Since the discovery of PVC (polyvinyl chloride) in the 1800’s, it has become a staple material in piping and plumbing systems worldwide. Its low cost and strength properties make it ideal for many applications, but what about when PVC falls short? For applications that require extreme high or low temperatures or the use of harsh chemicals, other pipe materials may be needed. Here’s a look at some of the most common thermoplastic alternatives to PVC piping.
Polypropylene, known as polypro for short, is another thermoplastic polymer material. It can be found in all kinds of industrial and consumer products across the world. Polypro is known for its resistance to chemicals, acids, and bases. This high durability makes it ideal for certain types of chemical processing. Polypro comes in different sized piping and fittings similar to PVC. Like most materials, it is more expensive than standard PVC, but it is also much more durable. Polypro can withstand temperatures ranging from 14°F to 230°F. Joined by heat infusion, polypro joints are simple to install and very strong.
PVDF or polyvinylidene floride is also commonly referred to by the brand name Kynar®. This fluorocarbon has impressive mechanical strength and is resistant to abrasion and most chemicals including chlorine. PVDF is available in pipe and fittings from ½” to 6” IPS. It can withstand temperatures from -40°F to 250°F. PVDF is non-toxic so it can be used for in applications that require high purity. Its uses range from water systems to pharmaceutical manufacturing.
Halar is the brand name for the thermoplastic material Ethylene Chlorotrifluroethylene. Known as ECTFE for short, the material is currently only sold under its brand name. For this reason, ECTFE has become known in the industry as simply Halar. ECTFE is a plastic type material with a semi-crystalline structure. The fluorocarbon-based polymer is known for its extreme strength and resistance to chemical deterioration and corrosion. It is also able to withstand temperatures ranging from -105°F to 300°F! This and other properties make it ideal for high friction applications as well as uses that require both chemical and thermal durability. Halar is sold in various forms. Most commonly it is found in sheets, pipes, and rods.
Fiberglass is an extremely tough material available in pipe and fittings for applications like waste, water, and chemical processing. Fiberglass pipe is actually fiber reinforced plastic. The fiber strands add extra strength and make it resistant to abrasion and impact. Fiberglass is a good choice when very large pipe size is required. It can be made in diameter up to about 200”! It also has impressive insulating properties and is much lighter than its steel alternative.
As you can see, the world of thermoplastics has a lot to offer. These durable manufactured materials are prized for their light weight, chemical and corrosion resistance, and easy installation. Plus, as technologies improve, so do thermoplastics. New technology brings new plastic types, cheaper production, and more durable materials. So if you’re looking to fit a new piping system and haven’t checked out plastics, it may be time to take a look. There’s a lot more to them than PVC!
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The author of this article, Amanda Hill, is a contributor to the resource center at Commercial Industrial Supply, where she likes to post DIY projects and other information about pipe. Follow Amanda @amandablogspvc.