CPVC, an excellent material for many applications, deserves more promotion.

You may have read that BFGoodrich sold its chemical business last November. Included in the sale was the department responsible for the production of CPVC resin for plastic pipe. The company that bought the chemical division is AEA Investors. The purchase price, a mere $1.4 billion.

The plumbing industry knows BFGoodrich primarily for CPVC plastic pipe and FlowGuard Gold pipe in particular. BF Goodrich was one of the early pioneers who won acceptance for plastic pipe. At one time, they also produced PVC resin, but that division was sold about 10 years ago. Hence, BFGoodrich has since been solely involved with CPVC plastic pipe.

One thing you could always count on from BFGoodrich were top-notch engineers in the plastic piping business. I learned an awful lot from their engineers. Beside their knowledge, they always had a high level of integrity. The engineers will move to the new company. Not only that, but they will stay in the same building they currently occupy in Ohio.

Interesting History

BFGoodrich has had a very interesting history in plumbing. CPVC was the first plastic pipe approved for water distribution systems. You would think being first on the block would be a big advantage. But when polybutylene entered the marketplace, for example, PB had almost double the market share of CPVC. After PB's demise, it appeared that CPVC could capture that share of the market. However, if you believe surveys, PEX has now surpassed the market once held by PB.

It's not that BFGoodrich hasn't tried. The FlowGuard Gold advertising has all of the makings of a successful marketing campaign. When FlowGuard Gold was introduced, many of you assumed it was simply an improved formulation of CPVC resin. In fact, it is an improved resin - the pipe performs better at low installation temperatures.

However, from BFGoodrich's standpoint, FlowGuard Gold was also a marketing concept. When other companies joined the concept, they had severe restrictions placed on their business. One restriction was the prohibition of producing another water piping material. Hence, they could only manufacture CPVC plastic pipe.

I think the new owner should investigate whether a combination of rigid and flexible water piping might be appropriate.

In many ways, this would be a very happy marriage. Many of you like PEX for smaller diameter tubing, typically 3/4 or 1 inch and less in diameter. For larger pipe, the tendency is to use rigid pipe, which could be CPVC. I have noticed, however, that when this combined piping installation occurs, the rigid pipe is more often copper tubing. The copper industry has recognized that they interface well with PEX, although, I am sure they would prefer the entire system to be copper.

Marketing Distinctions

Another area for the new owners to investigate is the distinction between FlowGuard Gold and Blazemaster. Many of you are familiar with Blazemaster CPVC as being sprinkler pipe. Blazemaster was introduced as a different piping material than FlowGuard Gold. Actually, they are both CPVC pipe. The Blazemaster is manufactured in iron pipe sizes with a thin wall, while FlowGuard Gold is manufactured in copper tube sizes with a heavier wall.

I always thought it would have been better to have one sizing method for both pipes. Furthermore, it would have been great to have one solvent cement. The current listings for the two materials have two solvent cements: Blazemaster's solvent cement is red in color while Flow Guard Gold's is yellow. However, the solvent cement has no real differences.

When doing a multipurpose piping system, it's not easy to combine Blazemaster with FlowGuard Gold. As a result, many contractors have switched to using either copper or PEX. There are fittings to go from 3/4-inch Blazemaster to 3/4-inch FlowGuard Gold, but that does not lend itself well for a multipurpose piping system.

I would suggest that the new owners introduce 3/4-inch Blazemaster to 1/2-inch Flow Guard Gold fittings. This would be more acceptable to the plumbing industry for installing CPVC in multipurpose piping systems. Then, a contractor can run all of the 3/4-inch cold water piping in Blazemaster (although I would have to say I still prefer just one pipe for use in a single-family dwelling when installing a multipurpose piping system).

I know multipurpose piping systems have been somewhat overlooked. However, many of BFGoodrich's fine technical people have been trying to get a foothold in this market. The new owners should put forth a major effort to meet the demands of the plumbing contractor who is installing residential sprinklers.

I hope the AEA Investors will maintain presence in the plumbing industry. CPVC is a very fine material for water piping. High-grade CPVC is also one of the best materials for process applications. I have used it in factories, medical facilities, R/O water, and dentist offices. They need to promote and develop the market for this pipe more.

It is just going to be difficult to adjust to "AEA Investors FlowGuard Gold."