Many people still have Polybutylene pipes in their houses or offices until now. However, Polybutylene pipes are vulnerable to damage due to the presence of chlorine in the water the pipes carry. Chlorine has been identified as one of the significant damaging factors for Polybutylene pipes. In this article, you will learn why chlorine is used to purify water, what Polybutylene pipes are, and the effects of chlorine of Polybutylene pipes.
Why Use Chlorine on Water?
Chlorine is applied to water in a process called “water chlorination.” Chlorine is added to public water supplies to eliminate bacteria, viruses, protozoans, and other microbes that are present in the water due to their growth in water supply tanks or reservoirs, and on the walls of water mains. Chlorine serves as a disinfectant to make water potable and free from waterborne diseases such as typhoid, dysentery, and cholera. Meanwhile, chlorine can react with other chemical compounds present in certain materials like the Polybutylene pipes, and that is why the pipes get damaged when they are exposed to chlorine over time.
What Are Polybutylene Pipes?
Polybutylene pipes are flexible grey pipes used for plumbing and hot water heating systems in both residential and commercial buildings. Polybutylene pipes are also referred to as “Poly B.” Polybutylene is a type of resin used in the manufacturing of pipes. This type of pipes was prevalent between 1978 and 1995 because they were inexpensive and easy-to-install. Polybutylene pipes were believed to be “the pipe of the future.”
However, Polybutylene pipes were regrettably unreliable, unstable, and vulnerable to cracking and rupturing, which made many houses flooded and properties damaged. Polybutylene pipes were in production until 1998 when it was discontinued. Until it was stopped from manufacturing, more than six million homes were estimated to have installed Polybutylene pipes between 1980 and early 1990.
The reason for its widespread use was due to its cheaper pricing and being less labor intensive to install than copper. Sadly, Polybutylene pipes later turned out to be a catastrophe.
What Are Polybutylene Problems?
The failure of Polybutylene pipes was highly noticeable because they were used for underground and interior piping in residential and commercial buildings about one in every four building. But apart from the effects of chlorine, Polybutylene pipes have their inherent problems, which only got aggravated by chlorine.
Some of the causes of Polybutylene pipes’ failure include the following:
- The use of grey and white plastic insert fittings for connecting the pipes instead of metal fittings.
- Excessive use of aluminum bands that cause cracks in the fittings.
- Poor installation at hot water tanks or areas with excessively high temperatures.
- A faulty installation that results in tense or crumpling piping.
- Use at places with high levels of chlorine.
What Are The Effects of Chlorine on Polybutylene Piping?
Although there was not enough scientific evidence, chlorine in public water supplies caused a chemical reaction with the Polybutylene pipes and acetal fittings (grey and white plastic insert fittings). This reaction causes the Polybutylene pipes to damage with the following effects as one effect leads to another until the pipes become damaged:
Scaling is the process by which mineral layer forms on the internal surface of the pipe due to the presence of chlorine in the water being transported. This process eventually reduces the efficiency of the pipe. Over time, the Polybutylene pipes begin to scale due to the chemical reaction caused by high levels of chlorine in the public water supplies. This is one of the effects of chlorine on Polybutylene pipes, and it goes a long way to weaken the pipe and make it vulnerable to damage. With the reduced space in the pipe for water to pass, the pressure in the pipe will become higher and could make the integrity of the Polybutylene pipes compromised.
Flaking is the falling away of scales from the surface of Polybutylene pipes in the form of flakes. The scale build-up will unavoidably result in less space and higher pressure within the pipes, which will eventually cause the pipe to flake. The flaking of the Polybutylene pipes makes the pipes thinner from the inside, and the supposed thickness of the pipes get reduced gradually. Flaking makes pipes to be vulnerable to becoming brittle.
Chlorine causes continuous effects on Polybutylene pipes. After the pipes have flaked for some time, they become fragile, shatterable, and liable to breaking easily, although seemingly hard. When Polybutylene pipes become brittle, they can break into pieces anytime without warning and cause water to leak uncontrollably.
Although other factors contribute to the failure of Polybutylene pipes, high levels of chlorine have been discovered to be the main culprit in compromising the integrity of Polybutylene pipes and cause the pipes to fail. The failure of Polybutylene pipes resulted in several lawsuits that caused in the payment of damages of not less than $950 million, even though the manufacturers did not admit that the Polybutylene pipes were defective.
Meanwhile, the continuous use of chlorine in public water supplies accelerates the rate of corrosion and degradation of Polybutylene pipes. Consequently, Polybutylene pipes can fail anytime without warnings that is why it is suggested that Polybutylene pipes should be replaced if you still have them in your home or commercial building.
Where Can You Find Polybutylene Pipes?
Polybutylene pipes are used for water supply from the main water line into a house, whether residential or commercial. These pipes are commonly found in the following locations:
- At the entry of the water heater
- A pipe transporting water across the basement ceilings
- Pipes feeding bathtubs, toilets, and sinks.
- The pipe is transporting water from the basement walls.
- A pipe attached to the main water shutoff valve.
- A pipe attached to the water meter.
You can check these locations to see if you still have Polybutylene pipes in your building. If there are Polybutylene pipes in your home, contact an experienced plumber to replace them for you to forestall possible fail and prevent damages to your property.