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Benefits of HDPE Over PVC and Other Alternatives

By Logan Bridges

The modern world could not function without pipe. Pipes carry drinking water, house electrical and telecommunications wires and transport sewage.

Most people don’t think about these kinds of pipes until they break, causing a flood, sewage backup or power outage. Technology has improved over the past century, and many older pipe materials, like lead, clay and cast-iron, have been replaced with highly durable modern materials.

Plastics are now the preferred material for sewer, water and telecommunications applications. The high-density plastic HDPE is ideal for these applications, as it is lightweight, corrosion-proof and resistant to bacteriological and chemical buildup. HDPE pipes have excellent hydraulic properties, because the material is smooth and is not prone to scaling or pitting.

HDPE operates at a wide range of temperatures and does not become brittle in cold temperatures. It is both strong and flexible, with a failure rate of only 1 in 10,000,000 incidents. It is ideal for underground installation in locations where soil shifting (compaction/expansion) or earthquakes are known to create openings in joints. HDPE’s high ductility and ability to resist deflections from ground movement can withstand the shock, pressure and movement that can potentially destroy rigid pipe.

HDPE Compared to Other Materials

Compared to the other materials on the market, HDPE pipe is preferred for industrial applications like electrical, telecommunications, water, sewage, and oil and gas. Alternative materials for industrial piping include PVC, iron, copper and concrete.

PVC pipe is commonly used in sewage, electrical, water and telecommunications systems. While both materials are plastics, PVC is stronger and stiffer than HDPE. PVC has a higher failure rate than HDPE and does not perform as well in extreme weather or temperature conditions. Leakage can also be a problem in mechanically joined PVC pipes.

Primarily used for gas, water and sewage applications, iron pipe is strong, withstands high internal and surge pressures and has a long service life. Disadvantages include limited flexibility, high transportation cost (joint lengths and weight) and susceptibility to corrosion.

Pipes made of copper have a higher resistance to corrosion and are more flexible than iron pipe. However, copper pipe is more expensive and less flexible than plastic pipe like HDPE. Copper piping is prone to failure when exposed to extremely high and low temperatures.

 Used primarily in sewage and drainage applications, concrete pipe is rigid and does not corrode. However, concrete pipe is heavy and is not suitable for other applications where HDPE is used. Its weight and rigidity make it less than ideal when shipping, handling and installing.

HDPE Installation

In many situations, installing HDPE pipe is cheaper and easier than installation of other materials. HDPE weighs much less than concrete, iron and steel pipe, so transportation costs are lower and no heavy lifting machinery is required. HDPE is typically delivered in long-length coils, spools or sticks of straight pipe. Supplying HDPE on spools or coils can also reduce transportation costs as fewer deliveries are necessary.

HDPE installation requires fewer joints and fittings than other piping solutions, saving time and money during the installation process. Because HDPE is so flexible, it can be bent without requiring additional joints or fittings. This flexibility allows HDPE to be installed without trenches and over uneven terrain. Joints are typically heat-fused, and are as strong as the original pipe and do not leak. HDPE is also durable, with an expected service life of 50 to 100 years, and is fully recyclable.

HDPE can be installed using standard methods like pipe bursting, directional drilling, trenching and microtrenching.

Pipe bursting is a trenchless method used to replace buried sewer, water and natural gas piping, eliminating the need for a traditional construction trench and associated equipment. This method has become a practical solution for replacing and rehabilitating aging infrastructure. This less-invasive method leaves the remnants of the old pipe in place: no digging, haul-off or disposal is needed. Other methods of removing or replacing the old pipe can be three to five times more expensive.

When pipe bursting is not an option, HDPE pipe can be installed via horizontal directional drilling. While more invasive and damaging to the surface than pipe bursting, horizontal directional drilling is far less invasive than trenching. Directional drilling also allows for larger diameter pipe installation, such as trunk and mainlines but requires specialized installation equipment. The drill bit assembly needs to be changed each time the hole size increases. While the majority of soil and rock formations can be drilled horizontally, soils with a high percentage of gravel and cobbles may cause problems.

Traditional trenching excavation is invasive and may cause significant surface damage and disruption. Depending on pipe size and installation location, this installation method may require heavy equipment and numerous personnel. However, HDPE’s flexible nature means that trench alignment does not have to be as precise.

For small-size HDPE piping applications, such as data pathways, microtrenching is recommended. This installation method is an economic solution for reducing network building, construction and reinstallation costs. Microtrenching is minimally invasive and rarely damages or disrupts existing infrastructure. An overview of the various trenching methods can be found on the Plastics Pipe Institute website.

Advantages of HDPE

HDPE’s strength, flexibility and durability make it an ideal alternative to concrete and metal for industrial applications. Pipes made of HDPE do not corrode or support chemical and bacterial buildup. HDPE pipes are can withstand extreme temperatures and ground movement without breaking or becoming brittle. In many cases, HDPE piping is easier and cheaper to install than concrete and metal piping. The material is durable, with an expected service life of 50 to 100 years, and is fully recyclable. HDPE is quickly becoming the preferred material for projects in the utilities, sewage, oil and gas, water and telecommunications industries.

About United Poly Systems

United Poly Systems produces quality HDPE pipe in diameters from ¾-in. to 26-in. IPS, 4-in. to 24-in. DIPS and ¾-in. to 2-in. CTS for use in many industries including telecommunications, power utility, water, electrical and oil and gas. The market for HDPE pipe continues to expand as initiatives to improve, repair and expand the country’s infrastructure are implemented.

Our off-the-shelf HDPE conduit/pipe is available in a variety of sizes, colors, dimensions and lengths, with or without stripes. We also offer fully customizable HDPE conduit options. In addition, piping can be customized with a ribbed interior (to maximize the distance cable may be pulled or jetted), pull tape, or a lubricated interior (for easier installation).

Success at UPS can be attributed to our vast experience, extensive client relationships, state-of-the-art manufacturing and quality processes. Our agile business model that allows UPS to quickly meet customers’ needs without the overhead expenses that are incurred by many of the larger producers in the industry.

Conveniently located in Springfield, Missouri and Albuquerque, New Mexico, United Poly Systems can provide quick delivery to a majority of the U.S. market.

 

Tags: Water, Conduit, Pressure, Oil & Gas, Power & Communications