Regular PVC (or polyvinyl chloride) is a common plastic used in construction. It is made softer and more flexible by the addition of plasticizers. If no plasticizers are added, it is known as uPVC (unplasticized polyvinyl chloride), rigid PVC, or vinyl siding in the U.S.
edit Uses of PVC vs uPVC
edit In Construction
PVC, as a flexible plastic, is used to produce pipes such as for non-potable water distribution and for insulation on electrical cables.
uPVC is used as a replacement for wood in construction, such as in double glazed window frames and window sills. It is also used instead of cast iron for plumbing and draining, including waste pipes, drainpipes, gutters and downspouts.
edit uPVC vs. PVC Pipes
PVC is used as a replacement for copper and aluminum pipes and is used in waste lines, irrigation systems and pool circulation systems. It is easily cut and can be fastened with glue, and so is an easy-to-use alternative to metal.
uPVC is used for the majority of plastic pipes in the world, as it is incredibly resistant to chemical erosion or reaction in a wide range of temperatures and operating pressures, but is not as common in the US. It is incredibly strong, stiff and cost-effective, and so is often used for sewage lines and exterior drainage pipes.
Neither type is used to transmit drinking water. Instead, cPVC should be used.
PVC is not used for window frames, although some manufacturers may use “PVC” to refer to their uPVC windows.
uPVC is used for window frames, as it does not decompose, is weather-resistant, does not change shape under normal weather conditions, and is recyclable, as it can be reshaped at high temperature. uPVC windows are more energy-efficient than those with wooden or metal frames. It can also be used for door frames and conservatories.
This video shows how a typical uPVC window is installed:
edit Other uses
PVC is also used in clothes, especially to create leather-like or waterproof material, in toys, car interiors, shower curtains and many other plastic products.
PVC is less durable, as it is designed to be flexible and softer than usual plastics. However, it is resistant to chemicals, sunlight and oxidation.
uPVC is strongly resistant to chemicals, sunlight and oxidation from water.
edit Safety and Risks
PVC-coated wires can form HCl fumes in a fire, which can be a health hazard. Plasticizers may leach out of PVC into the environment. The EU have now banned 3 types of phthalates used in PVC: DBP, BBP and DEHP.
There are no concerns regarding the use of uPVC.
Neither PVC nor UPVC are biodegradable. However, uPVC is recyclable.