Plumber Using Plastic Pipes? (21 Reasons Why Plastic is Better)

Plumbing is an essential part of any building, and choosing the right materials for the job is crucial. While metal pipes have long been a popular choice, more and more plumbers are turning to plastic pipes for their projects. But why do plumbers use plastic pipes?

In this article, we will explore the advantages of plastic pipes over their metal counterparts and delve into the various types of plastic pipes available. From installation to lifespan, we will uncover the reasons why plastic pipes are preferred by plumbers.

21 reasons why plastic pipes are preferred

1. Durability

Plastic pipes are highly durable and resistant to corrosion, decay, and chemical damage, making them suitable for long-term use.

2. Lightweight

Plastic pipes are lightweight compared to traditional metal pipes, making them easier to handle, transport, and install.

3. Flexibility

Plastic pipes have a high degree of flexibility, allowing for easier installation around obstacles and curves without the need for additional fittings.

4. Cost-effective

Plastic pipes are generally less expensive than metal pipes, making them a cost-effective option for plumbing and other applications.

5. Easy installation

Plastic pipes can be easily installed using various joining methods like solvent welding, compression fittings, or push-fit connections, which simplifies the installation process.

6. Resistance to scaling and fouling

Plastic pipes have a smooth internal surface that resists scaling and fouling, reducing the risk of clogs and maintaining better flow rates.

7. Chemical resistance

Plastic pipes are resistant to a wide range of chemicals, making them suitable for conveying various fluids and chemicals without degradation.

8. Insulation properties

Plastic pipes have excellent insulation properties, reducing heat loss or gain and maintaining the temperature of the conveyed fluids.

9. Low friction loss

The smooth interior surface of plastic pipes results in minimal friction loss, allowing for efficient fluid flow and reducing pumping requirements.

10. Noise reduction

Plastic pipes are quieter compared to metal pipes, as they dampen the sound of water flow, minimizing noise levels in plumbing systems.

11. Corrosion resistance

Plastic pipes are not susceptible to corrosion, which is particularly advantageous in environments with aggressive or corrosive substances.

12. Longevity

Plastic pipes have a long service life, often exceeding 50 years, depending on the type of plastic and the application.

13. Hygienic

Plastic pipes are non-toxic and do not impart taste, odor, or contaminants to the conveyed fluids, ensuring the hygiene and safety of drinking water.

14. UV resistance

Some types of plastic pipes are designed to be UV-resistant, allowing for outdoor applications without degradation from exposure to sunlight.

15. Versatility

Plastic pipes come in various types, such as PVC, CPVC, PEX, and HDPE, offering a wide range of options for different applications and requirements.

16. Easy maintenance

Plastic pipes require minimal maintenance due to their resistance to corrosion and scaling, reducing the need for repairs or replacements.

17. Eco-friendly

Some plastic pipes are made from recycled materials, contributing to sustainable practices and reducing environmental impacts.

18. Thermal expansion

Plastic pipes have a higher coefficient of thermal expansion than metal pipes, reducing the risk of damage from temperature fluctuations.

19. Lower thermal conductivity

Plastic pipes have lower thermal conductivity than metal pipes, minimizing heat loss or gain and conserving energy in hot or cold water systems.

20. Compatibility with other materials

Plastic pipes can be easily connected to other materials like metal or concrete using appropriate adapters or transition fittings.

21. Code compliance

Plastic pipes meet various international standards and codes, ensuring their suitability for use in different applications and building regulations.

What types of plastic pipes are available?

  • ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene): ABS pipes are known for their durability, impact resistance, and ability to handle both high and low temperatures. They are commonly used in drain, waste, and vent systems, as well as for various industrial applications, due to their strength and chemical resistance.
  • CPVC (Chlorinated Polyvinyl Chloride): CPVC pipes are a variation of PVC that have been chlorinated to enhance their heat resistance. They are widely used for hot and cold water distribution systems, particularly in residential and commercial buildings. CPVC pipes are known for their high temperature and pressure capabilities, chemical resistance, and ease of installation.
  • HDPE (High-Density Polyethylene): HDPE pipes are known for their excellent strength, durability, and flexibility. They are commonly used for water supply, irrigation, and underground utility systems due to their resistance to corrosion, impact, and chemicals. HDPE pipes are also lightweight, making them easy to handle and install.
  • PB-1 (Polybutylene): PB-1 pipes were commonly used in residential plumbing systems in the past, primarily due to their flexibility and ease of installation. However, their use has decreased over time due to concerns about long-term durability and potential issues with chlorine resistance. PB-1 pipes are still occasionally encountered in older buildings.
  • PE (Polyethylene): Polyethylene pipes are versatile and widely used for various applications, including water supply, irrigation, gas distribution, and industrial systems. They are known for their high durability, corrosion resistance, and flexibility. PE pipes can be further categorized into different types based on their density and intended application, such as MDPE (Medium-Density Polyethylene) and LDPE (Low-Density Polyethylene).
  • PE-RT (Polyethylene Raised Temperature): PE-RT pipes are a type of polyethylene specifically designed for use in radiant heating systems and underfloor heating. They offer excellent resistance to high temperatures and pressure, ensuring long-term performance and reliability in heating applications.
  • PP (Polypropylene): PP pipes are known for their high chemical resistance, making them suitable for a wide range of industrial applications, including chemical and wastewater systems. They are also used in plumbing systems where resistance to hot water and aggressive chemicals is required. PP pipes offer good durability, impact resistance, and thermal insulation properties.
  • PVDF (Polyvinylidene Difluoride): PVDF pipes are highly resistant to chemicals, UV radiation, and high temperatures, making them suitable for demanding industrial applications. They are commonly used in chemical processing, water treatment, and corrosive fluid handling systems. PVDF pipes provide excellent mechanical strength and dimensional stability, even under harsh conditions.
  • uPVC (Unplasticized Polyvinyl Chloride): uPVC pipes are rigid and widely used in plumbing systems for water supply, drainage, and sewerage. They offer excellent chemical resistance, high flow capacity, and long-term durability. uPVC pipes are easy to install and maintain, making them a popular choice in residential, commercial, and industrial applications.
  • uPVC variants: Within the uPVC category, there are various variants available to suit specific applications. These may include pressure-rated uPVC pipes for water supply systems, soil and waste uPVC pipes for sanitary drainage, conduit uPVC pipes for electrical installations, and more. Each variant is designed to meet specific requirements, such as pressure capacity, fire resistance, or electrical insulation.

Choosing the right type of plastic pipe for your project

Clearly define your project requirements, considering factors like application, temperature, pressure, and regulations.

Research different plastic pipe types, understanding their properties and compatibility with your needs. Assess their longevity and durability.

Assess factors like durability, flexibility, resistance to corrosion, and the ability to handle the desired flow rates.

Consult with professionals or refer to industry standards and guidelines to determine which type of plastic pipe, such as ABS, CPVC, HDPE, PB-1, PE, PE-RT, PP, PVDF, uPVC, or uPVC variants, best aligns with your project’s needs.

Evaluate installation methods and costs. Consider future maintenance and accessibility.

How are plastic pipes installed?

Plastic pipes can be installed using several methods, depending on the specific type of pipe and the requirements of the project. Here are some common installation methods:

  • Solvent welding: This method is primarily used for joining PVC, CPVC, and ABS pipes. It involves applying a solvent cement to the pipe and fittings, which chemically fuses them together. The process requires cleaning and priming the surfaces, applying the solvent cement, and firmly joining the pipes and fittings. Solvent welding creates a strong, leak-resistant connection.
  • Compression fittings: Compression fittings are commonly used for plastic pipes like PEX, PE, and PB. They consist of a compression nut, a compression ring, and a compression sleeve. The fitting is slid onto the pipe, followed by the compression ring and nut. As the nut is tightened, it compresses the ring against the pipe, creating a secure seal.
  • Push-fit connections: Push-fit connections are popular for PEX, PB, and some types of plastic pipes. These fittings feature a simple push-to-connect mechanism that eliminates the need for tools or additional materials. The pipe is inserted into the fitting, and the connection is made through a combination of seals and gripping mechanisms within the fitting.
  • Mechanical couplings: Mechanical couplings, such as clamps or connectors, are often used for joining HDPE and other plastic pipes in applications like water supply or irrigation systems. These couplings typically consist of two halves that are placed around the pipe ends and then tightened using bolts or screws, creating a secure connection.
  • Heat fusion: Heat fusion is a method primarily used for joining HDPE pipes. It involves heating the pipe ends to a specific temperature and then pressing them together to form a permanent bond. Heat fusion methods include butt fusion, socket fusion, and electrofusion, each of which requires specialized equipment and techniques.
  • Threaded connections: Some plastic pipes, such as PVC or ABS, can be threaded to allow for connections with threaded fittings. This method involves cutting threads onto the pipe end and using threaded fittings, such as elbows or tees, to create the desired connection. Threaded connections require proper sealing with thread tape or sealant.

How do plastic pipes compare to metal pipes?

Plastic pipes are highly resistant to corrosion, making them ideal for applications involving water, chemicals, or underground installations.

Unlike metal pipes, plastic pipes do not rust or deteriorate when exposed to moisture or corrosive substances.

Plastic pipes are lightweight, making them easier to handle, transport, and install. They require fewer labor resources and can be easily cut, joined, and manipulated to fit the desired configuration.

Plastic pipes also offer good insulation properties, reducing heat loss or gain and contributing to energy efficiency.

On the other hand, metal pipes have their own strengths.

Metal pipes, such as copper or steel, are known for their high mechanical strength and durability, making them suitable for applications that require high pressure or can withstand external loads.

They are often used in industrial settings or heavy-duty applications where resilience and longevity are critical.

Metal pipes also have superior fire resistance compared to plastic pipes, making them appropriate for applications that require fire safety compliance.

Metal pipes are less susceptible to damage from UV exposure or certain chemicals, providing stability in harsh environments.

How long do plastic pipes last in plumbing systems?

When properly installed and maintained, plastic pipes can last for several decades. For instance, PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride) pipes commonly used in plumbing systems have an expected lifespan of 50 to 70 years.

CPVC (Chlorinated Polyvinyl Chloride) pipes, specifically designed for hot water applications, also have a similar lifespan.

Other types of plastic pipes, such as HDPE (High-Density Polyethylene) and PEX (Cross-Linked Polyethylene), are known for their durability and longevity.

HDPE pipes are often used for water supply and irrigation systems, and they can last over 50 years or more. PEX pipes, which are popular for residential plumbing, have an expected lifespan of 40 to 50 years.

Comparatively, the lifespan of metal pipes in plumbing systems can vary depending on the material used.

Copper pipes are often valued for their long-term durability and can last for 50 years or more.

Galvanized steel pipes, which have been widely used in the past, have an average lifespan of 20 to 50 years but can be prone to corrosion over time.

Water quality, corrosive conditions, and the presence of contaminants can all affect the lifespan of metal pipes.

Do plastic pipes need to be replaced over time?

While plastic pipes are known for their durability and long service life, it is generally recommended to periodically assess and potentially replace them over time.

The need for replacement can be influenced by factors such as the type of plastic used, the specific application, environmental conditions, and changes in plumbing standards or regulations.

Over an extended period, plastic pipes may experience degradation due to factors such as exposure to UV radiation, chemical interactions, temperature fluctuations, or wear and tear.

Advancements in plumbing technology or changes in building codes may introduce newer and more efficient pipe materials or systems, prompting the replacement of older plastic pipes.

Regular inspections, monitoring for signs of degradation or damage, and consulting with plumbing professionals can help determine if and when replacement is necessary to ensure the continued reliability and safety of the plumbing system.

What are the best types of plastic pipes for home plumbing?

Some of the most commonly used plastic pipes for residential properties are:

  • PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride): PVC pipes are widely used in residential plumbing systems for water supply, drainage, and venting. They offer durability, chemical resistance, and a long lifespan. PVC pipes are affordable, easy to install, and suitable for both cold and hot water applications.
  • CPVC (Chlorinated Polyvinyl Chloride): CPVC pipes are an excellent choice for hot water plumbing systems. They are specifically designed to handle higher temperatures compared to PVC pipes. CPVC pipes are known for their corrosion resistance, durability, and ease of installation.
  • PEX (Cross-Linked Polyethylene): PEX pipes have gained popularity in residential plumbing due to their flexibility, ease of installation, and resistance to freezing. They are commonly used for water supply lines and can be installed using compression or push-fit fittings. PEX pipes are known for their resistance to corrosion, scaling, and chemical degradation.

What are the disadvantages of using plastic pipes for plumbing?

  • Temperature limitations: Some types of plastic pipes, such as PVC or CPVC, have temperature limitations. They may not be suitable for extremely high-temperature applications, as they can soften or deform when exposed to excessive heat. It’s important to ensure that the chosen plastic pipe is compatible with the intended temperature range of the plumbing system.
  • UV sensitivity: Certain plastic pipes, such as PVC or PEX, can be sensitive to prolonged exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from sunlight. When used outdoors or in exposed areas, they may degrade or become brittle over time. UV-resistant variants or proper insulation measures should be considered to mitigate this potential issue.
  • Limited fire resistance: Plastic pipes, unlike some metal pipes, have limited fire resistance. In the event of a fire, plastic pipes can melt or release toxic fumes, potentially exacerbating the fire hazards. In applications where fire safety is a primary concern, additional fire-resistant measures, such as fire-rated insulation or sprinkler systems, may be necessary.
  • Chemical compatibility: While plastic pipes generally offer good chemical resistance, they may not be suitable for conveying certain aggressive or highly reactive chemicals. It’s crucial to consider the chemical compatibility of the specific plastic material with the fluids being conveyed to avoid degradation or leaching of contaminants into the water supply.
  • Potential for expansion and contraction: Plastic pipes, particularly those with high thermal expansion coefficients like PEX or HDPE, may expand or contract with temperature changes. This can lead to stress on fittings or connections if not properly accounted for during installation, potentially causing leaks or failures.
  • Limited mechanical strength: Compared to some metal pipes, plastic pipes can have lower mechanical strength and may be more susceptible to damage from impacts or heavy loads. Care should be taken to avoid excessive pressure or physical stresses on plastic pipes during installation and use.

Are there different plastic pipes for different circumstances?

There are different types of plastic pipes designed for specific circumstances and applications.

Various plastic pipe materials and variants are available to accommodate different requirements, such as temperature, pressure, chemical compatibility, and installation conditions.

For example, PVC and CPVC pipes are commonly used for water supply and drainage systems, while PEX pipes are often used for residential plumbing and radiant heating systems.

HDPE pipes are suitable for water supply and irrigation, while PVDF pipes are preferred for chemical processing applications.

The choice of plastic pipe depends on factors such as the intended use, environmental conditions, local regulations, and specific project requirements.

What kind of tools do plumbers use on plastic piping?

  • Pipe cutters: Pipe cutters are used to make clean, precise cuts in plastic pipes. They come in different sizes and types, such as ratchet-style cutters or tubing cutters, depending on the pipe diameter and material.
  • Deburring tools: After cutting plastic pipes, deburring tools are used to remove any rough edges or burrs from the cut ends. This ensures a smooth surface for proper pipe fitting and reduces the risk of leaks or damage to fittings.
  • Solvent applicators: Solvent applicators, such as brushes or daubers, are used to apply solvent cement to the surfaces of PVC, CPVC, or ABS pipes and fittings. The solvent cement is used for solvent welding, chemically fusing the plastic components together.
  • Compression fitting tools: Compression fittings, commonly used with plastic pipes like PEX or PB, require specific tools for installation. These tools include compression sleeve pullers or insertion tools to ensure proper insertion and compression of the fittings onto the pipe.
  • Crimping tools: Crimping tools are used for securing crimp-style fittings onto PEX pipes. They apply pressure to create a tight seal between the fitting and the pipe, ensuring a reliable connection.
  • Expansion tools: Expansion tools, such as expansion heads and expansion rings, are used for expanding PEX pipes. This expansion process allows for the insertion of fittings and ensures a secure connection.
  • Heat guns: Heat guns are used when working with heat-fusible plastic pipes, like HDPE or PPR. The heat gun is used to heat the pipe ends to the appropriate temperature for fusion, enabling the pipes to be joined together.
  • Pliers and adjustable wrenches: Pliers and adjustable wrenches are versatile tools used for various plumbing tasks, including tightening fittings, holding pipes in place, or adjusting connections.
  • Measuring and marking tools: Tape measures, pipe marking tools, and pencils are used to measure and mark the correct length and position for cutting and fitting plastic pipes accurately.
  • Pressure testing equipment: Plumbers use pressure testing equipment, such as pressure gauges or air pumps, to test the integrity of plastic pipe installations by subjecting them to pressure to identify any leaks or weaknesses.

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Author: Logan

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