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 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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
Real Talk – The Bottom Line:
These days, electricians have elevated pipe bending to an art form as evidenced by the many different methods there are to get the job done.
With this in mind, choosing your approach is all about which method best fits the job and, more importantly, your budget. You don’t need a Rolls Royce to bend PVC if a Ford or propane torch will suffice.
PVC bending is done with a multitude of different tools and heat applications, all with different advantages, disadvantages, and costs. The right combination of care, experience, tools, and technique will make sure the job is done properly, safely, and on schedule.