Can PVC Pipe Be Used for Compressed Air?

If you’re utilizing PVC or CPVC to your compressed air system, you could be placing folks and property in danger. PVC shouldn’t be a secure or accredited materials for compressed air piping. Actually, using PVC piping for compressed air can result in harmful or lethal explosions. Right here, we’ll clarify the issues with PVC, why it ought to by no means be used to conduct compressed air, and what it’s best to do in case your present system accommodates PVC.  

Why PVC Pipe Ought to Not Be Used for Compressed Air

Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and its cousin, chlorinated polyvinyl chloride (CPVC), are artificial plastic polymers which are extensively utilized in constructing, development, and a wide range of client and industrial items. PVC and CPVC are versatile, straightforward to work with, and extremely cost-effective to fabricate. These traits have made the supplies extremely popular for piping and plumbing fixtures. Nonetheless, PVC piping that’s acceptable for plumbing shouldn’t be rated to be used in compressed air functions. 

The Distinction Between Shifting Liquids and Gases

Many individuals make the error of assuming {that a} PVC pipe designed for plumbing may also be used for air strains in a compressed air system. Nonetheless, there’s a massive distinction between transferring liquid and transferring gases. Not like liquid, gases are compressible. 

While you compress a fuel, you might be storing vitality—in any case, that’s the complete cause that we are able to use compressed air to energy instruments and manufacturing strains. Whereas a liquid will merely cease flowing if there’s a blockage (assume what occurs along with your hose when it’s kinked), a fuel will proceed to additional compress, resulting in over-pressurization. When that occurs inside a PVC pipe, you could have primarily created a plastic pipe bomb. 

The Drawback with PVC Strain Scores

Strain rankings on PVC pipe may also result in confusion. Many PVC pipes are rated for 300-600 PSI. Because the common industrial compressed air system is pressurized to 100-125 PSI, this will likely sound like it’s greater than sufficient. Nonetheless, there are a number of issues with this assumption. 

  • The score is for the pipe itself, not for seals and joins. PVC is infamous for failing on the joints when used for compressed air. Many adhesives used for PVC piping should not suitable with compressor lubricants, making a failure only a matter of time. 
  • Strain rankings are extremely temperature particular. When the temperature drops beneath freezing, PVC turns into extremely brittle and susceptible to shattering. Strain rankings additionally drop at increased temperatures: the strain score at 110°F is usually half the score for room temperature functions. It is a explicit downside for compressed air, as a result of compression of a fuel naturally generates warmth (generally known as “warmth of compression”). 
  • Strain rankings are for brand new materials solely. PVC turns into extra brittle with age. After ten years in service, PVC pipe is rather more susceptible to failure. 

However the greatest downside with PVC is the method it fails. PVC pipe can explode when over-pressurized or hit with a pointy object, sending plastic shrapnel flying in all instructions.  

The Risks of PVC Pipe in Compressed Air 

PVC is susceptible to catastrophic failure and explosion as a result of properties of the fabric. PVC pipe shouldn’t be a ductile materials like metallic—it doesn’t bend beneath strain. It merely shatters. When PVC pipe shatters at excessive pressures, plastic shrapnel is expelled at excessive velocities. PVC pipe explosions could trigger substantial injury to property, extreme accidents and loss of life. 

This video from Charlotte Pipe and Foundry, a producer of PVC pipe, explains the hazards of strain testing PVC pipe with air, which additionally applies to using PVC to conduct compressed air. (Skip forward to 1:20 should you simply need the dramatic bit.) 

There have been many documented situations of PVC pipe failures in industrial compressed air programs through the years. At greatest, these accidents result in injury to manufacturing strains, surprising manufacturing shutdowns and delays. At worst, they result in severe accidents or loss of life for employees who’re standing close by. 

Does OSHA Permit the Use of PVC Pipe for Compressed Air? 

Due to the chance of damage and loss of life linked to using PVC and CPVC piping in compressed air programs, OSHA has banned using PVC and CPVC piping in compressed air programs. An OSHA Hazard Bulletin courting to 1988 limits using PVC pipe for compressed air conveyance in above-ground functions. (Buried PVC pipes are thought-about safer as a result of the encircling soil will mitigate the hazards of compressed air pipe explosions.) 

Failure to observe OSHA tips can result in security citations, fines and lawsuits. In a single case, an organization was fined $110,000 for worker injuries as a consequence of improper use of PVC for compressed air piping. It could have been a lot less expensive to easily use the proper compressed air piping materials within the first place! 

Deciding on the Proper Materials for Your Compressed Air Piping System 

What supplies can be used for compressed air piping? Happily, you could have choices. 

Can Any Plastic Pipe Be Used for Compressed Air?

Some plastics are acceptable to be used in compressed air programs. Ductile plastics similar to acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS), polyethylene (PE) and high-density polyethylene (HDPE) will be safely used for compressed air. These plastics are extra sturdy and fewer susceptible to explosive failure than PVC or CPVC. 

Different Piping Materials Choices for Compressed Air

Corporations have many choices relating to metallic compressed air piping, together with black iron, galvanized metal, chrome steel copper and aluminum. Learn extra: What is the Best Piping Material for Compressed Air Systems?

Fluid-Aire Dynamics prefers the Unipipe Modular Aluminum Piping System. This modular aluminum system is light-weight, corrosion-free and really straightforward to put in and modify. The versatile and versatile system presents the widest product vary for the transport of compressed air, inert gases and vacuum in addition to high-pressure air and fluids. It’s out there in a broad vary of sizes, pressures and fittings.

Changing PVC Piping in Your Compressed Air System

If you’re at present utilizing PVC piping in your compressed air system, it must be evaluated and changed as quickly as attainable. The longer PVC pipe is used, the higher the possibilities of a harmful rupture or explosion. 

Fluid-Aire Dynamics may also help you choose, set up and preserve your compressed air piping. We will additionally enable you to design your piping format for optimum efficiency and decide the correct dimension compressed air piping to your wants.

Need assistance putting in or updating your compressed air system piping? Contact us to arrange a session with a compressed air system engineer.


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