The Best & The Rest: PVC Pipe Bending

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Bending PVC pipe can be laborious and time consuming, but it doesn’t have to be.  At Rack-A-Tiers we strongly believe in working smarter, not harder.  You need tools so you can spend less time preparing and more time getting the job done.  Many tools help bend pipe more efficiently, either with heat or without.

Here are some of the more popular tools to hot and cold bend PVC pipe:  heat blankets, heat guns, heat boxes, propane torches, heat tanks, element heaters, car exhaust, and cold bending with springs.

Heat Blankets

Heat blankets have wiring in the fabric that allows heat to be evenly applied.  To use, simply wrap the blanket around the pipe and plug in.  A blanket’s ability to overheat or melt PVC pipe depends on its wattage ranging from 200-800 W for small/medium (0.5”-3”) and up to 1300 W for larger pipe (3.5”-4”).

Price: $205.00 – $612.00

Pros

  • Very easy to use, just wrap it around the pipe and wait
  • Very portable and light, just roll it up after use

cons

  • Takes longer than other methods, 5-10 minutes
    depending on pipe size and temperature
  • Blanket length can sometimes be shorter than what you’d like to bend
  • Can be on the expensive side depending on the
Learn More See Heat Blanket Videos Here Find Heat Blankets Here

Heat Guns

Heat guns are like hairdryers on steroids.  Unlike hairdryers, these blow air with temperatures up to 550 °C, with some models reaching 760 °C.  Simply plug in and turn on, cordless options are also available.  Most heat guns have displays or switches to set temperature.  These are versatile and you can bend almost any size pipe.  Keep in mind larger PVC takes longer to evenly heat.

Price: $67.20 – $200.00

Pros:

  • Gets to high temperatures quickly, very cost-effective
  • Very portable, especially cordless versions

Cons:

  • Relies heavily on technique (can burn/melt PVC if not careful)
  • More time consuming than other methods, 3-5 minutes depending on different pipe sizes and temperatures
Learn More See Heat Gun Video Here Find Heat Guns Here

Heat Boxes

Heat Boxes are a box with a heating element similar to a kettle.  The idea is to evenly spread heat onto the exposed side of pipe and with a highly reflective interior, boxes reach high heats quickly.  The size of PVC you put in a heat box depends on what size box you buy.  Expect to bend pipe from ½” to 6”.

 

Price: $747.00 – $975.00

Pros:

  • Almost completely hands-free heating (needs occasional pipe rotation for even heat)
  • High quality manufacturing
  • Can have double doors so you can bend shorter lengths with one door open

Cons:

  • Can take longer than other methods since the element needs time to preheat the box. Some ½” to 2” types need 10 minutes to preheat.
  • More expensive (½” to 2” model was $645 USD as of the date of this post)
  • Less portable than other methods (½” to 2” model is 15lbs, larger styles can be 75 lbs with wheels)
Learn More See Heat Box Video Here Find Heat Boxes Here

Propane Torches

Many use propane torches for their lower price, convenience, and intense heat.  Torches come with or without a tip, but a heating nozzle is best for even heating and bending.  These save money and time, but results depend on your technique since PVC can burn due to how harsh and uneven the heat is.

 

Price: $24.00 – $124.00

Pros:

  • Gets pipe hot fast
  • Super cost-effective

Cons:

  • Relies heavily on technique (can burn/melt PVC easily if not careful)
Learn More See Propane Torch Video Here Find Propane Torches Here

Heat Tanks

The Heat Tank harnesses the best features of heat guns and heat boxes.  Similar in design to a heat box, the Heat Tank uses your heat gun instead of an element.  This prevents PVC from overheating and burning due to its even air flow and temperature gauge.  The Heat Tank is a more cost-effective version of a heat box without sacrificing quality.

 

Price: $96.99

Pros:

  • Completely hands-free heating
  • Cost-effective, just use your own heat gun
  • Temperature gauge and timer allow for accuracy

Cons:

  • Although light, not as portable as other methods
Learn More See Heat Tank Video Here Find Heat Tanks Here

Elemental Heaters

Element heaters have a flexible element that slides into the PVC pipe to heat from within. This allows you to make complex bends which are difficult or nearly impossible with other methods.

 

Price: $96.99

Pros:

  • A large variety of choices for multiple pipe sizes

Cons:

  • More expensive than other options
  • Takes longer than other methods
Learn More See Element Heaters Video Here Find Element Heaters Here

Car Exhaust

Using the exhaust pipe of a car to heat and bend pipe is one of the oldest tricks in the book.  All you have to do is stick your PVC pipe in the exhaust pipe of your vehicle and let it run until the PVC starts to soften.

 

Price: $2000.00 – $50 000.00

Pros:

  • Convenient
  • Most people have cars

Cons:

  • Takes much longer than other methods, must have an old smoky exhaust pipe
  • Not as accurate at other methods, do not attempt in an enclosed area!
  • You need to have a car, can be expensive in terms of fuel costs
  • How big is your exhaust pipe?
  • Electric vehicles will not work
Learn More See Video Here Find Cars Here

Cold Spring Bender

If you’d prefer to avoid heat altogether, a Cold Spring Bender might be ideal option. These tools resemble a heavy-duty spring that slides over PVC pipe so you can cold bend over your knee. A tool like the Pipe Viper prevents your pipe from collapsing or fracturing during a cold bend. These come in a variety of different lengths and widths to cold bend pipe between ½” and 4”.

 

Price: $36.49 – $501.99

Pros:

  • Very easy to use, just bend the pipe over your knee
  • Very portable

Cons:

  • Only useful for cold bending
  • Kids might think it’s a slinky and steal it
  • Can only be used for schedule 40 PVC pipe
  • Needs to be at least 10 ֯C to work effectively
Learn More See Cold Bender Video Find Cold Benders Here