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I've been an industrial electrician for over 30 years. So when somebody says raceway, I naturally think of the big box over a Motor Control Center. Of course, there are those smaller boxes over sets of starters that are often called gutters. But they're raceways nonetheless.

Raceways: Off the Wall Ideas For Electrical Installations

Steve Maurer, IME
I've been an industrial electrician for over 30 years. So when somebody says raceway, I naturally think of the big box over a Motor Control Center. Of course, there are those smaller boxes over sets of starters that are often called gutters. But they're raceways nonetheless.

Filled with bundles of wires, they're kind of a nightmare when you try to find a single conductor set. But they are efficient for getting the job done when installing tons of wiring, right?

However, conduit is also considered a raceway, even though it's more compact. Just remember the conduit fill tables so you have plenty of airspace for heat dissipation.

Even though I'm an industrial electrician, I often have to work in the front offices, which is more of a commercial setting. One of the requests I get is to add a receptacle or install network cabling. On occasion, I've even been asked to install audio and video cabling, particularly in conference rooms.

While installing these inside a wall, hiding all the components except the outlets, looks cleaner, it sometimes isn't feasible.

Or even possible.

Let's look at some raceway options for making the job easier.

Raceways for on the wall … and ceiling
Whether you're adding power, datacom, or video cabling, there are options for surface mounted raceways to make it more efficient and less time consuming. Products like the Wiremold line of raceways and accessories let you tap onto existing wiring and extend it to where you want it.

These raceway categories have been around for a while. But not everyone takes advantage of them. Some of the types available are:

  • Nonmetallic "cable hiders" for concealing data and telecom cabling. Instead of unsightly wire bundles tacked to the wall, these look like they belong … and can be painted to match the décor.
  • Small metal raceways that can be used for single 120 VAC runs across the wall or even across the ceiling to a light or fan box. Unlike the cable hiders, these are rated for voltage applications.
  • If you need to quickly install a series of 120 VAC receptacles across a shop's work bench or along a wall in a conference room or class room for computers or laptops, there are prewired raceways with outlets included on the face of the raceway or even underneath.
  • Some wider models of prewired raceways even include data ports for internet or network connectivity.

Surface mount boxes are available for the small metal raceways, with both deep and shallow configurations to fit the device installed. Some have solid backplates that attach to the wall. Others have an opening to allow access to an existing in-the-wall box to start the run.

Large capacity (approximately 4" by 4 ¾") steel raceways allow more conductors per raceway and can be used as feeder or header raceways. Additionally, a divider can allow both data/communications cabling and power conductors to coexist in the same raceway.

Pre-cut covers give you standard outlet locations, saving time during installation.  It will also accept industry standard and proprietary devices for voice, audio, data and video point of use applications.

For power applications, these raceways handle conductors from 14 AWG up to 2/0 AWG.
If retrofitting an existing layout, these options make upgrades quicker, while still maintaining an aesthetically pleasing look.

But here's something else that may really intrigue you.

Across the floor is a chore … no more!
Let's face it. The need for power and connectivity in the office, lecture hall, or other public facilities is growing and changing at a fast pace. Some of the locations you need more power and connectivity options are:

  • Healthcare facilities
  • Hospitality businesses
  • Entertainment venues
  • Gyms and workout businesses
  • Commercial buildings and conference centers
  • Education, including lecture halls
  • Retail establishments

The list could go on and on.

It's not always easy to keep up, right?

Over the floor mat-style extension cord hiders work, but are not always the best option. They might be good for temporary use, but for permanent installs, they're a mess. And they're trip hazards as well.

Groundable, metallic raceways fasten directly to the floor covering so they stay put. The covers are low profile and slanted to allow easy accesses to wheelchairs and other wheeled furniture. The unobtrusive design is built with ADA Accessibility Guidelines (ADA Standard 4.5) to ensure compliance. And the covers are tamper resistant, too.

They're constructed with dividers that allow you to channel whatever type of power or cabling you need. Transition covers allow for connection to the cables and power at any point required, including under a table or up a column to the top of the table.

You've probably seen a floor poke-through box that was in the right location when installed, but is now virtually abandoned. Give new life to it with a transition box that connects to the new over-the-floor raceway. Other transition boxes let you connect to wall boxes.

And transitions allow you to create T-junctions and elbows to redirect the cabling safely, even 'snake' down the steps and tiers of a conference or lecture hall.

Surface mounted raceways have been around a long time. But now, they've become even more useful, allowing for affordable, yet aesthetically pleasing new work and retrofits.
Photo courtesy of Legrand®
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