Ultimate Guide to Flexible Conduit: Everything You Need To Know

Flexible conduit is a versatile and widely used solution in electrical installations. It offers flexibility, ease of installation, and protection for electrical wiring systems in various applications.

What is a flexible conduit?

Flexible conduit, also known as flex conduit or corrugated conduit or tubing, is a type of conduit used to protect and route electrical wires and cables. It is designed to be flexible and easily bendable, allowing for convenient installation in applications where rigid conduit is not suitable or practical.

Materials used to manufacture conduit include PVC, metal, plastic or fiber. They are widely used in various applications, whether you are a professional electrician or not, it quite important to understand different types of flexible conduit, their advantages, how to install them and how to choose the right types for different needs. Here, we are going dive into the understanding of flexible conduit.

Types of flexible conduit:

Flexible conduit is classified by the different raw materials, wall thickness, sizes, performance and applications. Here are some commonly used types of flexible conduit.

Electrical Nonmetallic Tubing(ENT)

ENT is a corrugated, non-metallic tubing typically made from high-quality PVC (polyvinyl chloride). Unlike its rigid metal counterparts, ENT offers exceptional flexibility, allowing it to easily navigate tight spaces, around corners, and through obstacles.

Benefits of using ENT:

●Flexibility: ENT is highly flexible, allowing for easy bending and routing around obstacles, corners, and tight spaces. This flexibility makes it ideal for installations that require maneuverability and adaptability.

●Lightweight: The lightweight nature of ENT makes it easy to handle, transport, and install, reducing the physical strain on installers. It also makes it a suitable choice for applications where weight reduction is a consideration.

●Corrosion Resistance: ENT is resistant to corrosion, making it an excellent choice for installations in damp or corrosive environments, such as basements, utility rooms, or outdoor areas.

●Cost-Effective: ENT is an affordable conduit option compared to other types of rigid conduits. Its cost-effectiveness makes it a popular choice for residential and small-scale commercial projects.

●Safety: Non-conductive and flame retardant, enhancing electrical safety.

●Ease of installation: Solvent weld fittings provide a quick and secure connection

Standards and Regulations:

ENT is manufactured and installed in accordance with specific standards and regulations to ensure its safety and compatibility.

In the United States, the National Electrical Code (NEC) provides guidelines for the installation of ENT, specifying the appropriate methods for its use and the types of applications it is suitable for. UL1653 states the safety and mechanical performance for it, including its fire resistant performance, bending, resistance to deflection, impact, tension, stiffness.

In Canada, the ENT should meet the local standard of CSA C22.2 No.227.1, this standard indicates the safety and performance for ENT, it shares some same testing method with UL1653.

Local electrical codes may also have specific requirements, so it is important to consult the relevant standards and regulations for your region.

Installations Guidelines:

When installing ENT, it is important to follow proper guidelines to ensure a safe and effective installation. Here are some general installation guidelines for ENT:

1. Planning: Determine the appropriate size and length of ENT needed for the installation. Consider factors such as the number of wires, the route of the conduit, and the specific requirements of the project.

Cutting and Bending: Use appropriate tools to cut ENT to the desired length. ENT can be easily bent by hand or with bending tools to accommodate the installation path.

2. Fittings and Connectors: Use compatible fittings and connectors designed for ENT to ensure secure connections. These fittings allow for transitions to junction boxes, electrical panels, or other conduits.

3. Fastening and Support: Secure ENT at regular intervals using appropriate straps, clips, or hangers. This ensures stability and prevents excessive movement or sagging.

4. Pulling Wires: Pull electrical wires through ENT using proper techniques to avoid damaging the wires or the conduit. Lubricants specifically designed for wire pulling may be used to reduce friction.

Applications of ENT:

ENT’s versatility makes it suitable for diverse applications, including:

●Residential Wiring: ENT is widely used in residential applications, such as new construction or renovation projects, to protect and route electrical wires in walls, floors, and ceilings.

●Light Commercial Applications: ENT is also suitable for light commercial applications, such as small offices, retail spaces, or low-rise buildings, where flexibility and cost-effectiveness are important factors.

●Low Voltage Systems: ENT is often used to protect low voltage wiring, such as telephone, data, or audio/video cables, providing a neat and organized solution for these systems.

Flexible Metal Conduit(FMC)

Flexible Metal Conduit (FMC), is a type of flexible conduit used in electrical installations. Made from spiral-wound metal strips, typically galvanized steel or aluminum, FMC provides a robust and versatile solution for protecting and routing electrical wires and cables in various applications.

Usage of Flexible Metal Conduit:

Flexible Metal Conduit is used in a wide range of electrical installations where flexibility, durability, and mechanical strength are required. Some common applications include:

1. Commercial and Industrial Wiring: FMC is commonly used in commercial and industrial settings, such as factories, warehouses, and office buildings, to protect wiring systems from physical damage and provide a conduit pathway for electrical wires.

2. Outdoor Installations: FMC is well-suited for outdoor applications, including outdoor lighting, signage, and equipment connections. Its durable construction helps protect electrical wiring from moisture, UV exposure, and other environmental factors.

3. Machinery and Equipment: FMC is often employed in machinery, equipment, and control systems where movement, vibration, or mechanical stress is present. It provides a flexible conduit solution that can withstand the rigors of industrial environments.

4. Retrofitting and Renovations: FMC is an excellent choice for retrofitting or renovating existing structures, as it can be easily bent and routed around obstacles or existing infrastructure. It allows for the installation of new wiring without the need for major modifications.

Benefits of Flexible Metal Conduit:

Flexible Metal Conduit offers several benefits in electrical installations, including:

Flexibility: FMC is highly flexible, allowing for easy bending and routing around obstacles and corners. It offers greater flexibility compared to rigid metal conduits, making it suitable for installations in tight spaces or areas requiring frequent movement.

Durability: FMC is made of sturdy metal materials, providing excellent mechanical strength and protection for electrical wiring systems. It can withstand impact, vibrations, and exposure to harsh environments.

Corrosion Resistance: FMC is typically coated with a layer of corrosion-resistant material, such as galvanized steel or aluminum. This coating protects the conduit from rust and corrosion, extending its lifespan.

EMI/RFI Shielding: The metal construction of FMC provides inherent electromagnetic interference (EMI) and radio frequency interference (RFI) shielding properties. This makes it suitable for installations where electromagnetic compatibility is a concern.

Easy Installation: FMC is relatively easy to install, thanks to its flexibility and compatibility with standard fittings and connectors. It saves time and effort during the installation process.

How to install Flexible Metal Conduit?

1. Plan the installation: Determine the length and size of FMC needed for the project.

2. Cut the FMC: Use appropriate tools to cut the FMC to the desired length.

3. Bend the FMC: Bend the FMC by hand or with bending tools to fit the installation path. Avoid sharp bends that may restrict wire movement or cause damage.

4. Install fittings and connectors: Attach compatible fittings and connectors to the ends of the FMC. These fittings allow for connections to junction boxes, electrical panels, or other conduits.

5. Secure the FMC: Use straps, clamps, or hangers to secure the FMC at regular intervals. Follow local building codes for spacing and support requirements.

6. Pull the wires: Pull the electrical wires through the FMC using proper techniques to avoid damaging the wires or the conduit. Lubricants designed for wire pulling can be used to reduce friction.

Liquid-tight Flexible Conduit

Liquid-tight Flexible Conduit is a type of flexible conduit that, as the name suggests, provides a liquid-tight seal around the wires it houses. It comes in two main types:

Liquid-Tight Flexible Metal Conduit (LFMC): Made of corrugated metal with a liquid-tight plastic jacket, LFMC is the ultimate warrior for tough environments. It withstands physical abuse, moisture, chemicals, and even oils, making it ideal for outdoor applications, machinery connections, car washes, and food processing plants.

LFMC is commonly used in various applications, including outdoor installations, wet locations, and areas where flexibility and liquid resistance are essential. It is often employed in industrial settings, commercial buildings, and outdoor lighting applications.

Liquid-Tight Flexible Non-Metallic Conduit (LFNC): Made of non-metallic materials, typically PVC. It features a liquid-tight outer covering, providing protection against moisture, oil, and other liquids. Constructed from a smooth PVC core and a liquid-tight outer jacket, LFNC offers a lightweight and affordable alternative to LFMC. Its also corrosion resistance.

It is commonly used in residential and light commercial applications where flexibility and liquid-tight properties are required. LFNC is suitable for outdoor installations, wet locations, and areas prone to corrosive environments like attics, basements, and kitchens, providing protection from moisture and dust.

Benefits of Liquid-tight Flexible Conduit

Watertight seal: Keeps liquids and moisture out, protecting your electrical system from corrosion and short circuits.

Durable protection: Resists abrasion, crushing forces, and chemicals, ensuring long-lasting performance.

Flexibility: Bends and twists easily, allowing for easy installation in tight spaces and around obstacles.

EMI shielding: Certain types of LFMC block electromagnetic interference, safeguarding sensitive electronics.

Fire resistance: Provides an extra layer of safety in case of fire.

How to choose the right flexible conduit?

Choosing the right flexible conduit for your specific application requires considering several factors. Here are some key considerations to help you make an informed decision:

1. Application Requirements: Understand the specific requirements of your application. Consider factors such as the environment (indoor or outdoor), exposure to moisture, chemicals, or extreme temperatures, and the level of flexibility and mechanical protection needed.

2. Material Compatibility: Ensure that the chosen flexible conduit material is compatible with the wires or cables you intend to install. Different conduits are designed for specific wire types (e.g., metallic or non-metallic) and have varying temperature ratings, resistance to chemicals, UV exposure, and corrosive substances. Verify that the conduit material can handle the environmental conditions of the installation.

3. Flexibility and Bend Radius: Assess the flexibility requirements of your installation. Determine if you need a conduit that can bend easily around obstacles or tight corners. Consider the minimum bend radius specified by the manufacturer to ensure the conduit’s flexibility aligns with your project needs.

4. Conduit Sizing: Determine the appropriate size of the conduit based on the number and size of wires or cables you plan to install. Ensure that the conduit can accommodate the necessary wiring and leave room for future expansions or additions if required.

5. Code Compliance: Familiarize yourself with local electrical codes and regulations. Ensure that the chosen flexible conduit meets the standards and requirements for your specific application. Compliance with codes is crucial for safety and to avoid any legal or regulatory issues.

6. Durability and Protection: Evaluate the level of protection the flexible conduit offers. Consider factors such as impact resistance, corrosion resistance, UV resistance, and the ability to withstand environmental hazards. Choose a conduit that provides adequate protection for the wires or cables in the given application.

7. Installation Considerations: Assess the ease of installation of the flexible conduit. Consider factors such as the availability of compatible fittings and connectors, the installation method (e.g., snap-in, compression, or adhesive), and the overall installation process. Choose a conduit that aligns with your installation requirements and capabilities.

8. Budget: Consider the budget allocated for the project. While cost should not be the sole determining factor, it is essential to find a balance between quality and affordability. Compare different brands and types of flexible conduits to find the best option that meets your requirements within your budget.

Conclusion

Flexible conduit is an essential component in electrical installations, providing flexibility, durability and protection in many applications. Understanding its uses, advantages, properties, and installation is crucial to choose the right conduit for different projects. Follow the proper guidelines or local regulations to ensure your installations are safe and reliable.

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