Installing Wires: Is Conduit Necessary?

A pile of electrical conduit.
  • Beginner

Electrical conduit protects and routes electrical wiring. It can be made of many materials, including metal, plastic, fiber, or fired clay. There are flexible and rigid conduits available. The type of conduit used is determined by wiring regulations set forth by national and local codes. It is important to determine whether or not to use conduit for your application. Here is a quick guide to help you in your planning.

Conduit comes in various sizes. If you decide to use conduit, use available charts to determine the correct size for your application. The guidelines will determine the fill factor, which is the maximum amount of space that the conductors running through the conduit can occupy. The number of wires you are running will determine the size of conduit needed.

Wiring without Conduit

Spacing is a major factor in deciding whether to use conduit. The volume of regulators inside the conduit is limited by code so it might not work to use conduit. This is especially true when you need to curve the wires around a bend, which further limits the space inside the conduit. Although you can move to a larger size of conduit, the larger volume may not fit in the space you have for your project. If this is the case, it may be easier to install wire without conduit.

Wiring without conduit can save you money. Using conduit adds to your required supplies and raises the cost of installation. It also takes longer to install wiring when using conduit because of the added steps. Working with conduit is fairly easy, but when you make cuts, it leaves sharp edges, so you’ll need to use caution to avoid injury.

Depending on the type of conduit you use, it could also require a costly bending device or the added cost of purchasing pre-bent conduit as your project requires.

Wiring with Conduit

There are also many benefits to using conduit. Conduit is durable and strong and can last a long time. This will protect your wiring from damage by exposure or rodents.

It may be easier to replace wires in an existing application when it is installed in conduit. It is often easier to fish your wires through the smooth lining of the conduit than through random holes in walls.

Using conduits will ensure that your wires are kept together. It will be easier to repair wires if there is a short in the line. Code requires that romex be installed in a conduit.

Conduit also protects your wires from exposed surfaces such as rough bricks in a basement. PVC conduit is easy to cut and to install and will make your wire installation simpler.

Aluminum conduit is useful in electrical applications because it is highly conductive. In fact, many utility companies have begun using aluminum conduits to connect power lines, towers, and substations.

If your wiring is outdoors, it is very beneficial to run it in an underground conduit. The conduit will protect your wiring from environmental conditions such as rain and snow. Another benefit is the grounding properties of metal conduits.

Depending upon your local regulations, you may be able to use the conduit to serve as the grounding path. Some localities require that a green grounding wire also be used. Check your regulations before proceeding.