Comparing Types of Flexible Electrical Conduit for Your Home Wiring Needs
Flexible electrical conduit is a convenient and often necessary option when it comes to installing wires in walls and other tight spaces. Flexible conduit offers many of the benefits of rigid metal or plastic conduit, with the added bonus of flexibility. This allows DIYers and professionals alike to easily shape and route flexible conduit around the shape of a wall, ground, ceiling, or other contoured surface. With its ease of use and increased safety in hazardous environments, flexible electrical conduit has increasingly become one of the most popular choices for wire management.
When it comes to flexible electrical conduit, there are four main types to choose from: Flexible Metallic Conduit (FMC), Thin-Walled Conduit, Liquid-Tight Flexible Metal Conduit (LFMC), and Flexible Metallic Tubing (FMT). Each has its own advantages and disadvantages, making it a good idea to understand which type of conduit will best fit your needs.
Flexible Metallic Conduit (FMC) is the most common type of flexible conduit and is often seen in commercial buildings or underground car parks. FMC is made by winding metal rings together and then interlocking them to form a hollow, flexible tube. This tube, although non-waterproof, provides necessary protection for wires, often in cases where rigid conduit, with its need for bending, is impractical. As long as the environment is non-wet, FMC can be a helpful and inexpensive solution.
Thin-Walled Conduit is also an option, but comes with the added complication of needing to be bent into place. Unlike FMC, this process requires the use of special tools, like hand benders, and due to their solid wall structure, Thin-Walled Conduits lack the flexibility of FMC. Thin-Walled Conduits are usually made of metal, but they can also be plastic.
Liquid-Tight Flexible Metal Conduit (LFMC) provides an additional layer of waterproofing due to its added jacket layer. The jacket layer also allows an easier installation than traditional rigid conduit, depending on the environment. This type of conduit was initially a trademarked product of Kopex International, but since its patent has expired, it is now available from many brands. LFMC offers more protection than FMC in wet environments, with the added benefit of flexibility.
Finally, Flexible Metallic Tubing (FMT) is another option for flexible conduit that is typically limited to DIY use or smaller commercial applications. Unlike LFMC, this type of conduit does not have a non-metallic jacket and is inherently liquid-tight due to its metal construction. FMT is also very flexible and can be bent into nearly any shape as needed for installation.
Understanding the various advantages and drawbacks of the four main types of flexible electrical conduit can help you make the best choice for your application. FMC is the most popular option and offers enough protection while still being flexible. Thin-Walled Conduit offers the strength of metal that is needed in some cases, but additional tools are required for bending it. LFMC is waterproof and offers more protection but is slightly more difficult to install. Lastly, FMT is extremely flexible and great for DIY but is not widely used due to its limited application.