of underground systems, and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) pipe has become a preferred solution for infrastructure projects because of its long-lasting attributes. In fact, according to the Uni-Bell PVC Pipe Association (PVCPA), there are currently more than two million miles of PVC pipe hard at work within North America. This is good news for those responsible for maintaining sound, sustainable underground infrastructure.

PVC is among the world?s oldest synthetic materials, according to the PVCPA. It is well known for its corrosion resistance, but there are many other attributes that make this pipe popular for long-term infrastructure projects. From the production of the pipe to the end of its useful life, PVC pipe is a clear choice for underground water, sewer and electrical systems. Here?s why:

Corrosion Resistant Properties

PVC pipe is corrosion resistant and has proven to last as much as 100 years without losing all its fundamental properties or otherwise fully breaking down. In fact, a recent American Water Works Association (AWWA) and Water Research Foundation study found the life expectancy of PVC pipe can be 110 years. Its exceptional durability and corrosion resistance have led to improved water conservation and lower replacement, maintenance and repair costs in communities around the globe.

Locally Sourced

PVC pipe is the most widely accepted non-metallic pipe material used for long-term underground construction. It is considered to be one of the safest and most tested pipe materials used in North America, and the basic raw materials used for the production of PVC are derived from the abundant and locally sourced materials, chlorine and ethylene. Over half of this plastic polymer is made up of chlorine, a ubiquitous natural chemical element. Industries produce chlorine from the compound sodium chloride, otherwise known as salt. Ethylene accounts for the remainder of the polymer?s mix. Because PVC is less dependent on ethylene than other plastic polymers, it is considered a resource-saving plastic by comparison.

Chemically Resistant

To be chemically resistant is as important to the lifespan of a pipe as is its ability to resist corroding, which some plastic pipes are not. Over time the chlorine creates fine cracks in the pipe, which in turn causes pipe failure and subsequent replacement costs and headaches. The structure of PVC is strong enough to endure the chemicals commonly found in potable water, which helps to extend the useful life of the pipe. ?

Less Disruptive

The installation of underground PVC pipe is often done via minimally invasive directional boring. This trenchless technique allows PVC pipe to be installed beneath roads and other obstructions by simply digging pits in which the pipe will either be inserted or pulled through. The more traditional open-cut method, on the other hand, requires crews to dig a trench the length of the entire installation. This effort can be quite disruptive.

Flow Efficiency

PVC pipe is one of the most durable pipe materials for both under and above ground piping systems. It has excellent tensile strength, which affords the pipe a thinner wall compared to some alternative pipe materials, while still achieving equal pressure ratings. A thinner wall means the pipe has a larger inner diameter, which provides a greater flow capacity and lower head loss, resulting in overall improved flow performance. Its comparatively thin walls also mean that it uses less material linear foot by linear foot than do pipes made of other materials. The walls of some plastic pipes, for instance, are so thick that they are specified one size larger than the equivalent PVC pipe in order to achieve the same flow.

In addition, the interior wall of PVC is incredibly smooth and creates very little friction. As such, PVC pipe requires much less pumping energy to push water through than the energy needed to push water through other types of pipe.

The leak-free joints of restrained-joint PVC pipe also helps eliminate water loss, which can be up to 40 percent in some old-world technology and corrosion-prone piping networks. The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) estimates that 2.6 trillion gallons of potable water are lost every year through leaking pipes. That is 17 percent of all water pumped in the United States. ?

Fully Recyclable

PVC pipes are 100 percent recyclable, making their environmental footprint smaller than other pipe materials. Numerous scientifically conducted life-cycle assessments have demonstrated the environmental impact PVC pipe has on the earth and communities thereon. For more details on the environmental attributes of PVC pipe, be sure to read the PVCPA?s full environmental product declaration found online at www.uni-bell.org. ?

Jim Mathis is the municipal & plumbing product market manager for North American Pipe Corp.

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