Electrical installation – curving conduit

While my electrician Percy was bending his brain, developing a mental image of the wire routing and keeping track of the number of wires, I tried to be useful – and went shopping:

  • 500 feet of 1/2 inch EMT
  • 50 feet of 3/4 inch EMT
  • Four boxes of connectors
  • Four boxes of couplings
  • Four boxes of straps

I had the materials in hand but no clue where one should start with the installation. Percy did, and I simply began to follow his every move. Think of a five-year-old who can generate a seemingly endless stream of questions. That was me, although I tried to keep it under control.

The first thing that began to make sense to me was that a hot and a neutral wire have to feed into each room, usually into the ceiling box. From here wires will spider out across the room and down the walls to feed all outlets and switches.

We set the ceiling box, went around the room and installed a gang box at each outlet and switch location. With all the boxes in place, Percy began to connect them with the EMT conduit. That involves bending the conduit to fit around obstacles and corners or to point it into the right direction. To do so, there is an especially useful tool, the EMT bender.

Percy taught me how to bend stubs, offsets, kicks, back to back bends, and saddles. I just could have sat there and wasted the EMT on artwork!

Then there’s the issue of routing, which is a constant battle between the easiest route and the most material efficient route. I found out that they rarely coincide.

Learning how to bend the EMT was easy, but getting into the right mindset to figure out the best route took a little longer and more guidance. It is like three-dimensional problem solving, and I was completely hooked.

About Marcus de la fleur

Marcus is a Registered Landscape Architect with a horticultural degree from the School of Horticulture at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and a Masters in Landscape Architecture from the University of Sheffield, UK. He developed a landscape based sustainable pilot project at 168 Elm Ave. in 2002, and has expanded his skill set to building science. Starting in 2009, Marcus applied the newly acquired expertise to the deep energy retrofit of his 100+ year old home in Chicago.

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