PVC vs Poly: Which is Right for You?
If you’re a homeowner getting ready to put in a new sprinkler system, or just making some changes, you’ve probably noticed the many pipe options available. One of the first decisions you might encounter is which type of pipe to use for your system, the two main options being PVC and Poly-pipe. This post seeks to clear up some of the confusion so you can make the right choice for you.
PVC (abbreviated for ‘polyvinyl chloride’) is a rigid, non-flexible piping. Irrigation piping is usually white in color (grey is for electrical, black is for sewage). PVC pipe comes in a range of diameters, wall thickness (also known as schedule rating), and pressure ratings. The schedule number determines the inside diameter. For example, though the outer diameter of schedule 40 and schedule 80 pipe are the same, the inner diameters are different, with 80 pipe having thicker walls and therefore carrying a higher psi rating. Most home improvement stores will carry schedule 40, which is the recommended thickness for irrigation as it can withstand hundreds of pounds of pressure, while the average residential irrigation system isn’t more than 80 psi.
PVC usually comes in straight lengths of 10 feet in most home improvements stores, and must be cut with a special pipe cutting tool when shorter lengths are needed. The main benefit to PVC is that it is very strong. The main downside is that its rigid nature makes it less forgiving with freeze and thaw cycles.
Poly is short for high-density polyethylene, or HDPE. This pipe is also used in irrigation systems and other piping & conduit applications. Poly has the benefit of being more flexible while still maintaining a high level of strength, sufficient for most residential irrigation systems. While not as strong as PVC, it is still capable of working within 200-300 psi (again, plenty for most homes). In addition, it is flexible and lighter in weight. Pipe like our Blu-Lock pipe comes in large rolls which weigh about 7-11 lbs. per 100 feet.
Pros & Cons
When choosing which to go with, pay attention to what is used in your area. While both types of pipe are used everywhere, you may find that one type dominates the market in your area. Finding parts for the type of pipe that is preferred in your region will be easier and the price may be less expensive. Online shopping makes that a non-issue for many, but if a repair is needed, it’s often needed urgently.
If there's no dominant type in your area or if you're willing to shop online to avoid scarcity issues, poly is usually the way to go. It is generally cheaper, easier to work with, and requires fewer fittings. With PVC you will need at least one fitting every 10 feet because that’s the length of pipe you will find in most home improvement stores. Any time you make a turn or bend, you will need another fitting (sometimes more). With poly pipe you only need to put fittings where you need sprinklers, which can reduce costs significantly as well as reducing possible failure points.
We offer push fittings in both PVC and poly varieties with our PVC-Lock and Blu-Lock. These offer significant increases in speed and ease. Regular fittings must be free of any dirt or debris, and must be completely dry before gluing. Once glued they cannot be changed. Our push fittings can be attached while the pipes are wet, or even if they're completely submerged in water, which can often be the case when repairing line breaks. They require no glue or primer, and are completely removable for adjustments once attached.