Are HDPE insulators better than Porcelain insulators?

Are HDPE insulators better than Porcelain insulators?
The question that has been kicking around the utility space for the several years is a simple one, “Are HDPE pin insulators better than porcelain pin insulators?”

The answer is more complex.  It depends.  It depends on the installation location, it depends on the predominant weather in the region, it depends on the budget, and it depends on the experience of the local utility.

In an article called Should I Use HDPE or Porcelain Insulators?, Steve Lindsay compares the pros and cons of each technology showing how each technology has its strengths.

HDPE, or high density polyethylene, pin insulators are a great choice.  They represent the latest in distribution insulator technology.   They are lightweight and have thin sheds for greater creep distance.  They are not prone to cracking, breaking, or being destroyed by a vandal with a BB gun. They are tough.  You can throw them in the back of your truck on the way to an installation and they will arrive undamaged.

HDPE insulators perform better in low temperatures and areas with heavy freeze-thaw cycles. The material is also inherently hydrophobic so these insulators “self-clean” in rain events.  This is perfect for coastal areas and locations with high pollutants where salt and chemicals can lead to tracking and early failure.  In truth, HDPE pins seem like the perfect alternative to porcelain.

But there are some issues.  HDPE pin insulators are usually more expensive.  They also have a lower melting point than porcelain (150° C vs 1000° C) which still exceeds any temperature the insulator will see in normal operating conditions. Some utilities also have expressed concerns for HDPE insulators simply because they don’t have the long track record of porcelain.

In a lot of ways, HPDE insulators are a better alternative to porcelain.  However, if you are in an area not prone to freeze-thaw cycles, not likely to see vandals, and free from contaminants, porcelain pin insulators are the more economical choice.

So, it depends.  It depends on the utility, the location, the budget, and the application.  Both HDPE and porcelain pin insulators are excellent products and will reliably support your distribution lines for years to come.

That’s why Peak Demand carries both lines of pin insulators.  Click here to see Peak Demand’s full line of HDPE and porcelain pin insulators.

Post written by Jon Rennie

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