If you have been noticing your PVC pipe turning yellow, know that you are not alone. This phenomenon is often termed UV Discoloration or UV Degradation. And it doesn’t translate well for the pipe’s durability in the long run.
It seems to affect both the visual and physical aspects of the pipes. Research says it results in reduced performance.
The resulting consequences of UV discoloration of PVC pipes are many.
We’ll get into that later in the article. There are manufacturing techniques applied to make the pipes more protected against Sunburn, another name for UV discoloration. But what can you do to protect your PVC pipes if they are exposed to sunlight?
There are a few different ideas available on how to protect PVC pipe from sunlight.
We’ll discuss them all below.
How Does the Sunlight Effect PVC Pipes?
If you know how UV negatively affects the pipes you’ll have your answer.
PVC isn’t safe from exposure to Ultraviolet rays just like all other things. There’s clear science behind the exposure and the resulting effect on the PVC pipes. I’ll try not to sound like a nerd. Here we go!
The Ultraviolet rays affect .001-.003-inch of the PVC pipe’s surface. It converts the PVC material into a complex structure known as polyene formation. This means discoloration. At first, the pipe will lose the gloss, and slowly progress to chalking and then discoloration.
At the end of this discoloration phase, the pipe will have a blackish color. The good news is that this discoloration process will cease when the exposure ends. And it’s time-dependent i.e. depends on the exposure time.
In the next phase, the structural integrity of the pipe will start deteriorating.
• Loss of Impact Resistance
According to the research conducted by PVC Pipe Association, formerly known as Uni-Bell, the PVC material loses impact resistance slowly when exposed to sunlight. This will increase the chances of leaks showing up.
Of course, it isn’t as significant if the exposure is limited. The degree of damage done by UV is decided by multiple variables such as exposure time, climate condition, pipe diameter, pipe wall thickness, and the components used in the PVC material.
So, it wouldn’t be wise to take the situation lightly.
How to Protect PVC Pipe From Sunlight?
Generally, under constant sun exposure, the PVC pipes outside your home will start to deteriorate after two years. It’s a good idea to prevent UV from reaching the PVC pipe.
How to do that? You can do it by simply covering the PVC pipe with a layer of protection. There are a few ways to do it.
Best Ways to Protect PVC Pipe
To me, the best way to protect the pipes is to paint them. The painting will last longer than any other method and you don’t need to constantly keep it in check.
Other ways to provide protection would be by wrapping it in a tarp or using an opaque shield.
Method 1: Painting the PVC Pipe
First up, here’s a list of the things you’ll need.
- Cloth for wiping
- Window cleaning solution
- Spray Paint (get the latex water-based paints)
- Sandpaper of 200-300 grit
Psst, here’s a tip. When you buy the paint, make sure that it’s on the lighter side of the color spectrum. We don’t want to use dark colors as it would defeat the purpose of painting. Dark colors attract UV rays and light colors deflect them.
• Step 1: Clean the Pipe
If you are only going to install the pipes for the first time, you only need to wash off the pipe from the chemical coatings. These coatings were placed to make sure it doesn’t stick to the ground. But for the paint to adhere to the pipe surface you need to get rid of it.
A simple application of a window cleaner solution or any other ammonia-based solution will do. It’s recommended to wear your goggles, gloves, and respirator before using any of the solutions.
Spray the pipe with the solution, and wipe off the pipe with the cleaning cloth you brought along. However, if the pipes are already in use, you need to wash them with water first. Tap it dry. And then you’ll apply the cleaning solution.
• Step 2: Create a Rough Surface
While painting it’s vital to have a rough surface so that paint can have an easy time sticking to it. So, it’s time to scuff up the pipe’s exterior with a few pieces of sandpaper.
For this, the recommended grit is 200-300. It’ll create just enough and not too much roughness, which is exactly what we want.
• Step 3: Clean the Pipe (again)
Take the rag you used to wash the pipe before. Wet it and wipe the roughened-up surface again. It’ll get rid of the shavings that resulted from sanding.
• Step 4: Prepare the Workspace for Painting
While this isn’t a part of the process, it’s necessary. You don’t want to end up with everything around covered in paint. Use newspaper to cover the objects around and cloth to catch all of the oversprays.
• Step 5: Time to Paint the Pipes
With all the previous steps completed, now take the paint in a spray bottle, or better yet bring a spray paint bottle. Start spraying the surface in an up and down motion.
Make sure the coat is thin. There shouldn’t be any paint dripping from it. The best method for painting would be to stand up the pipes and spray around them. But if you can’t remove the pipes, you can only paint the sides exposed to the atmosphere.
One coat of paint is enough, but you can do an extra coat of paint for good measure. But let the first coat dry before giving the second coat of paint.
Additional Measures to Take
As I mentioned above, there are other ways to provide protection against UV rays. One of them is a plastic tarp and the other is an opaque shield for UV.
I’d like to have combined protection of painting and an external shield. Take a tarp and wrap it around the pipe where it’s exposed to sunlight. Or take a few pieces of UV face shields and cover the exposed areas. Using both methods is unnecessary and a pure waste of energy and money.
One Extra Suggestion
PVC pipes that have Titanium Dioxide UV inhibitors are much more likely to withstand the negative effects of sunlight.
So, if you’re buying new ones, make sure to buy those pipes. I think Contech’s PVC pipes have a good amount of Titanium Dioxide in their manufacturing formula.
Well, I hope this has been a big help to whoever’s been reading (how to protect PVC pipe from sunlight) for the past few minutes or so. Just follow along and make a few tweaks here and there depending on your situation. I think this is a fool-proof guideline.
So there’s only a minute chance of messing up. Make sure the paint is white or something light. And give a plastic tarp wrapping. Your PVC pipes should last a long time before you need to think of replacing them.