How to Ground a PVC Pipe

When electrostatic charge buildup is possible, such as in ventilation ducts, PVC pipes should be grounded.
When electrostatic charge buildup is possible, such as in ventilation ducts, PVC pipes should be grounded. (Image: te en PVC 45° image by Marie-Thérèse GUIHAL from Fotolia.com)

Grounding a polyvinyl chloride (PVC) pipe may be necessary in any application where the likelihood of electrostatic charge buildup is possible, especially in ventilation ducts for dust collection systems where very fine particles may accumulate. Grounding conductors may be necessary on the interior and exterior surfaces of the pipe as a safety precaution to prevent explosions. When pipes used in installations are conductors, such as steel, the pipes themselves may act as a ground. However, PVC is an insulator and, as a result, in order to ground PVC pipes a conductor must be added.

Things You'll Need

  • Bare copper wire (12 AWG)
  • Wire cutting pliers
  • Fish tape

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Adding an Equipment Ground to a PVC Pipe

Pull a length of bare uninsulated copper wire through the entire length of the PVC pipe in question. If the wire cannot be pushed through easily on its own, a fish tape must be used. Insert the fish tape in one end of the pipe and feed it through until it exits the pipe. Attach the wire to the tape and pull the tape back through the pipe, bringing the wire with it.

Connect the wire to a surface that is connected to a grounding electrode conductor system of the building. This may include a grounded metal pipe, grounded junction box, grounded wire or any equipment grounding electrode. The wire should also be grounded to the equipment connected to the duct work (i.e., the tool and the dust collection unit).

Adding a grounding conductor to the exterior of the pipe is an additional precautionary measure that may be necessary to reduce the buildup of static charge. In order to secure a wire to the PVC, either wind the bare wire around the pipe or use some sort of fastener to locate a bare conductor to the pipe. Ground this wire in a similar fashion to the grounding instructions from Step 2.

Tips & Warnings

  • Using PVC pipe as a dust collection system in a home shop is generally considered to constitute a low risk of static buildup leading to explosion. However, using PVC pipe for industrial or large-scale applications is not widely approved, and in such cases metal should be considered the best choice for ventilation.
  • Electricity is extremely dangerous. If any live wires and/or equipment are to be encountered in any work, turn off the power at the source to prevent potentially fatal shocks.
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