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PVC was discovered in the late 1800s when vinyl chloride (C2H3Cl) was exposed to sunlight. The properties of the substance were noted at the time, but PVC was not put into practical application until the 1920s. Then, in 1931, German scientists were able to mass produce PVC and it was then that it was molded into pipe.
Because other pipe materials became scarce, PVC Pipe use skyrocketed during World War II.
Today, more PVC Pipes are being used than any other pipe product.
PVC is a thermosetting plastic. In other words, it can only be softened and molded into form once. If it is softened and remolded a second time it will lose some of it's favorable characteristics. Recently, 'Fuseable PVC' has come to market to compete with the fuseable properties of HDPE Pipe.
PVC is very corrosion resistant. It is not a conductor and will not have an electrochemical reaction with acids and bases that it comes in contact with. For this reason, PVC is sometimes used to coat other materials for protection.
PVC also has a high chemical resistance. While it will react with some chemicals, there are a large number of chemicals it will not react with, making it an excellent product for industrial applications.
PVC is not without it's faults. Studies have shown that UV radiation from sunlight not only discolors the pipe, but also reduces it's impact strength.
PVC pipe is also prized because it can be made into virtually any color. Below are most common colors and thier usues:
Blue -- Water Main
Red -- Fire Main
Purple -- Relcaimed Water Main
Green -- Sanitary Sewer & Forcemain
White -- All Applications
Orange -- Telecomunications
Grey -- Electrical Conduit
Yellow -- Gas Distribution
The deeper you delve into pipe sizing and nomenclature, the more confused you get. This is because as new materials have been developed over the years they tried to keep the outside diameter (OD) the same and adjust the inside diamter (ID) to meet the characteristics of the new material.
Most PVC Pipe uses the Nominal Pipe Size (NPS) system. The characteristics for NPS pipe under 14" in diameter have no logical explanation...data must be looked up on a chart.14" and larger NPS pipe has an outside diameter equal to the pipe size.
The 'Schedule' system (Schedule 40, 80, etc.) is an NPS system. The dimensions of PVC schedule pipe matche those of steel pipe. The steel pipe sizes were developed long before PVC was invented...thus the PVC pipe was sized to match the steel pipe.
There are a couple of non-NPS systems that should be noted. Ductile Iron Pipe Size (DIPS) is a system used for ductile iron pipe...it is derived from the original size of cast iron pipe, which has all but completely been replaced by ductile iron pipe. C900 PVC pipe uses the DIPS system. Ductile Iron Pipe and C900 PVC Pipe are major components of municipal water distribution systems...so having uniform size enables the use of fittings, valves and tapping saddles on both types of pipe.
PVC Pipe Uses
Because PVC is mostly a 'rigid' pipe product, PVC pipe is an excellent pipe choice for just about any application that does not require a 'flexible' solution. The most common uses for PVC are:
Underground Fire Main Distribution
Gravity Sanitary Sewer Collection
Forcemain Seweage Transmission
Reclaimed Water Distribution
Electrical & Communications Conduit
Numerous Industrial Applications
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