Traditionally, cable conduit systems for telecom or power lines used steel or PVC for their conduit systems. While each of these options offered specific advantages, they also came with troubling drawbacks. What’s more, they could cost quite a bit. That’s why fiberglass conduit products are gaining ground as the preferred conduit systems for more contractors. They’re a lot more cost-effective, especially in terms of installation costs.
Here are some reasons why:
- Easy handling. They come in convenient 10-foot sections for conduits with diameters of 0.75 to 1.5 inches. With larger diameters, they’re even longer at 20 feet. That makes for quicker work, and therefore a reduced manpower cost.
- Extremely lightweight. The lightness of fiberglass lowers material cost and it also places a lower structural burden on supporting structures. But the advantages during installation offered by the light weight are extreme. A piece of fiberglass conduit with a length of 100 feet and a diameter of 1 inch will weigh about 27 pounds. That’s easy for a single person to carry. But a rigid steel conduit pipe with PVC coating and with the same length and diameter will weigh 150 pounds, and a single person can’t carry that.
If the conduit comes with a 5-inch diameter, the weight difference is even greater. For a 100-foot long fiberglass conduit, the weight comes at 97 pounds, which 2 people can handle. But how many people will you need to deal with a PVC-coated rigid steel conduit pipe with the same length and diameter—as it will weigh 1,344 pounds?
- Easy connections. You don’t need workers with special skills to connect one end of a fiberglass conduit pipe to another. All that’s needed is to drive in the spigot end into the bell end of the other pipe, and that’s that. There’s no threading or gluing necessary. Obviously it also won’t need welding, which takes special skills and even more time. This simple fiberglass connection is already extremely secure, and it’s even watertight.
- Year-round construction. You don’t even need to delay the construction to account for extreme weather. That’s due to the inherent durability and toughness of fiberglass conduit pipes. During really hot spells, a fiberglass conduit pipe won’t expand a lot or sag too much because of the heat. At low temperatures during the cold winter months, the fiberglass conduit won’t become brittle as well.
- Reduced friction. It’s possible to pull longer lengths of cable through a fiberglass conduit. That’s because the inside of the conduit is extremely smooth, which significantly reduces the friction. Friction is a problem because when cabling is pulled through the conduit, the friction causes heat which can then damage the structural integrity of the conduit.
The coefficient of friction is much better with a fiberglass conduit than with PVC-coated rigid steel. Lubricants can also be used to reduce the friction further, as the fiberglass is much less likely to suffer chemical damage from the common lubricants in the industry.
It’s true that these fiberglass conduit products also don’t cost much when it comes to maintenance. Yet the savings on installation costs are perhaps the most significant. They account for about 60 to 80 percent of the total system cost. So any reduction in the cost of installation truly represents a considerable advantage.
On a per unit basis, the materials cost for PVC-coated rigid steel conduit pipe is quite reasonable. Yet once the labor and installation costs are factored in, the cost-effectiveness of a fiberglass conduit system becomes more apparent. The installation for PVC-coated rigid steel conduit pipe system costs 5 times more than a fiberglass conduit system, and that’s a cost that may be too high when there’s a more competitive alternative.