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3 Key Benefits of PVC Wiring

May 2016

We’re in an age of wiring. Just look at the cables running through your home or office. You likely have wires supplying your Internet access. Wires (and old wires!) for your phone lines. Wires for electricity. And with the Internet of Things promising to bring us “wireless” connectivity of devices as diverse as smartphones, refrigerators and nanny cams, we’re looking at a landscape of even more wires. All before we even look at the network of communications cables connecting our homes, our cities, our cars and everything else.

Here’s the thing: you have a choice of wiring. And choices have consequences. Like sustainability. And life vs. death – or, more precisely, your chances of surviving a building fire in one piece.

PVC is a smart choice for wiring. Here are three reasons why.

  1. PVC cable components give you time to get out the door. Dave Kiddoo, executive director of the Communications Cable & Connectivity Association, told The Vinyl Institute that the release of chloride and other toxic chemicals is not the main thing to worry about in a fire. “These fumes are only toxic when you get to an extremely high degree of heat. By that time, you’ve likely already died from the intense heat and flames from the burning of other building furnishings and fixtures.” PVC’s are inherently resistant to ignition, so PVC cable components will limit and slow down the spread of a fire throughout the building and limit the cables to act as a fuse. Plus, specialized PVC compounds include ingredients for smoke suppression as well as additional flame-retardant properties. All of which does something critical: it gives you time to get out, and fire-fighters time to do their jobs. 
  2. PVC is recyclable. While naysayers may claim that PVC is not environmentally sustainable, the reality is that 1 billion pounds of pre- and post-consumer PVC is recycled annually in North America alone. In fact, a good percentage is recycled back into wire and cable. Contrast that with halogen-free wiring, which is not recyclable within their original applications. 
  3. PVC wiring is efficient to produce. Because of the chemical makeup of PVC, it is a polymer that can be produced with a lot less energy than many alternative materials. Coupled with its inherent flame-retardant qualities, you need to add a lot fewer ingredients to make PVC work effectively in producing wires and cables. Kiddoo notes that halogen-free wiring is more difficult and expensive to produce – using more electricity and water in the process as well as slower production line speeds – because you need to add a number of additional materials in order to make it viable. “PVC is so much easier and more forgiving to process,” he says, “and it can be melted and extruded into different shapes more efficiently with a minimal amount of energy.” 

Finally, Kiddoo says that PVC is uniquely suited for use in network communications cable. He explains that “Specialty PVC is typically the outer jacket material that provides flame and smoke resistance as well as the flexibility and physical integrity required. Inside, many cable designs are also PVC-insulated. And, today, nothing operates without high-value cable.” Want more examples? Think of Google, Facebook, YouTube and Amazon data farms, those warehouses of cables that connect us to pretty much everything.  Even “wireless” contains additional cables to each of those transmitters!  Kiddoo notes, “Most cables and connectivity components contain PVC because of its flexibility and its resistance to heat and fire.”