A neat conduit job says a lot about you. Yet, you've often wasted a large amount of conduit trying to achieve a good appearance. Is there a trick to this? Is there a way to make a good-looking installation without filling the scrap barrel? Of course there is, and we'll see exactly how to do it.
First, let's look at a typical installation, as shown in Fig. 1 (original article). If you are a contractor, this will not differentiate you from your competitors. If you are in maintenance, this is not something you can show with pride. The electrician who did this used standard elbows to save time. However, the amount of time saved is minimal. You should use elbows only when the conduits in a multiple run are the same diameter.
Using bends, as in Fig. 2 (original article) makes you look professional. Now, you are probably thinking there is no way to make all those bends consistent. Well, there is!
You should lay out the conduit on the floor. To do so, draw two lines at right angles to each other. Then, get a pencil or a piece of chalk and tie a string around the pencil (or chalk). Using the intersection of the lines as a center, draw arcs for each conduit. You can see an example of this in Fig. 3 (original article). If your holes are 4 in. apart (center to center), then each arc will be 4 in. apart from its neighbor. When you make your bends, check them against their corresponding arc on the floor. You can see an example of this in Fig. 4 (original article).
Once you have your bends made, you can cut each bend to the proper length. If you cut along the bend itself, you will change the angle of the bend once you install the conduit in the box. So, where should you cut?
First, determine the span of all your runs. To do so, measure on the panel or circuit box from the outer edge of the outer hole on one side to the outer edge of the outer hole on the other. Or, just measure the width of the box to be safe. Make sure your conduit, if it travels a path as wide as this span, will not hit anything. Adjust the starting point (bottom conduit of the bunch) as needed.
As you go, cut each piece of conduit so its length into the box will give you the right horizontal spacing. You will end up with a neat, professional-looking installation. Remember those elbows? Use them wherever you have conduits of the same size in a run. This will save you time and give you a neat appearance. The only time not to use elbows is when you have conduits of differing sizes.