HDPE Pipe vs. PVC for Specialty Construction Applications

HDPE Pipe vs. PVC for Specialty Construction Applications

In the specialty construction space, there’s a lot of talk about the best materials for a job, and for good reason. No matter your industry or use case, performance matters, and selecting the right solution for your specific application can make or break your construction project. This conversation is particularly important when it comes to piping, in part because you may not know the difference between the two key players: HDPE and PVC.

But HDPE and PVC pipe have some important differences when it comes to performance, installation methods, and applications. Keep reading to learn more about the differences between PVC and HDPE pipe and the implications for specialty construction.

HDPE vs. PVC Pipe: Material Differences

HDPE pipe is made of high-density polyethylene, a thermoplastic polymer that’s malleable at high temperatures. It is created by linking ethylene molecules, which are derived from natural gas.

HDPE has a high strength-to-density ratio and is corrosion-resistant, making it an extremely versatile and cost-effective material. In fact, HDPE is the most widely used type of plastic today.

PVC pipe is made of vinyl, not plastic. Specifically, it’s made of polyvinyl chloride, which is created by reacting monomer molecules of vinyl chloride to form a polymer, then adding plasticizing substances to increase the flexibility and other performance characteristics.

PVC has a high level of hardness and is resistant to corrosion. Depending on the formulation of the PVC, it can have better thermal performance than HDPE. PVC pipe is generally rigid, whereas HDPE has greater flexibility.

Joining Methods for HDPE and PVC Pipe

The methods of joining sections of pipe differ for PVC and HDPE.

PVC pipe, being rigid, is generally joined using solvent cements. These cements glue the pieces of pipe together by melting the adjoining surfaces of the pipe to each other. A particular benefit of this method of pipe joining is that it can be performed underwater.

A specific type of PVC, Fusible PVC®, can be joined with a specialized thermal butt fusion technology. This gives it an advantage over other types of PVC, especially in installation environments that are more difficult to work in. It also offers more durable performance and extended lifespans.

HDPE pipe is joined using plastic fusion, wherein the plastic of each pipe being joined is melted together under extreme heat. This results in seamless, leak-free joints between pipes.

Installation Methods for HDPE and PVC Pipe

PVC pipe can only be installed using open trench or drop burial methods. Additionally, it must be carefully installed to ensure that the pipe does not crack longitudinally or fail due to overbelling—a condition that occurs when a receiving pipe is not properly sized or fitted to the adjoining pipe, resulting in pipe bursting or breaking or leaking at the joint.

Fusible PVC® is the exception. Because of its unique thermal butt fusion joining technology, it’s built for streamlined, trenchless installations using horizontal directional drilling or sliplining.

When it comes to installation methods, HDPE pipe outperforms PVC pipe because it is more versatile. HDPE pipe can be installed via drop burial or open trench installation, but it can also be installed using horizontal directional drilling or sliplining. Depending on the application, these methods can be more time- or cost-effective.

Durability and Lifespan: Which Material Lasts Longer?

According to research by the Plastic Pipe Institute, HDPE pipe can exceed the conservative 50-year life expectancy generally assigned to it and can have a lifespan of over 100 years. A recent study has also found that PVC pipe can have a projected lifespan of 100 years, making both extremely long-lasting pipe materials.

HDPE, however, is most often the more durable material. Due to the flexibility of the material and the leak-free fusion joints, HDPE is better able to withstand impact, stress, and weather than its more rigid counterpart. PVC has potential, but only Fusible PVC® can truly compete with HDPE.

Applications

HDPE and PVC piping have many overlapping uses, as well as some uses specific to each type of pipe, due to their differing performance characteristics.

Applications for HDPE and PVC Pipe
HDPE Pipe PVC Pipe

Water mains

Gas mains

Sewage

Stormwater and drainage

Irrigation

Slurry transfer

Electrical and communications conduit

Mining

Firewater

Ocean cleanup

Outfall Lines

Brine Lines

Process Chemicals

Water mains

Household plumbing

Sewage

Stormwater and drainage

Irrigation

Chemicals

Exhaust and fumes

Underwater piping

HDPE vs. PVC for Specialty Construction

For specialty construction, HDPE pipe is the right choice for most applications. There are some occasions where PVC, especially Fusible PVC®, is best, but HDPE ultimately reigns champ. It’s a durable, long-lasting, and flexible material that balances performance considerations with cost-effectiveness.

For most specialty construction use cases, the heat tolerance of HDPE pipe is perfectly adequate to the application, and the added cost and time savings from installation via sliplining or other innovative methods is a serious benefit.

Both HDPE pipe and PVC offer a flexible, durable, cost-effective solution for a variety of specialty construction applications. If you’re hoping to implement a piping solution in your next project, contact US FUSION. We have a complete line of products, in various sizes and configurations, so you can get the results you need.

How Long Does HDPE Pipe Last? And Other Frequently Asked Questions

How Long Does HDPE Pipe Last? And Other Frequently Asked Questions

In the world of piping, HDPE pipe is a relatively new addition. While it’s been around for years, some of the older players in the game like copper and cast iron have been around for much longer. You’re likely familiar with the more traditional pipe materials but may still have questions about HDPE pipe. 

What is HDPE pipe? How long does it last? What are its applications? Keep reading for our answers to all your HDPE pipe questions.

What does HDPE stand for?

HDPE is an acronym for high-density polyethylene. High-density polyethylene is a polymer (a substance made of large molecules) that is thermoplastic, which means that it is malleable or moldable at high temperatures. HDPE is useful as a material because it is corrosion-resistant and has a high strength-to-density ratio.

HDPE is used in a variety of applications, not just in piping. Plastic bottles, house wrap, lawn furniture, plastic mailers, and even ropes and fabrics are made of HDPE. HDPE is cost-effective, making it desirable for a multitude of uses from playground equipment to fuel tanks.

What is HDPE pipe?

HDPE pipe is flexible, corrosion-resistant plastic pipe. It is generally lighter in weight and more cost-effective than metal pipe. HDPE pipe is joined by welding or fusing the plastic pipe sections together at heat, without jointing chemicals, rubber seals, anchors, or thrust restraint blocks. 

Plastic pipe is impact resistant and is not susceptible to the same environmental stressors as ferrous pipe materials. It also has a high flow capacity and is resistant to many chemicals. In addition, its low thermal conductivity cuts down on the need to insulate HDPE pipe, as it maintains more stable fluid temperatures.

How is HDPE pipe manufactured?

HDPE pipe is manufactured by extrusion. The material is heated, then pushed through a mold that shapes the material into a length of pipe at the desired diameter. It is then cooled in stages by spraying the pipe with water or submerging it in water. HDPE generally contains carbon black, which provides it with UV resistance.

How is HDPE pipe installed?

HDPE pipe can be installed using standard pipelaying practices, as well as sliplining, horizontal directional drilling, and other cost-saving methods. HDPE pipe works well for trenchless installation.

What is HDPE pipe used for?

HDPE pipe is used in myriad applications, which include, but are not limited to:

  • Water mains
  • Sewer mains
  • Stormwater drainage systems
  • Irrigation
  • Oil and gas pipelines
  • Mining
  • Firewater lines
  • Electrical conduit
  • Telecommunications conduit
  • Agriculture
  • Compressed air
  • Chemical manufacture and transport
  • Food manufacture and transport
  • Ground-source geothermal systems
  • Fertilizer
  • Desalination plants
  • Paper and pulp manufacture
  • Hazardous materials
  • Ocean cleanup
  • Brine pipelines 

How long does HDPE pipe last?

The typical benchmark for HDPE life expectancy is 50 years; however, per the Plastics Pipe Institute, HDPE pipe used in municipal potable water systems can have a lifespan of over 100 years. When compared with other traditional piping materials copper (40-75 year lifespan), cast iron (50-75 years), and galvanized steel (30-50 years), HDPE pipe demonstrates better longevity.   

What temperatures can HDPE pipe withstand?

HDPE pipe can operate in temperatures ranging from -220° F to 140°F. Of pipe materials, HDPE does not have the highest temperature resistance, and it does have relatively high thermal expansion. However, for most applications, the temperature range that HDPE pipe can withstand is more than adequate.

What’s the difference between HDPE and PVC pipe?

While both HDPE and PVC are plastic pipes that are lightweight and resistant to chemicals and corrosion, there are a few important differences. The first is that while HDPE pipe is made of high-density polyethylene, which is derived from petroleum, PVC pipe is made of a vinyl, polyvinyl chloride. This results in different performance characteristics.

PVC pipe is generally stiffer than HDPE, and it is joined with sealants and not heat fusion. . PVC also has better thermal performance, expanding significantly less..

HDPE, however, outperforms PVC for certain applications. PVC can only be installed via open trench or drop burial methods, whereas HDPE can utilize horizontal directional drilling, sliplining, and other methods. HDPE piping boasts leak-free joints, unlike PVC, and is generally more durable and suited to a greater range of uses.

Is HDPE pipe safe for drinking water?

Absolutely. HDPE pipe is water and food-safe and is used extensively in drinking water and food manufacturing and transport applications. NSF, an organization that develops public health and safety standards for drinking water, has debunked study results that suggest that HDPE and similar plastic pipe is hazardous for drinking water applications.

At US FUSION, we do HDPE piping like nobody else in the industry. With decades of experience, high-quality materials, and complete solutions for every situation, we’re your trusted source for pipe installation, fusion, and repair. Reach out to our team to learn more about our services.

Types of HDPE Pipe Fusion

Types of HDPE Pipe Fusion

HDPE piping provides durable, long-lasting options for many piping applications. Highly customizable, HDPE piping can be applied using various pipe sizes and fusion techniques. These fusion techniques make HDPE piping unique, allowing long pipe stretches to connect and maneuver through complex spaces. US FUSION provides tailored solutions to meet your needs through HDPE pipe fusion.

What Is Pipe Fusion?

In most piping applications, a single section of HDPE pipe will not get the job done. When multiple pieces of pipe are needed, HDPE pipe fusion comes in. While there are many types of HDPE pipe fusion, each involves heating the pipe and applying pressure to fuse two pieces together. In doing so, HDPE pipe fusion ensures long stretches of pipe are securely fused, resulting in a continuous, sealed connection.

At US FUSION, our on-site plastic fusion team is highly skilled in HDPE pipe fusion methods. Whether your piping is underground or exposed, we focus on safety for both our crew and for the environment. We’ll ensure your pipe connections are strong and sealed properly, keeping unwanted elements out of the environment — all while meeting the highest industry standards and environmental regulations.

4 Types of HDPE Pipe Fusion

Not sure what fusion method is needed for your project? We’ve got you covered. Below we’ll break down HDPE pipe fusion and application methods.

Butt Fusion

Butt fusion is used when two straight pieces of pipe need to be fused together. Butt fusion is the most common and best pipe fusion method. In this method, a fusion machine holds two pieces of pipe while the ends are heated with a heater plate. Once heated, force is used to push the two ends together where they are left to cool. After the cooling process is complete, the two pieces of pipe are firmly connected and sealed. The butt fusion weld will then be stronger than the pipe.

Electrofusion

Electrofusion is used in tight spaces and with fittings where butt fusion cannot be used. Electrofusion couplers are needed to make this fusion connection. In this method, electrofusion couplers have copper coils inside the coupler that are then heated up to fuse to the pipe together to create a tight seal.

Socket Fusion

When flexibility is vital, socket fusion is used. Socket fusion involves heating the outside of a pipe while simultaneously heating the end of a socket. Once each piece is heated to the ideal temperature, the socket is then inserted into the pipe. As the two pieces cool, the connection is sealed, and flexibility remains.

Saddle Fusion

Saddle fusion connects the concave portion of a pipe to an inverse saddle fitting. To get a precise connection, both the concave portion of the pipe and the saddle fitting are heated. Once heated, the two pieces are joined together using force, and the piping is then allowed to cool under pressure. This heat/pressure method creates a tight seal at a complex connection point.

Get Expert HDPE Pipe Fusion For Any Application

Think your application may require some type of HDPE pipe fusion? US FUSION can help! Our skilled builders, contractors, and craftsmen are capable of providing valuable services across a variety of industries — helping you keep your project and environment safe. Contact us today for more information.

What Is HDPE Piping?

What Is HDPE Piping?

HDPE piping is one of the things we do best here at US FUSION — but if you’re not working with it every day like we are, you may have some questions about what it is and how it works.

Below, we’ll explore the answers to some of those questions, giving you an overview of everything you need to know about HDPE piping: what it is, what it’s used for, and how it can benefit your application.

What Is HDPE Piping?

First things first — HDPE stands for high-density polyethylene, which is a type of thermoplastic made from petroleum. It’s flexible, but that definitely doesn’t mean it lacks in strength or performance. Among other things, HDPE is known for its outstanding water, chemical, and impact resistance — all qualities that come together to make it a top material choice for a number of applications, including heavy-duty piping.

What Is HDPE Piping Used For?

HDPE piping is corrosion and abrasion-resistant, making it a great material for transporting various solids, liquids, and gases safely and effectively. You can find HDPE piping being used for many industrial applications, some of the most common being:

  • Municipal and industrial water and waste
  • Potable water
  • Wastewater and sewer
  • Drainage
  • Firewater
  • Oil and gas gathering systems
  • Methane recovery systems
  • Landfills
  • Water supply lines for oil recovery

The bottom line is, from firewater to hazardous waste, there is no system more effective at safely containing and transporting material than HDPE piping.

What Are the Benefits of HDPE Piping?

In recent years, HDPE piping has grown in popularity in various industries — and for good reason. Many have come to realize the countless benefits it brings, including:

HDPE Piping is Durable

Arguably the greatest benefit of HDPE piping is its exceptional durability. It offers water, temperature, and corrosion resistance — three things that other types of piping (galvanized steel, PVC, copper) just can’t do. Depending on how it’s applied, designed, and installed, HDPE piping can last an astounding 50-100 years.

It’s More Affordable Than Other Options on the Market

Since HDPE piping is made of plastic, it’s much more lightweight than other types of piping. This means that it usually costs less to manufacture, transport, and install. It can also help save money and resources in regards to reduced installation time and labor.

It Delivers High Performance Across Applications

One of the biggest issues you may face with other piping systems is leaks. However, HDPE’s installation and fusion process lends itself to unparalleled leak-free performance. The fusions create a monolithic connection and are even capable of handling the frequent surges common in water distribution and oil transportation.

Easy to Repair and Maintain

On the off chance that your HDPE piping does have performance issues, due to aging or normal wear and tear, repairs are simple. Electrofusion couplers and off carriage butt welds can be performed in tight conditions to repair HDPE pipe. With trenchless techniques and technologies, HDPE pipe can be used to repair failing steel, concrete, and ductile iron pipelines. If it’s time to replace or upsize your existing piping system, whether it’s an HDPE system or not, HDPE piping makes it easier than ever.

HDPE is a Sustainable Piping Option

For multiple reasons, HDPE piping is a fairly sustainable option. It takes less energy to manufacture than non-plastic pipes, requires fewer fittings due to its flexibility, and prevents hazardous toxins from escaping into the environment. It’s also capable of being recycled into non-pressure piping applications.

How Is HDPE Piping Installed?

HDPE pipes can be installed through two techniques: trenching and trenchless. Trenching involves digging deep trenches, then installing the pipe. It’s messier than the trenchless technique, but it works more effectively for certain applications.

Trenchless installation, as the name suggests, doesn’t require digging any trenches before the pipes can be installed. It makes use of many different techniques to get the job done, such as directional drilling, sliplining, and pull-in-place lining.

If you’d like to learn more about how HDPE piping may suit your application, contact US FUSION. We’re one of the only companies in the industry equipped with over 35 years of experience in complete installation, supply, and on-site fusion. All of that experience combines to deliver you some of the most specialized HDPE piping systems on the market.