Hazardous areas and electrical currents don’t mix. In construction site design and development, thoughtful consideration must be given to protect cables and, ultimately, stakeholders. Learn how electrical contractors can ensure safety in harsh and hazardous environments where fire safety measures are necessary.
Hazardous areas require protection
The National Electrical Code (NEC) defines hazardous locations as those areas “where fire or explosion hazards may exist due to flammable gases or vapors, flammable liquids, combustible dust, or ignitable fibers or flyings.”
Hazardous areas are found in a wide range of construction projects including chemical plants and petrochemical plants. Other areas include elevator shafts, roadway and transit tunnels and areas with important life safety systems that, for example, keep lighting and evacuation operations working in the event of an emergency situation.
When planning a project with hazards, consider:
- Does my project contain flammable gases or vapors or fire-prone areas?
- Are there any project elements included that when burned would release toxic gasses and excessive smoke harmful to humans?
- Does this project involve an environment where people will need to be protected in the event of fire?
What do standards governing organizations require for fire safety for my application and location?
- How will emergency electrical systems perform in the event of an explosion or fire?
- How am I protecting the cable from fire and explosions?
- What is required of electrical conduit in fire-prone areas?
Electrical conduit requirements for safe projects
Electrical conduit must have certain characteristics to ensure utmost safety in projects. First and most obviously, fire resistance is key. Another requirement is that it is toxin-free. Smokeless conduit is also important, as is conduit that does not melt and create dangerous alloys with cables. Finally, the best conduit for a fire-prone area meets necessary safety standards.
Select the safest electrical conduit to protect conductors AND people
There are many types of electrical conduit to choose from for projects including galvanized rigid steel, PVC, PVC-coated steel, aluminum and fiberglass RTRC conduit. The best type of electrical conduit to use depends on the project.
Some types of conduit, such as GRC, aluminum, and PVC, are not ideal in fire-prone areas. In a fire situation, metals like GRC and aluminum conduct heat which can melt cables creating alloys that render cables useless. PVC materials release smoke and toxic halogens including chlorine and bromine that, when burning, are harmful to employees, the public and emergency personnel alike.
Many project managers have found success using fiberglass conduit in these hazardous situations, as it is the safer option in extreme conditions. It is often selected as the conduit of choice for chemical plants and other hazardous fire-prone environments, because it is non-toxic and fire-resistant. Further, it does not contain any compounds that release halogens when burning.
For areas like tunnels and elevator shafts where fire is also concerning, phenolic conduit excels. It is two hour fire rated up to 1895℉ and is smokeless. Made with a phenolic resin base, it contains no toxins that release halogens, chlorine, and formaldehyde when burning.
Even more protection with fire protective cables + fiberglass phenolic conduit
When used in concert with fire protective cables, fiberglass electrical conduit systems provide even more safety, without the problematic zinc compatibility issues of rigid steel conduit.
Electrical conduit manufacturer Champion Fiberglass has partnered with cable manufacturers so that when used together the fire protective cable and phenolic conduit protect project systems such as fire pump, feeder/controls, elevators, smoke control equipment, command center critical systems, pressurized stairway systems, smoke management systems, fire alarm systems, emergency generators and standby power systems in severe fire events.
Champion Flame Shield® Phenolic Conduit System supports safe projects with these designations:
- Meets NFPA 130, NFPA 502, ASTM E84, ASTM E136, ASTM E162, ASTM E662 and Flammability Classification UL94 VO
- UL 2515-A Listed for phenolic XW conduit
- Allowed for use in Class 1, Div 2 installations, per the National Electrical Code (NEC)
- Most recently, Champion Fiberglass has achieved UL 2196 FHIT 28E for RHH Dry Applications designation with our partner Radix Wire & Cable.
Gain peace of mind and efficiency with lightweight-yet-strong fiberglass conduit
In addition to the safety provided by Champion Flame Shield Phenolic conduit, this piping solution benefits projects with light weight that facilitates a smooth and seamless installation. In fact, NEC labor rates for fiberglass conduit are significantly lower than other types of conduit. (Get a project estimate and comparison here.)
Plus, fiberglass electrical conduit is durable and corrosion-resistant to many chemicals. Most importantly, it is available with shorter lead times and lower prices than PVC SCH 40 and other conduit types.
Furthermore, Champion Fiberglass conduit helps engineers draft more flexible, efficient and cost-effective designs. Lighter weight and streamlined installation of fiberglass conduit helps electrical contractors meet project milestones such as time and costs saved in installation and materials. Contractors also benefit from the expertise of a company with 30+ years of successful outcomes to help resolve project challenges. Finally, safety measures help prevent risk and minimize liability exposure. In short, fiberglass conduit provides long-term peace of mind and safety in hazardous, fire-prone environments in a cost-effective electrical conduit solution.
Header image by Champion Fiberglass®.