There are many reasons why homeowners and plumbers alike use plastic pipes in their plumbing projects. Plastic pipes are inexpensive, lightweight and will never corrode. They’re great at keeping hot water hot, and they don’t collect condensation from cold water as many metal pipes do. But not all plastic pipes are the same, and the two most common plastic pipe materials (ABS and PVC) have some distinct differences.
If you have a plumbing project coming up and are trying to choose which type of pipe to use, read on to learn which piping materials are most appropriate for your plans.
Many of the key differences between Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS) and Poly Vinyl Chloride (PVC) are either minor or situational, but there’s one difference likely to stand out to many homeowners: ABS pipe is made with BPA, and PVC pipe is not.
BPA, or Bisphenol A, is a chemical commonly used to harden plastic. It is present in all sorts of plastic materials, including containers for food and water. While there is no evidence that BPA poses a risk to humans, animal studies show a growing range of concern about possible hormonal, neurological, and cardiological effects, among other potential problems. The Food and Drug Administration has revised its BPA recommendations in recent years, though its current assessment is that BPA is safe at current levels occurring in foods.
Before you put too much thought into deciding between ABS and PVC plastic piping, you should know that your local government may have already made the decision for you. Some local building codes mandate the use of one type of pipe over the other for drainage, sewage, or other plumbing projects, though many leave the option up to plumbers and builders.