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Can You Use White PVC for Electrical Conduit?

You cannot use white PVC for electrical conduit, as it is against the building codes of most areas. This is because white PVC piping is very difficult to get electrical wires through and has a higher risk of electrical fires. Also, white plumbing PVC is not UV resistant and cannot be used outdoors. 

This article will discuss why you can’t use white PVC for electrical conduits and which building codes prevent you from doing so. I’ll also discuss best practices for installing electrical conduits and how to tell the differences between PVC pipes and electrical PVC. 

Why You Cannot Use White PVC for Electrical Conduit

White PVC Incorrectly Used as Electrical Pipe

If you’re looking to do some electrical DIY work and don’t have electrical PVC pipes available, it may be tempting to use regular white PVC. While you could technically fit a wire or two in white PVC, unfortunately, it is illegal to do so.

You can’t use white PVC for electrical conduit because it’s not made for the conditions where electrical wiring is installed. White PVC is a plumbing pipe and can handle water pressure but is too small for wiring. Besides, using white PVC for the electrical conduit is risky. 

It Is Illegal To Use White PVC for Electrical Conduit

The National Electric Code (NEC) doesn’t allow white PVC to be used as an electrical conduit because it’s not suitable for conditions that electrical PVC pipes are exposed to. Using white PVC for electrical conduit may also be against the building codes in your area, and you may be fined if it’s found in a commercial building. 

Unless you’re using the white PVC underground and for very little wiring, avoid using it for electrical conduit, as this may result in the piping being removed by a building inspector or you incurring a hefty fine! 

The Pipe’s Internal Capacity Is Too Small

White PVC is usually measured from the outside and has a smaller internal capacity, which makes it very difficult to fit wires through. The piping of white PVC is also thicker to accommodate water pressure, but this is a downside when it comes to using the pipe for wiring. While white PVC can be used for single-wire tasks, they aren’t wide enough to hold multiple wires. 

Another issue with white PVC is the type of fitting used to join the pipes. White PVC has very tight fittings, and even if the wires manage to go through the pipe, they will be squeezed at the turn. Electrical conduit, on the other hand, has sweep fittings which help it accommodate more wiring. 

While you could technically squeeze the wiring through the small gap in white PVC pipes, this will only increase the risk of exposed wires and short circuits, which may lead to electrical fires. For this reason, many areas forbid the use of white PVC for wiring tasks, and you may incur heavy fines if you use it. 

White PVC Is Not UV Resistant

Another major issue with using white PVC for the electrical conduit is that it’s not UV resistant and may get damaged if exposed to the sun. Considering that electrical PVC piping usually is placed on walls, rooftops, and other areas exposed to sunlight, using white PVC in these areas is a bad idea. 

While this won’t be a major problem in the short term, the pipes will wear off over a few months, exposing the wires to water and the elements. The last thing you need from a safety standpoint is your exposed electrical pipes! 

Although plumbing PVC piping is thicker and may withstand rain or severe weather, the sun’s UV rays will weaken the piping over time, so it makes more sense to use electrical PVC instead. 

White PVC Is Not Safe for Electrical Wiring

Besides a lack of weatherproofing, white PVC can be a safety risk if used for electrical conduit. The main purpose of electrical PVC is to protect the wires from water that may leak through walls. White PVC doesn’t bond well with cement and may be impossible to install on walls. However, this isn’t the main safety risk of using white PVC in an electrical conduit. 

The main safety risk of white PVC is that it’s more likely to burn when exposed to corrosive elements or electrical sparks. When white PVC burns, it releases toxic fumes since it wasn’t designed for wiring. This is why it’s against the building codes in most areas to use white PVC and electrical conduit PVC interchangeably. 

No qualified electrician will use white PVC for electrical conduit for safety reasons, and you should never do so, even if you only need to use a small piece. Using plumbing PVC for the underground electrical conduit is even riskier as the wiring may get exposed to water which may result in electrocution or worse. 

Can White Schedule 40 PVC Be Used for Electrical Conduit?

Several White PVC Pipes

Plumbing PVC comes in both schedule 40, which is white PVC, and schedule 80, which is dark gray. Be careful not to confuse the schedule 80 plumbing PVC with electrical conduit PVC, even if the colors are similar. 

White PVC pipes cannot be used for electrical conduit since the space inside the pipes is too small for electrical wiring. Gray PVC is thicker than white PVC, making it even riskier to use for electrical conduit. 

White schedule 40 PVC has no practical resemblance to electrical PVC. It’s too thick for electrical wiring and doesn’t have UV resistance, so you can’t use it in areas where electrical PVC is usually used. Gray PVC pipes are also dark gray, while electrical conduit is light gray. 

Gray schedule 80 PVC is thicker and can withstand higher pressures than white schedule 40 PVC. Both gray and white PVC isn’t meant to be used for exposed applications and may incur a high risk of electrical fires or electrocution if they’re used for electrical conduit. 

Gray plumbing PVC is used for underground plumbing in areas with higher water pressure. You’ll notice it has a higher pressure rating than white PVC and therefore is sturdier. 

If you’re getting electrical conduit piping from a store, you’ll find it in the electrical section, and gray plumbing PVC will always be in the plumbing section. Another way to know the difference between gray electrical conduit and gray PVC is to check the internal space. Gray schedule 80 electrical conduit is wider and can easily accommodate wiring, while plumbing PVC is extremely narrow from the inside. 

What Is the Best Pipe for Electrical Wiring?

Electrical conduit PVC is the best pipe for electrical wiring. It has a large internal capacity for wires to go smoothly through the piping and can withstand external weather conditions. Electrical conduit PVC is also smoother, and there aren’t many areas where the wires may snag. 

Electrical PVC is always gray and may come in both schedule 40 and schedule 80 piping. If you’re using the pipe for indoor electrical wiring jobs, a schedule 40 pipe will suffice. However, if you’re installing the pipe outdoors or underground, where it’s more likely to be exposed to the elements, use schedule 80 electrical conduit

Electrical conduit PVC is also UV resistant, and you can use it outdoors without worrying about corrosion or wear. However, while it’s unreactive and doesn’t get damaged easily, it shouldn’t be exposed to acids or other corrosive materials. In the unfortunate case of an electrical fire, the electrical conduit holds up better than other piping and doesn’t release toxic fumes. 

What makes electrical conduit PVC ideal for electric wiring is the ease of installation. Electrical conduit uses sweep fittings, making it easy to turn the wires around corners without squeezing the wiring. This makes it much safer than any other piping. 

The only downside to using electrical conduit PVC is that it’s slightly more expensive. However, your home or building won’t pass a building inspection if you use any other piping, so you’ll have to bear the cost. 

Can You Use Electrical Conduit PVC for Plumbing? 

Just as you can’t use plumbing PVC for electrical applications, you can’t use electrical conduit PVC for plumbing. Electrical conduit can’t withstand the water pressure of plumbing applications and is at a higher risk of bursting or leaking. 

If you’re really in an emergency and only have electrical conduit PVC, you can use it as a temporary replacement for white PVC. However, you’ll have to install the correct piping as soon as possible to avoid a plumbing disaster. 

Conclusion 

The NFPA and NEC codes are quite strict regarding which types of PVC pipes can be used for electrical conduit. You shouldn’t use white PVC for electrical conduit and vice versa, as it will only result in a failed building inspection test or even a fine. 

While you can technically get the wiring through a white PVC pipe, it can cause the wires to become exposed and increase the risk of electrical fires. So, why risk burning down the whole building to save a few dollars or some time?

For more, check out Can Duct Tape Be Used Instead of Electrical Tape?