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What are the Benefits of Clear PVC Pipe?

By P.S. Jones
Updated May 16, 2024
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Polyvinyl chloride is a widely used thermoplastic polymer, which means that it turns to liquid when extremely heated, and reverts to a glassy state when sufficiently cooled. Over half of the world’s polyvinyl chloride is used for producing PVC pipes for industrial uses. PVC piping benefits include high strength to weight ratio, and low reactivity to many materials. While most of the world’s PVC is opaque, some of it is clear. In addition to the normal PVC pipe benefits, clear PVC pipes have their own set of benefits that include being able to see through the pipe and monitor the process at any time.

Like all PVC pipes, clear PVC pipe is very strong yet still very light weight. This means that installation and transportation costs are typically lower than with traditional pipe materials. Workers are less likely to injure themselves with the lighter weight PVC pipe. For example, a worker can easily carry two twenty-foot pieces of four-inch PVC pipe. On the other hand, that same person would have a hard time carrying five feet of the same pipe made from iron.

Clear PVC pipe is also very resistant to most types of chemical reactions. One of the most common chemical reactions with most pipes is corrosion. Since PVC pipes don’t conduct electricity, they don’t risk rusting like so many other types of pipe materials. Other chemicals commonly found in homes react badly with some metals. PVC pipes are resistant to most chemical reactions at temperatures of up to 140 degrees Fahrenheit.

Clear PVC pipe is also more flexible than traditional piping solutions, such as iron or lead. The pipes are rigid enough to stand upright. Still, PVC pipes also can bend under a significant load without breaking. This helps when the pipe must bear the occasional increased load. Another situation where the PVC pipe’s flexibility is useful, is when the pipe is buried underground, and must deal with frequent soil movement or vibration.

One of the important characteristics of clear PVC pipe is that it can be seen through. Any process where visual monitoring is necessary can benefit from clear PVC pipe. Technicians can look at the pipe and monitor the process as opposed to opening the piping system. For example, most PVC pipe is used in plumbing applications. Clear PVC pipe allows a plumber to see clogs, or backups without the use of any extra machinery or processes.

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Discussion Comments
By matthewc23 — On Nov 27, 2011

I used to work in a factory when I was in school, and they had a few sections of clear plastic PVC pipe so that you could check the liquids that were going through the system. I never worked on that section, so I am not sure exactly what we going through it, but I know they had to check the color on a regular basis. I assume it was some sort of waste material, and whenever it got to a certain color, that meant that some filter or something needed to be changed.

I have never really seen any clear PVC pipe in the store, but it seems like it would be something good to put as the piping under your kitchen sink. If you ever had a clog or lost something down the drain, you could just look through the pipe and see where everything was.

I don't know exactly what the heat ratings are for PVC pipe, but the one time I can think that it wouldn't be good is if you had something flowing through the pipe that was very hot.

By TreeMan — On Nov 27, 2011

I did see an interesting use of some clear PVC pipe not too long ago. I was helping to chaperon a grade school field trip to a dairy farm. For anyone who has never seen one of these either in person or on TV, what they do is hook the cows up to a milking machine, and then the milk gets carried through tubing to a central processing building.

Anyway, while all the milk is being transported, it goes through clear PVC pipes, so you can see it flowing through. Besides being neat to look at, I am sure it helps the operators check and make sure that everything is working fine and find the source of any problems if they arise. I would also imagine that the PVC pipes are a lot cleaner and long lasting than whatever alternatives they have with metal pipes.

By stl156 — On Nov 26, 2011

@golf07 - I can tell you from experience that clear PVC pipe is quite a bit more expensive than the regular white piping. I am not really sure why, though. I assume it must be more difficult to make somehow.

I was helping my friend install a koi pond in his back yard, and he was wanting to use clear PVC pipe for a certain section of the water system. When we went to buy the pipe, the clear stuff ended up costing about five times as much as the same pipe that was white.

Overall, I guess clear PVC pipe would have some certain uses, but if you don't specifically need it, I would definitely not recommend buying it.

By jmc88 — On Nov 26, 2011

@SarahSon - I love that idea with the garden! I have heard of older individuals having raised flower beds for stuff like that. I will definitely have to remember using PVC pipe for the future if someone needs something like that. I wonder if there are any other good ideas you could use clear plastic PVC pipe for.

This got me wondering about how they got the pipe to be clear in the first place. Is the liquid chemical naturally white and then they make it clear, or is it the opposite where it starts clear and they just dye it white or something? I guess I can see the purpose of the white pipe over clear. Having white pipe would make it easier to see and mark on if you needed to cut it.

By golf07 — On Nov 26, 2011

I didn't even know they made clear PVC pipe, but can see how this would be really helpful in a lot of situations. I wonder if it is much more expensive than the regular plastic PVC pipe?

Having clear PVC water pipes would be especially nice to be able to see where something was clogged.

There have been times when I have used regular PVC pipe and wanted to spray paint it a different color so it would look nicer.

We made our own ladder golf game set out of plastic PVC pipes. Even though it might not look the greatest, it was a lot cheaper than buying a set that was already made.

Most of the sets I have seen in the store are not made with plastic that is as heavy duty as the PVC pipes. They are brightly colored, so that is attractive, but nothing that a can of spray paint might not take care of.

By SarahSon — On Nov 25, 2011

There really is no end to the things you can use PVC pipe for. I know a man who loved to garden, but was in an accident and could only get around in a wheelchair.

He wanted to find a way he could still garden, so he plants vegetables in PVC pipes in the ground. This way he doesn't have to bend down to pull weeds and they only take about a cup of water each day.

He plants just about everything you can think of in these PVC pipes. This is something I plan on trying next spring as I also had to bend down and weed the garden.

I am wondering if using something like clear plastic PVC pipe would make a difference for something like this or not.

If all you were going to see was dirt and soil, I don't suppose it would matter much. If you were able to see the roots of the plants as they were growing, it might be a little bit more interesting.

By truman12 — On Nov 25, 2011

A friend of mine did an art project in college where she set up a bunch of clear PVC pipes and ran different colored liquids through them.

The whole system was automated and it recycled the fluids that it used into specialized buckets to maintain their color. It was really cool to look at because the pipes swirled around each other and you could see the liquid being pumped inside of them. The whole thing was very kinetic and the sculpture was pretty hypnotic to look at.

She was a really talented artists but unfortunately she doesn't do much of the anymore.

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