Have you ever been at the “auto care specialists” (or inside some other similarly industrial building) and notice round or square metal or plastic tubes running up the wall, across the ceiling, or along the floor? Every wondered what the H-E-double-stuff-Oreos is in them?
Pure, Grade-A Electricity
Those tubes are electrical conduit and raceways, creating safe and secure paths for electrical wiring to run through buildings. Conduit and raceways are generally used to install new or replacement wiring in existing buildings. It is most common where cutting into the wall finish would be difficult or impossible, and/or where the installation of in-wall wiring would require significant teardown and remodeling of the existing structure.
While not as safe or reliable as in-wall wiring, electrical conduits generally offer more than ample protection against impact, chemicals and vapors, moisture, and other hazards. Gas-tight raceways can be used to block the flow of flammable gases and vapors to
Special submersible, waterproof raceways are available for aquatic applications, and EMI and/or RFI (electromagnetic interference and radio frequency interference) shielded versions can be manufactured using specialized metals and/or coatings.
Raceways can be used to run electrical power, data, A/V, or almost any other type of wiring. The material of construction depends on several factors, including the application, location/environment, and aesthetic considerations. Metal conduit offers the most protection, but plastic versions are more versatile and easier to install. For certain applications, particularly those that require vibration isolation, flexible conduit may be used.
Don’t Try This at Home
In most instances, and especially where power is being supplied, electrical raceways should be installed by an electrician. The use, form, and installation of conduit is subject to a number of safety regulations, both local and national, including those specified by the US National Electrical Code (NEC).
The next time you spot a stretch of metal tubing secured to the ceiling, think of all that electricity speeding along the raceway, battling for the finish line.
Note: The terms “conduit” and “raceways” are used interchangeably here, though the two are not 100% analogous of each other.