How Plastic Revolutionized the Plumbing Industry

The combination of engineering genius and skilled craftsmanship during the time of the Roman Empire is what has allowed Western civilizations to distinguish themselves throughout the centuries for their technological advances. No basic achievement has been as substantial to every day life as much as the accomplishment of plumbing. Evidence of the ancient plumber’s work has been found in the form of drain systems, subterranean heating for the bath houses, massive aqueducts, in palaces of ancient empires, and countless other places that may forever remain buried.
The need for delivering fresh, clean water and removing the wastewater to and from homes and businesses is fundamental to human survival and accounts for the longevity of civilizations. The plumber is a worker in lead, fitting or repairing the means of water distribution into buildings, as defined in the word plumbing, derived from the Latin “plumbum,” roughly translating to “lead.” A plumber has to plumb and solder pipe, work on roofs and gutters, sewers and drains. Modern day plumbers were still pouring and threading lead pipe on the job site well into the 20th century.
It has only been in the last sixty years that the science of plastics has introduced the use of polymers into nearly every industry from the content in an artist’s paint tubes to the array of electronic devices on your desk right now. Practically speaking, there has not been an area of development in civilization today that hasn’t been affected by the science of plastics, and none more significantly than the plumbing industry. What has transpired for plumbing supplies has been nothing short of revolutionary. Working smarter, not harder has tremendous significance for the plumber these days as what used to take five full days of hard labor is now only taking half a day’s effort.
The Types of Plastics and their Characteristics
There are different types of plastic that are now used in plumbing but the most familiar was the first most widely used polyvinyl chloride plastic piping or PVC. Plumbing Check Since that time, other plastics have been used as alternatives to resist corrosion, ability to withstand pressure and their overall ease of installation.
• PVC pipes are white, durable and resistant to pathogens.
• Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) is resistant to impacts and low temperatures making it best suited for drain and waste lines. The advantage to ABS is that it will not shatter the way PVC can plus it is suitable for handling compressed air.
• Polypropylene (PP) – best used for outdoor watering and drip systems. Lightweight while being durable and the best part is how inexpensive it is. Simply slip the pipes into one another and the compression fittings will form a seal as soon as pressurized water runs through them.
• Polyethylene (PE) and Cross-linked Polyethylene (PEX) are known for being lightweight, flexible and resistant to chemicals. Plumbing Industry Problems PE has been chemically modified to enhance its ability to convey radiant heat; most useful in snow melting and ice rinks.
Once flexible tubing is extruded it is stored and shipped on large spools. This lowers costs related to shipping and handling and allows for installing long lengths that don’t require couplings as it can negotiate corners without the need for fittings. The areas of the system that do require fittings don’t require a torch, solder or flux, making it safer and eliminating the health hazard. PEX resists scale build-up, won’t pit, can’t corrode from exposure to acids, and resists freeze-breakage. The tubing does not transfer heat the way copper tubing does, so it serves to conserve energy in these days of high utility rates. Water flows through flexible tubing quietly without the haunting knocking sound called “water hammer” that copper pipes will produce.
Overall, PEX plumbing is responsible for tremendous cost savings over traditional copper piping as it is far less expensive. Far less time is spent installing pipes with far fewer fittings than with rigid materials which equates to fewer expenses being put out to service calls for pipe repairs.

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