What is the Difference Between Raceway and Conduit? A Comprehensive Guide

If you’re interested in learning about electrical wiring, you may have heard the terms “conduit” and “raceway” thrown around. At first glance, they may seem like interchangeable words. But in reality, there are some key differences between the two.

To start with the basics, both conduit and raceway are used to protect and contain electrical wires. But conduit is typically made of metal, while raceway can be made of metal or plastic. This difference can affect the durability and flexibility of the materials, as well as their resistance to different types of environmental factors.

Another factor that separates the two is their purpose. Conduit is often used to protect wires from physical damage, such as being accidentally hit by a heavy object. Raceway, on the other hand, is more commonly used for aesthetic purposes. It allows wires to be concealed in walls or ceilings, while still being easily accessible if needed. Overall, understanding these differences can help you make informed decisions about which type of wiring solution is best suited to your needs.

Definition of Raceway

Raceway is a term that is commonly used in the electrical industry. It is a pathway that is used to protect and contain electrical wiring within a building or structure. Raceways can be made of different materials such as metal, PVC, or fiberglass and come in various shapes and sizes.

Raceways can be classified into two main types, enclosed and open. Enclosed raceways are typically used indoors and are designed to protect wires from damage, dust, and moisture. Open raceways, on the other hand, are typically used outdoors or in areas where wires are at risk of being damaged and are designed to protect wires from abrasion, environmental factors, and physical contact. Both types of raceways offer different advantages and disadvantages depending on the specific application.

  • Enclosed raceways include:
    • Metallic conduit: made of steel or aluminum and are known for their high durability and ability to withstand extreme temperatures and conditions
    • Non-metallic conduit: made of PVC, polyethylene, or fiberglass and are often used in areas where corrosion resistance and weight are concerns
    • Rigid conduit: a type of metallic conduit that is strong and durable, but difficult to bend or shape
    • Flexible conduit: a type of non-metallic conduit that is flexible and easy to install, but not as durable as its metallic counterparts
  • Open raceways include:
    • Wireway: used to protect wires from physical damage and are often used in commercial and industrial applications
    • Cable tray: a wiring system that consists of individual sections or pieces and is designed to support and protect wires and cables
    • Raceway fittings: used to connect two raceways together and offer flexibility when it comes to installation and routing of wires

Definition of Conduit

In the electrical world, a conduit refers to a tube or trough designed to protect and channel electrical wires. Essentially, it’s a system of enclosed channels used to route electrical wiring. Conduit can be made of a variety of materials, including metal, plastic, or fiber. It’s available in various sizes and shapes, so choosing the right type of conduit for a given application is essential.

Differences between Conduit and Raceway

  • Conduit is a tube or trough that is mostly used for electrical wiring, while raceways are enclosed channels used to route electrical wiring, communication cables, and networking cables.
  • Conduit is designed to protect and organize electrical wiring, while raceways not only protect but also conceal wiring for aesthetic reasons.
  • Conduit can be made of metal, plastic, or fiber materials, while raceway materials include metal, PVC, and aluminum, among others.

Types of Conduit

There are several types of conduit available today, and here are some of the most common ones:

  • Rigid metal conduit (RMC): This is the most common type of conduit and is made of steel. It protects wires from mechanical damage and offers excellent protection from fire.
  • Intermediate metal conduit (IMC): This type of conduit is thinner than RMC and is easier to bend.
  • Flexible metal conduit (FMC): It’s a good option for tight spaces and areas where vibration is present. It’s made of interlocking metal helically wound strips.
  • Electrical metallic tubing (EMT): It’s the most lightweight option and is made of zinc-coated steel. It’s best for dry locations and areas that are protected from moisture.

Conduit Sizing

Conduit sizing is essential because the size of a conduit determines how many wires it can hold and how much space it will take up. Here is a table showing the common sizes of conduit and the number of wires they can hold:

Conduit SizeMaximum Number of Conductors
1/2 inch9
3/4 inch15
1 inch27
1 1/4 inch40
1 1/2 inch53
2 inch84

It’s important to select the right size of conduit for a given application to avoid problems like conduit blockages, difficulty routing the wires, and decreased conduit lifespan.

Types of Raceways

When it comes to wiring, raceways and conduits are often used to help protect and organize wires. While they may seem similar, there are some distinct differences. One of these is the types of raceways that are available. Below are a few of the most common types of raceways.

  • Metallic raceways: These raceways are made from metal and can come in different shapes and sizes. The most common types are conduit and EMT (electrical metallic tubing), but there are others as well. Metallic raceways are durable and provide excellent protection for wires.
  • Non-metallic raceways: These raceways are made from materials like PVC or HDPE (high-density polyethylene). They are often used in more corrosive environments or where there is the potential for moisture or other contaminants to seep in. Non-metallic raceways are typically less expensive than metallic ones and are easier to work with.
  • Cable trays: Unlike conduit or other raceways, cable trays are designed to support cables rather than enclose them. They are most often used with large, heavy power cables or in areas where there are numerous cables that must be routed together. Cable trays come in different shapes and sizes and can be made from a range of materials including steel and aluminum.

Choosing the Right Raceway

So how do you know which raceway is right for your wiring needs? There are a few factors to consider.

One of the most important factors is the environment in which the wiring will be installed. Areas with a lot of moisture or corrosive materials may require a non-metallic raceway, while areas that are exposed to high temperatures or physical impact are better suited to metallic raceways.

The size and number of wires you need to route is another consideration. For instance, if you have a large number of wires or cables that all need to be routed to the same location, a cable tray may be the best choice.

Finally, it’s important to consider your budget and installation requirements. Non-metallic raceways are often less expensive than metallic ones, but they may be more difficult to install or work with. Metallic raceways are typically more expensive but offer excellent protection and long-term durability.


Metallic RacewaysNon-Metallic RacewaysCable Trays
Durable and provide excellent protection for wiresMost often used in more corrosive environments or where there is potential for moisture or other contaminants to seep in; typically less expensive than metallic ones and are easier to work withDesigned to support cables rather than enclose them; most often used with large, heavy power cables or in areas where there are numerous cables that must be routed together

Raceways come in a variety of types and styles, each with their own set of strengths and weaknesses. Choosing the right raceway for your project requires careful consideration of the environment, the size and number of wires, and your budget and installation requirements. With the right raceway, you can help protect and organize your wiring for years to come.

Types of Conduits

Conduits are protective casings that are used for containing and protecting electrical wires and cables. The types of conduits available in the market can vary based on their material, design, flexibility, and application. Here are some of the most commonly used types of conduits:

  • Rigid Metallic Conduits (RMC): Made of steel, RMCs provide high durability and can withstand extreme conditions. They are commonly used in high-stress applications where wires and cables need to be protected.
  • Galvanized Conduits: Similar to RMCs, galvanized conduits are also made of steel but are coated with zinc for extra protection. They are commonly used in outdoor applications where moisture and corrosive elements are present.
  • PVC Conduits: Made of polyvinyl chloride, PVC conduits are lightweight and flexible. They are commonly used in residential and low-voltage applications due to their non-conductive nature and easy installation.

Flexible Conduits

Unlike rigid conduits, flexible conduits can bend and twist without damaging the wires or cables inside. They are often used in applications where movement or vibration is common. Some of the common types of flexible conduits are:

  • Flexible Metallic Conduits (FMC): Made of interlocked steel or aluminum, FMCs provide high flexibility and are commonly used in industrial and commercial applications where vibration or movement is common.
  • Liquid-Tight Conduits: Designed to resist moisture and chemical exposure, liquid-tight conduits are commonly used in outdoor and underground applications.

Conduit Fittings

Conduit fittings are used to connect conduits to each other or to electrical boxes or devices. They also provide protection against moisture, dust, and other harmful elements. Some of the common types of conduit fittings are:

  • Elbows: Elbows are used to change the direction of a conduit without bending it.
  • Couplings: Couplings are used to join two conduits together.
  • Connectors: Connectors are used to connect conduits to electrical boxes or devices.

Conduit Sizing

The size of a conduit depends on the number and size of the wires or cables being run through it. The National Electric Code (NEC) provides guidelines for sizing conduits based on the current load, distance, and number of bends involved. The following table shows the recommended conduit size based on the number of wires and their size:

Number of WiresWire Size (AWG)Conduit Size (inches)

It is important to note that the conduit size should be calculated based on the largest wire in the conduit, not the total number of wires.

Benefits of using raceway

When it comes to organizing and protecting electrical wires, two popular options are raceway and conduit. Although they are similar in their purpose, there are distinct differences between the two. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at raceway and the benefits of using it.

  • Easy installation: Raceway is designed for easy installation and repair. It is typically made from non-metallic materials, such as PVC or fiberglass, which can be easily cut and shaped. Raceway can also be pre-manufactured to fit specific configurations, saving time and labor costs on site.
  • Increased safety: Raceway helps to ensure the safety of people and property by protecting wires from damage, moisture, and other hazards. Raceway offers a high degree of resistance to heat, fire, and chemicals, reducing the risk of electrical shocks or fires.
  • Better organization: Raceway provides a neat and organized appearance for electrical wiring, making it easier to identify and trace circuits. This can be especially helpful in commercial or industrial settings where there may be a large number of circuits to manage.
  • Cost-effective: Raceway is generally less expensive than conduit, making it a cost-effective solution for wiring installations. It also requires less labor and material, which further reduces the overall cost.
  • Flexible design: Raceway can be designed to fit specific layouts and configurations, allowing for greater design flexibility. This means that electrical wiring can be easily integrated into buildings and structures without the need for extensive modifications.

Overall, raceway is a great solution for organizing and protecting electrical wiring. Its ease of installation, safety features, organization capabilities, cost-effectiveness, and design flexibility make it an attractive option for many applications.

Benefits of using conduit

Conduit is an essential component in electrical infrastructure. It is a tube or pipe that protects electrical wires and cables from damage and also provides a safe pathway for the transmission of power. Conduit is available in different materials, including PVC, metal, and fiberglass. In this article, we’ll explore the benefits of using conduit over raceway.

  • Protection: One of the significant advantages of using conduit is that it provides protection to electrical wires and cables. Conduits protect cables from damage caused by abrasion, impact, and moisture. They also prevent interference from electromagnetic fields and other environmental factors that could interfere with the transmission of power.
  • Safety: Conduits provide a safer method for electrical wiring. They reduce the risk of electrical fires, electrocution, and other hazards associated with exposed wires. Also, they help to meet safety standards set by regulatory bodies, such as the National Electrical Code (NEC).
  • Ease of Installation: Conduits are easy to install, and they can be customized to fit specific requirements. Unlike raceways, conduits can easily be bent, cut, and joined without the need for special tools. This flexibility makes it easier to install electrical wiring in complex environments.

Conduit vs. Raceway: Types and Differences

Here’s a table comparing conduit and raceway:

Provides protection for wires and cablesProvides support for wires and cables
Can be bent, cut, and joined without special toolsRequires special tools for cutting and joining
Available in different materials such as PVC, metal, and fiberglassAvailable in limited materials such as plastic and metal

In conclusion, using conduit over raceways provides numerous benefits, including protection, safety, and ease of installation. Conduit ensures that your electrical infrastructure is safe and reliable, while also meeting regulatory standards. So, whether you are wiring a commercial or residential building, using conduit is the best option.

Applications of raceway and conduit in electrical installations

When it comes to electrical installations, raceways and conduits are two of the most commonly used methods for routing and protecting electrical wires. While their purposes may seem similar, there are differences between raceway and conduit that make them more suitable for specific applications.

Types of applications for raceway and conduit

  • Commercial buildings: Raceways and conduits are often used in commercial buildings to protect electrical wiring and keep it organized. They can be installed in walls, ceilings, and floors to keep wiring out of sight and prevent damage.
  • Industrial facilities: In industrial facilities, raceways and conduits are used to protect wiring from harsh environments and prevent damage from heavy machinery. They can also help control the flow of electricity to different areas of the facility.
  • Residential homes: Raceways and conduits can be installed in the walls of residential homes to protect electrical wiring and create a more organized appearance. They can also be used to route wiring to outdoor areas such as patios and garages.

Advantages of raceway installations

Raceways are pre-manufactured channels that have covers to protect the wiring. In addition to providing protection for the wires, raceways also have a range of other advantages:

  • Easy to install and remove: Raceways are a modular system, which means they can be easily installed and removed for maintenance or upgrades.
  • Customizable options: Raceways come in many shapes and sizes, allowing for customization of the system to fit the installation’s specific needs.
  • Fire-resistant: Certain types of raceways, such as those made of steel, are highly resistant to fire, adding an extra layer of safety to electrical installations.

Advantages of conduit installations

Conduit is a metal or plastic pipe used to protect wiring. Compared to raceways, conduit has a number of unique advantages:

  • Highly protective: Conduit provides a high level of protection for wiring, making it ideal for harsh environments where volatile materials or heavy machinery are present.
  • Flexible options: Conduit comes in both rigid and flexible options, allowing the installer to choose which option better fits the specific installation.
  • Aesthetic appeal: Conduit can be painted to match the surrounding environment, making it more aesthetically pleasing than other methods of wiring protection.

Comparison of raceway and conduit

While both raceways and conduits offer benefits, there are differences that make them more suitable for specific applications and installations. The following table outlines some of the key differences between raceway and conduit:

Protective propertiesFully encloses wires with a coverProtects wires from physical damage and harsh environments
AestheticsMostly concealedExposed or painted to match surroundings
FlexibilityModular system is easy to install and removeComes in both flexible and rigid options
Fire-resistanceSome materials, such as steel, are highly fire-resistantGenerally not as fire-resistant as raceways

Ultimately, the choice between using a raceway or conduit depends on the specific application and the installation’s needs. While raceways are easier to install and offer customization options, conduits offer a higher level of protection and aesthetic appeal. Understanding the pros and cons of each option can ensure the best choice for the installation at hand.

What is the difference between raceway and conduit?

1. What is raceway?

Raceway is a metal or plastic channel used to enclose and protect electrical wiring. It can be used to manage wiring in both residential and industrial settings.

2. What is conduit?

Conduit is a metal or plastic pipe used to protect and route electrical wiring. It is commonly used in industrial settings, and is often buried underground.

3. How are raceways and conduits different?

The main difference between raceway and conduit is that raceways are typically used to manage wiring in exposed locations or in situations where the wiring needs to be easily accessible, while conduits are typically used in situations where the wiring needs to be buried or hidden.

4. Which is better: raceway or conduit?

The choice between raceway and conduit depends on the specific needs of the project. Raceways are often the preferred choice for smaller wiring projects and situations where accessibility is important, while conduits are more commonly used for larger projects and situations where wiring needs to be hidden or protected.

5. Do raceways and conduits have specific installation requirements?

Yes, both raceways and conduits have specific installation requirements that must be followed to ensure code compliance and safety. These requirements can include things like proper grounding, minimum depth for burial, and proper sealing of joints and connections.

Closing Thoughts

Thanks for reading about the difference between raceway and conduit! Whether you’re working on a residential wiring project or a large industrial installation, choosing the right method for managing and protecting your wiring is crucial. By understanding the differences between raceways and conduits, you can make an informed decision that meets your specific needs and ensures that your wiring is installed safely and to code. Be sure to visit again later for more informative articles!