Any homeowner who has had to deal with a clogged drain, leaky faucet, or burst pipe can attest to the importance of a well-functioning plumbing system.
From providing clean running water to transferring wastewater, your home plumbing works hard to keep your family healthy and safe.
Indoor residential plumbing has come a long way since lead and clay piping. Today, plastic is a popular choice among many plumbing systems throughout the world.
In this article, a leading plastic pipe supplier in the UAE discusses which plastic pipes you should consider.
The advantages of using plastic pipes
Advancements in plastic technology have made plastic piping incredibly versatile, durable, and easy to install. Whether you require pipes for new building development or a re-piping project, plastic is a cost-effective alternative to metal piping.
Other advantages of plastic pipes and fittings include the following:
- Resistant to fracture
- Resistant to rust and corrosion
- Less hydraulic friction
- Practically leakproof
- Easy to assemble
- Made from non-toxic and safe material
- High insulation properties
- Versatile design
- Lower labor and maintenance costs
Of course, while plastic material is superior to metal in many ways, it does have its limitations.
The disadvantages of using plastic pipes
While plastic pipes are a cost-effective choice for many residential homes, they are not without their drawbacks.
A primary concern of using plastic material is its low impact resistance when compared to metal. Due to its weight, plastic is prone to cracking, mainly polyvinyl chloride (PVC) pipes. Plastic is most easily cracked during installation, as it can be dropped during install.
Environmental factors like earthquakes can also cause the plastic to crack and fail.
Plastic such as PVC pipes also have a lower softening temperature than metal. This makes plastic susceptible to thermal deformation and leaking at higher temperatures. This makes certain plastic material ineffective for residential applications, where fluid temperature is exceptionally high.
Most plastics are also more susceptible to acidic and corrosive substances when compared to their metal counterparts. Being exposed to direct or indirect UV light may also reduce the quality of the plastic pipe.
The five different types of plastic piping material
There are several types of plastic pipes used in residential applications. Each type of plastic pipe has unique properties that allow it to excel in specific situations.
Below is a list of the most common plastic pipes being used in homes today:
If you’ve ever peeked under your kitchen sink, you’ve probably seen a black pipe or two. These black pipes, which can also be found as part of your tub or toilet drain, are called acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) pipes.
ABS pipes are one of the earliest plastic pipes to be used in residential plumbing systems.
This thermoplastic resin pipe is characterized as being easier and cheaper to install than metal, lightweight, durable, and is suitable for operational temperatures between -40°F (-40°C to 176°F (80°C).
ABS pipes also feature a smooth interior finish, which provides superior flow.
Despite all these strengths, the popularity of ABS pipes has dwindled through the years due to its chemical composition. ABS pipes contain bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical considered toxic to humans.
With ABS pipes falling out of favor in newly constructed homes, PVC pipes have emerged as a popular substitute in residential plumbing.
A lightly-colored alternative to ABS pipes, PVC pipes are used similarly. PVC pipes are used mainly for water transfers in residential projects, though they can also be used as insulation for electrical wires and cables.
PVC pipes also maintain high impact strength and flexibility, similar to ABS pipes. This flexibility makes PVC useful in situations where real estate is limited or unique configurations are required. PVC is superior to ABS in that it is not as susceptible to UV light.
Another notable difference between PVC and ABS pipes is that PVC is BPA-free.
A close relative to PVC, CPVC stands for chlorinated polyvinyl chloride. Being treated with chlorine strengthens the durability of the pipes, allowing these to operate at higher temperatures and pressures. In situations where PVC pipes are unsuitable (like hot water lines), CPVC pipes excel.
While CPVC pipes can withstand higher operating temperatures, CPVC is much more sensitive to freezing temperatures. CPVC pipes are prone to cracking if frozen. This makes CPVC pipes ineffective in home water mains as these types of pipes are typically found outdoors.
Like the other plastic pipe options here, CPVC is a budget option for homeowners looking to update their existing plumbing system or replace copper piping.
High-density polybutylene or HDPE is a thermoplastic pipe that offers superior versatility, durability, and malleability. Such quality makes HDPE pipes the ideal choice for many residential plumbing requirements, from fluid and gas transfers to sewage.
HDPE drainage pipes can also be found in commercial and industrial applications, replacing aging concrete and metal mains pipelines.
HDPE composition and unique performance properties make these pipes resistant to corrosion, chemicals, temperature, tuberculation, deposits, and impacts. Like other plastic piping solutions, this robust and durable plastic is incredibly flexible, resulting in speedy installations.
Made from polypropylene random copolymer plastic, PPR pipes and fittings are designed for residential and commercial potable water applications. A recent trend in commercial and residential projects, PPR pipes offer excellent thermal conductivity, durability, and impact resistance.
The inner surface of PPR pipes boasts little-to-no resistance to the flow of water. This low friction coefficient results in minimal pressure loss during fluid transport and distribution. And unlike metal pipes, PPR pipes are not subject to rust, flaking, or scaling, making them a non-toxic solution for water supply systems.
As PPR pipes and fittings are connected via heat fusion welding, specialized tools and skilled labor is required.
One of the hardest engineered thermoplastics available on the market, polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF) pipes are well suited for several plumbing applications. But due to their cost, PVDF pipes are typically reserved for pressure-piping systems.
PVDF is characterized as having outstanding tensile strength and stiffness, as well as excellent chemical, weathering, abrasion, and radiation resistance. PVDF also has exceptional thermal properties, able to operate in temperatures ranging from -4°F (-20°C) to 284°F (140°C).
Cross-linked polyethylene or PEX is another commonly used plastic material in residential plumbing systems. Despite being a relatively new innovation, PEX is already being used in many homes for hot and cold water lines, among other plumbing applications.
PEX is made from high-density polyethylene. This makes PEX able to withstand incredibly high temperatures and pressures. But what sets PEX apart from other plastic material is its superior flexibility.
PEX is incredibly malleable, able to curve and snake around spaces in one continuous run. This ability to be bent without fittings makes the installation process quick and easy.
With a variety of plastic plumbing pipes available for residential use, homeowners and builders alike have an array of choices when it comes to pipe replacements or plumbing upgrades. Choose the one that best suits your needs and budget.