How to Bend Electrical PVC Pipe on the Fly

Three Methods:Gas barbecuePropane torchPVC Bendit

So you want to do some backyard wiring? Maybe you need to run a conduit from your house to the garage or the hot tub or maybe an outlet for a fountain? If you don't want to spend the money on an expensive Greenlee pipe heater here are some tricks for you.


It is important to note that any open-flame method of bending PVC pipe releases both HCl (hydrochloric acid) and dioxin, as well as a mess of other toxins. It is VERY important to keep the pipe at the lowest possible temperature for the malleability you are looking for. Certain operations will demand a greater degree of flexibility, and therefore a higher operating temperature, but you should always bend at the minimum temperature possible to avoid major health and environmental hazards.


Methods:

  • a) prefab 90 degree bends - This may seem like a pain but from a time saver perspective these guys are usually just the trick. If you want to learn other methods see the methods below.
  • b)Propane torch
  • c)Gas B-B-Que
  • d)Hot vehicle exhaust
  • e)Gas oven flame
  • f)A PVC Bendit

Method 1
Gas barbecue

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    This is a favorite impromptu installation utilizing the gas barbecue. Most homes have one and they get nice and hot with indirect flames.
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    Start by firing it up and letting it get warm.
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    Some models come with a slot on either side that happens to allow most small pipe (1/2" to 3/4") to slide right in.
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    Slip in the PVC pipe and slowly rotate it with the lid closed.
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    As you rotate and heat the pipe, lift up and down on the end you're holding, while watching the other side of the pipe.
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    You will notice the pipe start to droop as the conduit becomes warm.
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    If you are making a full 90 degree bend you can slide the pipe further into the cue to heat a larger section. This helps make the bend without kinking the pipe.
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    When the pipe is relatively malleable, pull it out and set it down on a flat section of sidewalk.
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    Make the bend you need (don't go over 90 degrees). It's a good idea to stake the pipe down to hold it in position while it cools.
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    If you take a two bricks, you can sandwich the pipe as needed to complete the necessary bends or offsets. A little shot of cool water from a garden hose will help speed up the cooling of the pipe.

Method 2
Propane torch

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    The same method for heating can be used with a propane torch but you have to be careful not to scorch the pipe.

Method 3
PVC Bendit

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    Preheat the bender.
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    Set up forms - if only one part is necessary, hand bending is fine.
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    Slide bender into pipe. It should be sitting in the BendStation, which is an insulating sheath.
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    Rotate pipe every so often. Smaller diameters will heat faster, so they should be turned more often. This prevents any "grill lines" on the inside of the pipe.
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    When the pipe is flexible enough for what you are trying to do, pull it off of the bender and shape it into the part you need.
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    Allow pipe to cool. You can use a wet sponge or an air gun to speed up the cooling process.
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    If more than one part is needed, put the next pipe on the bender while the first one cools. Repeat the whole process. By the time your new piece is ready to bend, the first one will be completely cooled.

Tips

  • Cold water on hand in the form of a hose with a nozzle is also useful for rapid cooling of the pipe.
  • The more pipe you heat at one time, the easier it is to make your bend.
  • NEVER overheat the pipe. If you're seeing smoke or charring, you need to heat it more slowly. Burning pipe releases dangerous toxins that can both kill you and work their way up the food chain from the bugs in your area.
  • Have bricks or other weights available and a flat surface to cool the pipe on.
  • It helps to have a good forming system. If you need to have perfect duplicate parts, it is the only way to go.
  • Don't heat the pipe too quickly. You can burn the outer wall of a pipe while the inner wall is still completely rigid.

Warnings

  • The barbecue method will sometimes leave grill marks but if it's in the dirt, so what? <-----(Edit note: Dioxin is a bioaccumulative toxin that works its way up the food chain. Burnt PVC pipe does release it, and not only does it damage you, it gets into low-level organisms in the soil. These things are consumed in large quantities by insects, which are again consumed in large quantities by birds and so on. The body doesn't break them down, so they amass in larger levels in larger organisms. A bird that eats bugs that eat dioxin contaminated soil bacteria eats a lot of dioxin in its lifetime. This can eventually be passed on to young and also just kill or mutate healthy adults.)
  • When PVC Pipe is ready to bend, it is hot enough to burn you badly without causing much immediate pain. Wear gloves every time you touch hot pipe.
  • When PVC is overheated, it releases dangerous chemicals. Do not burn your pipe. Heat the pipe to the minimum temperature necessary to achieve the level of malleability you are looking for.
  • Obviously you're playing with fire so be careful.

Article Info

Categories: Electrical Maintenance