Any irrigation system, from a small lawn sprinkler network to a large golf course irrigation system, is only as good as the piping that transports the water. Historically, most irrigation systems on commercial or residential properties used PVC plastic, galvanised steel, or aluminium piping and tubing. However, for good reason, many modern irrigation systems rely on high-density polyethylene (HDPE) piping. This amazing plastic has a number of distinct properties that make it an excellent choice for transporting water through irrigation systems.
Irrigation system piping can also be damaged by rapid changes in internal water pressure that occur when the system's sprinklers turn on and off. Physical stresses from sudden pressure changes can weaken and deform piping over time, limiting the amount of water pressure it can handle without leaking or splitting. Because HDPE piping is so flexible, it is less susceptible to these stresses than PVC and other common piping materials, and it can expand and contract in response to pressure changes without significant weakening or deformation. As a result, HDPE piping has a longer usable lifespan than most other piping options, and with proper maintenance, it can last for more than 50 years.
PVC or aluminium irrigation piping lengths must be joined with separate connectors, such as bushings and couplings, which attach to the piping with built-in threading or sealant tapes. These connectors, however, are prone to leakage, allowing gallons of water to escape the system over the course of an average season.
HDPE piping Butt-fusion is a process that connects HDPE to fittings or other pipes. This procedure involves heating the ends of the pipes to be joined and fusing them together while the ends are still semi-liquid. After that, the joined pipes are allowed to cool and set, resulting in a completely watertight seal.
Irrigation installers can now create long, continuous lengths of HDPE piping without relying on leak-prone pipe connectors thanks to this innovative pipe joining process. Separate connectors will still be required at certain points in the system, but reducing the number of connectors in the system will result in a significantly more leak-resistant irrigation system.
Many irrigation systems are vulnerable during the winter months. When the outside temperature falls below freezing, any water inside the system's pipes will freeze and expand, putting enormous strain on the pipe walls. Freezing water can quickly corrode irrigation pipes made of metal or rigid plastics. At sub-zero temperatures, HDPE does not become brittle, and its inherent flexibility allows it to expand to accommodate freezing water. Although it is still strongly advised to drain an irrigation system using HDPE pipes, if any water remains in the system when the temperature drops, the system is less likely to suffer catastrophic damage.
HDPE piping is more flexible than most other types of irrigation piping, and it can bend at relatively steep angles without being damaged. This enables HDPE pipes to be routed around immovable obstacles like boulders or subterranean utility lines without the use of elbow connectors or other fittings.
HDPE piping is also a relatively environmentally friendly option for irrigation systems. Even after many years of use, the material is completely recyclable and can be melted down and reformed to create new HDPE products. In addition, unlike some other types of plastic, it does not emit toxic vapours or other compounds at high temperatures.