Problem: The compressed air system in my facility has pre-installed PVC piping. Is this safe to use?
Solution: NO, PVC piping is never safe to use for compressed air. When installing a compressed air treatment system into a business, people often look to PVC pipe as an option to build the piping system because it is cheap, versatile and easy to install. However, using PVC pipe in any compressed air application is extremely dangerous and NOT recommended by multiple associations and manufacturers.
PVC piping is often used to transport liquids, mainly water, for multiple applications. If there is a leak in the piping while transporting water, often times the pipe will split and release water at a low pressure. However, water is not compressible and cannot store energy in the same way that air can. When air is compressed inside of PVC piping, the pipe can swell and burst at a high pressure, sending PVC shrapnel outward like a bomb, potentially injuring or killing anyone within close range. The maximum rated temperature of most PVC piping is usually 140 degrees Farenheit, but once the air traveling through the pipes reaches 110 F, the pressure rating of the pipe is cut in half. So a pipe that is rated for 150 psi, is now rated for only 75 psi, causing a high possibility of an explosion. PVC pipe also deteriorates over time and becomes brittle, making the chance of a leak or an explosion very likely as it ages.
In addition to the obvious dangers of using PVC piping for compressed air, it is also against OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) standards to use PVC piping for above ground transportation of compressed air and gases. In doing so, you run the risk of hefty fines from OSHA and a potential shutdown of your business if you have too many violations. The Plastic Pipe and Fittings Association has also stated that “Compressed air or inert gases should never be used for pressure testing plastic piping systems.” Many manufacturers of PVC pipe also place warning labels on their packaging stating that the pipe is not to be used in the transport of any compressed air or gas due to the large safety risk it creates.
So if I can’t use PVC, what type of piping should I use for my compressed air?
Both stainless steel and aluminum piping are highly recommended for compressed air transportation. Stainless steel piping is strong, durable and will not rust. Aluminum piping is light-weight, easy to handle, non-corrosive and cost-efficient. AirNet offers both stainless and aluminum solutions that are easy to install and comes backed with a 10-year warranty. You can check out the AIRNet product line and request a quote HERE.
Although it may seem like a cheap, easy option to install PVC for transporting your compressed air, the high risk of fines, damage, injury and even death greatly outweigh the perceived benefits of using PVC pipe. Contact us today for a viable, safe solution for the transporting of your compressed air.