They began to sell the rigid conduit for many applications, but mostly as raceway on bridges because of its light weight. Soon after, the two gentlemen realized that they were outselling the A.O. Smith scrap material. Demand for fiberglass conduit was growing.
Safe Solutions: Electrical Conduit is Mass Manufactured
By the mid to late seventies, General Electric Canada began to manufacture fiberglass pipe. Their fiberglass manufacturing efforts helped move the electrical conduit forward as a reputable product and the market continued to grow, making it a key competitor alongside PVC, PVC-coated steel, galvanized rigid steel (GRC) and aluminum in the electrical conduit field.
Another shift in the industry came in 1979, when there was a major fire in the New York subway system. Because of the PVC electrical conduit installed in subway tunnels, commuters inhaled hydrochloric acid from burning PVC pipe. In addition, the black smoke of burning PVC conduit made evacuation difficult; it was a very dangerous and unfortunate situation.
After that tragedy, MTA New York City Transit began using toxin-free fiberglass electrical conduit as it does not release harmful fumes when it burns. Champion Fiberglass has developed a further enhanced toxin-free, smokeless conduit based on phenolic resin which can withstand temperatures of up to 1850 ℉.
Setting Standards for Fiberglass Electrical Conduit
In the early eighties, more companies entered the electrical conduit marketplace, including Champion Fiberglass in 1988. President Goran Haag recognized right away that the National Electric Code (NEC) and Underwriters Laboratories (UL) standards were inadequate for fiberglass electrical conduit. So he prioritized an effort to improve standards.
Haag was successful in changing the complete UL standard for fiberglass conduit. Then in 1990, the National Electric Code was amended to allow fiberglass conduit use in above ground installations, in addition to underground electrical conduit installations.
Another milestone came in 2008 when Champion Fiberglass electrical conduit secured Class One Division Two approval, allowing fiberglass conduit for use in chemical manufacturing and other applications with explosion hazardous areas.
The Future of Electrical Conduit
Haag points to modern advancements in composite materials such as use in the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, as well as most new, small planes, which are nearly all fiberglass or carbon fiber composite. Surely, creative uses of strong resin composites are yet to be discovered.
So, what does the future hold for fiberglass electrical conduit? Says Haag, “When we started in 1988, there were seven manufacturers of fiberglass conduit. Today, there are three and Champion Fiberglass is a dominant force among them. I believe that fiberglass conduit will continue to be substituted for other types of electrical conduit such as rigid metallic conduit materials steel and aluminum.”