EMT Vs Rigid Vs PVC Conduit: What Are The Differences?

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The wiring inside any type of building must be protected which is why having electrical conduits is important. However, three types of conduits are available on the market: EMT, Rigid, and PVC. We researched the differences between the conduit types and where you can use each type. 

Here are the conduit types available and their major differences: 

  • Electrical Metallic Tubing (EMT) Conduit: It is referred to as a "thin-wall" conduit because it is thin and lightweight, particularly when compared to RMC. The EMT is unthreaded and rigid but bendable with a conduit bender tool.
  • Rigid Conduit: It has thicker walls than EMT and can be threaded, making it more durable and less prone to damage.
  • PVC Conduit: It is the lightest conduit material and is usually less expensive than other types of conduit.

It is important to determine the differences between these products to ensure that you have exactly the right type of conduit for your specific application. As you continue reading this article, you will learn more about the different types of conduits and their importance. 

electrical conduit for cable routing on bare interior ceiling. electric wire pipeline on ceiling. industrial interior decoration style focus at metallic emt conduit. - Electrician pulling wire into PVC Conduit Essentials collection. - Electric cables and

What Is The Importance Of An Electrical Conduit? 

Conduits are used to protect electrical wires. The conduit protects both humans and electrical wiring by preventing wires from becoming loose and causing shock hazards. Buried wires should be protected with conduit to avoid damage from digging and moisture. 

Different Types Of Electrical Conduits

Conduit systems are classified based on the materials used to make mechanical stiffness, tubing, and wall thickness. After considering the cost factor, the materials are chosen for corrosion resistance and automatic protection.

Several specific guidelines must be followed when wiring equipment in dangerous areas where prior approval is required. There are two main categories of conduits, which are metal and non-metal conduits.

Metal Conduits

Metal conduits come in a variety of forms and can be built of aluminum, galvanized, or stainless steel. The conduit types listed below are commonly used for residential and commercial lighting.

Electrical Metallic Tubing (EMT) Conduit

Electrical metal tubing and conduits in the ceiling of a commercial building.

The EMT conduit is made of coated steel or aluminum and is a less expensive and thinner-walled option than the other conduit. This conduit type does not offer the same level of protection as the rigid metal conduits, but it is lighter and can be paired with conduit fittings, eliminating the need for threading.

It can also be bent to shape with a special tool to fit around obstructions or follow the shape of the installation. This conduit is most commonly used in residential and commercial wiring. An EMT conduit must be connected with special watertight fittings if used outdoors in exposed areas.

Rigid Metal Conduit

Tidy installation of Galvanized Electrical Metallic Tubing (EMT) Conduits on the ceiling of parking building

The rigid metal conduit has a thick wall and is made of aluminum or galvanized steel. This is one of the most heavy-duty conduit types used in various industrial applications. Rigid metal is one of the more expensive options, but it provides added strength.

This conduit is frequently used outdoors to protect panels, cables, and other equipment from damage and provide structural support. These are available in lengths ranging from 10 to 20 feet, with threads on both sides.

Galvanized Rigid Conduit

Full of galvanized steel conduits and Pull box for cable wiring joint with electrical box on cement ceiling at Main Distribution Board room.Installing a Conduit and Electrical Boxes. Essentials collection Available with your subscription S M L XL 2003 x 1502 px (6.68 x 5.01 in.) - 300 dpi - RGB Download this image Includes our standard license. Add an extended license. Credit:Boonyarit Stock photo ID:1166749986 Upload date:August 12, 2019 Categories:Stock Photos | Electricity

This has the thickest walls and is the heaviest of all electrical conduits. Electricians recognize galvanized rigid conduit for its superior corrosion resistance and ability to shield wiring from electromagnetic interference (EMI). It can be used in outdoor or indoor applications and can be exposed, concealed, or buried.

Intermediate Metal Conduit 

Pipefitter install system of underfloor heating system at home.

An intermediate metal conduit is a lighter, thinner version of the rigid metal conduit and is used in the same applications. This conduit is more commonly used in construction because it is lighter and easier to work with than rigid metal conduits.

It is designed for outdoor use and is used to protect conductors and insulated electrical cables. It is a cost-effective option for projects where cost is an issue. 

Flexible Metal Conduit  

a steel flexible conduit use for building work

The flexible metal conduit (FMC) is available in a spiral design and is flexible enough to bend easily through various structures and walls. A typical flexible metal conduit is used indoors.

It dries out and is used on fixed appliances such as garbage disposers. In industrial and commercial buildings, these conduits are mostly used for guards' electrical wiring. 

This is the best choice for use in various areas, and the best examples of basic FMC are water heaters, attic vents, and lighting installations. 

Liquid Type Flexible Metal Conduit 

Electrical control box with cable tube on the wall.

This is a type of FMC that's available in a plastic coating, allowing it to be used with sealed fittings to make it waterproof.

It is commonly used with outdoor equipment such as air conditioners. As a result, this type of conduit is primarily intended for use in damp environments. This conduit should only be used in conjunction with liquid-tight fittings.

Non-Metal Conduits

Non-metal conduits are made of plastic, also called PVC. It is utilized in areas where metals might cause issues. It is also employed in places where it will come into contact with water, like below ground or encased in concrete. Since they will not rust or corrode, and they are very lightweight. 

PVC Conduit

flexible pipes in earthen trench for water supply in the country, close-up

It is widely used in most structures. PVC stands for Polyvinyl Chloride, and conduits of this material are similar to regular plastic plumbing pipes. These conduits can be easily bent with heat and glued together to form connections.

These conduits are suitable for use in corrosive and underground environments. The main advantages of using these conduits are that they are simple to install, versatile, light in weight, inexpensive, and can be used in underground and concrete environments.

Is It Possible To Bury An Electrical Wire Without A Conduit?  

Yes, it is possible. Although it is possible to bury wires without conduits, it is not recommended. Hire a professional if you want to bury wires; burying electrical conduits or cables is a difficult process. Because the ground has electrical resistance, an open circuit can form if the soil becomes wet and moist enough. 

Furthermore, without the use of a lightning arrestor that's designed to slow the speed of a lightning bolt, electricians are unable to bury wires. This is because they work to prevent damage to your electrical system by interrupting the flow of electricity caused by a lightning bolt. 

What Is The Recommended Depth For Burying Electrical Conduits?

A conduit can be buried at least 6 inches underground. They can also be buried in the concrete slab at 4 inches. Private roads should have these conduits buried at a depth of 18 inches, while public roads should have them buried at a depth of 24 inches.

How To Install Underground Electrical Conduit?

Before you begin, you must be familiar with your local codes, which will be provided and screened by your local inspector for a permit. 

You have several options to install an underground electric line on your property. The preference is determined by the precise amount of voltage and power intensity, as well as the type of soil in the backyard.

If the ground is easily accessible and the deck requires less effort, you can save a lot of money by digging it deep quickly (with any conduit). However, if the soil is hard to break, minimize digging.

Check that any approach with an entrance to access internal cables without leaving the ground level or a removable access cover can be opened without leaving the ground level.  

When Should Conduit Be Used For Electrical Wiring?  

When electric wires are buried or exposed in homes or buildings, electrical conduits are used. As a result, exposed electric wires require protection from various elements such as moisture, dust, extreme heat, and cold. It also needs to be protected from the risk of generating electric shock.

Therefore, it is important to hire an electrician or engineer who understands how to install, handle, and protect electric wires.

Conclusion

There are various types of conduits like EMT, Rigid, and PVC Conduits. Remember that EMT conduits are thin and lightweight, rigid conduits have thicker walls and are more durable, and PVC conduits are the lightest and less expensive than the others.

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