Can you, or should you, use PVC plastic pipe for compressed air? What prompted this page was that I visited a friend of a friend’s house a while back. Got the tour of the place and I also got to see his latest restoration project, the re-building of a classic Jeep from the frame up.
I also saw his excellently plumbed air supply from his compressor throughout the garage. Took the drop legs from the top of the main lines, drains at the bottom of the drop legs, just a first class installation. Are you waiting for the but? Yes, there was one. The plumbing for his lovely compressed air mains and drops to his work bench were all PVC plastic pipe. Ouch!
Use PVC plastic pipe for compressed air?
No, you certainly should not!
The pressure rating for a particular PVC pipe may show that it appears to be rated for the pressures coming from a typical air compressor. The issue is that those rating ares predicated on normal 75 degree F temperatures, and as temperatures rise, the pressure capability of PVC pipe rapidly declines.
Unlike polyethylene air tube or rubber hose, which will bubble and pop if the air inside it gets too much for the wall strength, PVC plastic pipe, if it fails under pressure, will often shatter, spraying everyone and everything with plastic shrapnel. Not nice.
If you are considering using PVC pipe of any kind for plumbing your compressed air, please visit the company’s web site to check on whether they recommended the use of their pipe for compressed air service. Odds are they will not, and so you should not use PVC to plumb air.
If I were plumbing air lines for my home workshop again, I would rather use sweated copper pipe or RVC (rubber vinyl compound air line hose) than plastic. Anytime.