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HDPE Pipe vs. PVC Pipe: Examining the Commonalities and Differences

By Logan Bridges

High Density Polyethylene (HDPE) and Polyvinyl Choride (PVC) pipes are popular choices for many types of industrial applications including plumbing, drainage, irrigation, electrical power and telecommunications, oil & gas gathering and transport. While there are some commonalities in the two types, there are also distinct differences that must be understood before choosing one type over the other for a specific application. There are many educational resources that compare the two, and we provide links to some good ones in this blog.

Commonalities and Differences

A 2018 blog post from Plastech Plus Inc. compares HDPE pipe and PVC pipe, provides a look at common characteristics and contrasts significant differences.  

PVC and HDPE share common characteristics. Both are made of plastic and both are lightweight, corrosion-proof and resistant to bacteriological and chemical buildup. Both can be used in many of the same applications and shipping and installation methods are similar. 

However, HDPE is more durable than PVC, especially in extreme weather conditions. PVC has a failure rating of 1 in 48,650 incidents, where HDPE is 1 in 10,000,000. 

Although fusing sections of HDPE can be more expensive and require special equipment, end-to-end fusion results in an almost leak-free connection over the life of the pipe. HDPE is also easier to install in areas where digging is hard or impossible. 

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Ability to Withstand Major Seismic Events

A major benefit of HDPE is its flexibility, which is often demonstrated during earthquakes or other seismic events. Its high ductility and ability to resist deflections from ground movement can withstand the shock, pressure and movement that can typically destroy rigid pipe. This can be a lifesaver in the aftermath of an earthquake when water lines are necessary for containing or stopping fires and supplying drinking water; and maintaining communications via underground, protected HDPE conduit lines.  

A recent Spotlight on Earthquake Preparedness by the Plastic Pipes Institute stated,

“The benefits of HDPE pipe systems were demonstrated in Kobe, Japan in the 1995 earthquake. Osaka Gas found failures in their steel and iron systems; but none where HDPE pipe was installed. Japan has since been systematically replacing pipelines with HDPE wherever and whenever possible.”

Ease of Installation

Another advantage of HDPE is found during the installation phase. Pipe bursting in conjunction with HDPE pipe has become a practical solution for replacing/rehabilitating the nation’s aging infrastructure. Pipe bursting is a trenchless method to replace buried sewer, water and natural gas piping without the need for a traditional construction trench and associated equipment. 

In this process, HDPE pipe is pulled through the existing pipe, essentially ‘bursting’ the older pipe with new high density polyethylene. 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/replacing the old pipe can be 3 to 5 times more expensive. And, the pipe bursting method is in full compliance with all federal regulations and guidelines. 

About United Poly Systems

United Poly Systems produces quality HDPE pipe in diameters from ¾-in. to 26-in. IPS and 4-in. to 24-in. DIPS 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: Conduit, Oil & Gas