Thursday, August 14, 2008

Non-PVC drain pipe solution

So after many futile efforts of trying to find a non-PVC pipe that can be used for the drain lines in the house, I think I might have found a solution. I had been calling around to various plumbers, engineers and colleagues to try and find an alternative when, on a chance phone call to Superior Plumbing in South Philly, I was turned on to a product I hadn't heard of before. Now...the most ridiculous part: the product has actually been around for almost 50 years! It's a testimony to the fact when this industry finds something they like to work with (i.e cheap and easy like PVC) they seems to close off all other avenues and then become very resistant to change.

Here's what happened on the phone. I called the plumbing supplier (which I have used before and are great!) to ask if they know of any other pipe material besides PVC and cast iron that can be used for drain lines. He responded with an adamant, "No....that's it. Those are the only two." As I fained disbelief and pursued the question further, he held his ground. But just as I was thanking him for his assistance and was about to hang up the phone, he burst in with a "Hang on a second", and proceeded to ask another guy in the store to remind him what the name of that "black plastic pipe they use for drains" is. He came back with, "ABS". ABS?? What is that? He then informed me that ABS is an acceptable alternative but he didn't think of it right away because he doesn't stock it. "It's the stuff they make TVs and VCRs out of", he said. I asked if it was approved by the City of Philadelphia. He said, "Only for residential." I said, "Perfect." I then thanked the man again and began my usual background check.

An important aspect I found out was that ABS is actually a "thermoplastic", which means it is able to be safely recycled. This is not the case for PVC, which cannot effectively be recycled, as it is a difficult process, releases dangerous chemical when melted down, and needs more chemicals added in order to reform it.
ABS is derived from acrylonitrile, butadiene, and styrene. The advantage of ABS is that this material combines the strength and rigidity of the acrylonitrile and styrene polymers with the toughness of the polybutadiene rubber. The most important mechanical properties of ABS are resistance and toughness.

From the PPFA's (Plastic Pipe and Fittings Association) website: "ABS pipe and fittings are made from a thermoplastic resin called Acrylonitrile-Butadiene-Styrene (ABS for short). ABS PIPING SYSTEMS are easier and less expensive to install than metal piping; Feature superior flow due to smooth interiorfinish; Do not rot, rust, corrode or collect waste; Withstand earth loads and shipping (with properhandling); Resist mechanical damage, even at low temperatures; Perform at an operational temperature range of -40°F to 180°F; Are lightweight (one person can load and unload); Take less time to rough in than metal DWV materials."

ABS pipe and fittings were originally developed in the early 1950s for use in oil fields and the chemical industry. In 1959, John F. Long, a prominent Arizona builder, used ABS pipe in an experimental residence. Twenty-five years later, an independent research firm dug up and analyzed a section of the drain pipe. The result: no evidence of rot, rust or corrosion.

To see the PPFA's ABS Publications, click here You can also check out the FAQ's here.

1 comment:

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