Can EMT be Used Outdoors? Exploring Options

Can EMT be used outdoors? It’s a question that often arises when planning electrical installations in outdoor spaces. EMT, or Electrical Metallic Tubing, is a popular choice for indoor applications due to its lightweight and cost-effectiveness. However, when it comes to outdoor environments, factors like moisture, temperature variations, and exposure to the elements raise concerns about its suitability.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve into the world of outdoor conduit options, addressing common questions and providing practical insights to help you make informed decisions. From understanding the risks of using EMT in wet locations to exploring alternatives like PVC and weatherproof conduits, we’ll cover everything you need to know to ensure safe and reliable electrical installations in outdoor settings.

The Many Different Uses of Aluminum Conduit

Aluminum conduit is a versatile option that finds application in various electrical installations, both indoors and outdoors. Its lightweight yet durable construction makes it suitable for a wide range of environments, from residential buildings to industrial facilities. One of the primary uses of aluminum conduit is in electrical wiring systems, where it serves as a protective housing for wires and cables, shielding them from damage and providing a secure pathway for electrical currents.

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In addition to its use in electrical wiring, people also employ aluminum conduit in conduit bending applications, where they can shape and manipulate it to accommodate complex wiring configurations and routing requirements.

Its malleability and ease of bending make it a preferred choice for electricians and contractors tasked with installing electrical systems in tight or challenging spaces.

Overall, the versatility, durability, and ease of installation make aluminum conduit a popular choice for a wide range of electrical applications, demonstrating its importance in modern electrical infrastructure.

Types of Electrical Conduit for Outdoor Use

Rigid Metal Conduit (RMC)

People know Rigid Metal Conduit (RMC), also called galvanized steel conduit, as a robust option designed for outdoor applications requiring maximum protection. Constructed from thick steel tubing, RMC offers superior resistance to physical damage, corrosion, and fire, making it ideal for use in harsh and demanding environments.

Its rigid nature provides excellent support for electrical wiring, ensuring stability and longevity in outdoor installations. While RMC is heavier and more expensive than other conduit types, its durability and strength make it a preferred choice for high-risk outdoor settings such as industrial facilities, bridges, and underground installations.

Intermediate Metal Conduit (IMC)

Intermediate Metal Conduit (IMC) strikes a balance between strength and flexibility, offering enhanced protection for outdoor electrical wiring systems. Made from galvanized steel, IMC features a thinner wall compared to RMC, providing adequate protection while reducing weight and cost. Its intermediate level of rigidity makes it suitable for a wide range of outdoor applications, including commercial buildings, utility poles, and outdoor lighting installations.

IMC is resistant to corrosion and moisture, ensuring reliable performance in outdoor environments exposed to the elements. With its ease of installation and versatility, IMC is a popular choice for outdoor electrical projects where durability and cost-effectiveness are essential considerations.

Electrical Metallic Tubing (EMT)

Electrical Metallic Tubing (EMT) is a lightweight and cost-effective conduit option commonly used for outdoor electrical installations where moderate protection is sufficient. EMT, made from thin-wall steel tubing, offers flexibility and ease of installation, making it ideal for applications that require conduit bending.

While EMT provides limited protection against physical damage and moisture compared to RMC and IMC, it is suitable for low-risk outdoor environments such as residential buildings, patios, and small-scale outdoor lighting projects. With its affordability and ease of handling, EMT is a popular choice for DIY enthusiasts and contractors seeking a practical conduit solution for outdoor electrical wiring needs.

Exploring the Risks of EMT in Wet Locations

When considering whether EMT can be used outdoors, one of the primary concerns arises from its susceptibility to rust and corrosion in wet environments. While EMT is suitable for dry indoor locations, exposure to moisture can accelerate its deterioration, compromising its structural integrity and electrical safety. In wet locations, the risk of rusting is particularly high, posing potential hazards to both the conduit and the electrical wiring within.

To mitigate these risks, it’s essential to explore alternative conduit options specifically designed for outdoor use. PVC conduits and weatherproof EMT fittings offer enhanced protection against moisture and corrosion, making them more suitable choices for outdoor installations subjected to wet conditions.

Understanding the Importance of Weatherproof Conduits

When selecting conduits for outdoor applications, weatherproofing is paramount to ensure long-term durability and safety. Unlike indoor environments, outdoor spaces are exposed to a wide range of weather conditions, including rain, snow, humidity, and temperature fluctuations. Conventional EMT conduits lack the necessary protective features to withstand such harsh elements, making them unsuitable for outdoor use without adequate weatherproofing measures.

On the other hand, engineers specifically engineer weatherproof conduits to resist moisture intrusion and corrosion, ensuring reliable performance in outdoor settings. Typically, manufacturers construct these conduits from durable materials such as PVC, fiberglass, or coated metal, providing superior protection against environmental hazards while maintaining compliance with safety standards and building codes.

Choosing the Right Conduit for Outdoor Installations

When deciding on the appropriate conduit for outdoor installations, it’s essential to consider factors such as the specific environmental conditions, application requirements, and local building codes. While EMT may suit certain outdoor applications, such as protected areas or short runs, experts generally recommend opting for weatherproof conduits for maximum durability and safety.

PVC conduits offer excellent resistance to moisture, corrosion, and UV exposure, making them an ideal choice for most outdoor installations. Additionally, weatherproof EMT fittings provide a viable alternative for applications where the use of traditional EMT conduits is preferred. By selecting the right conduit materials and fittings, you can ensure reliable electrical performance and longevity in outdoor environments.


In conclusion, assessing the specific environmental factors and application requirements is essential to determine the suitability of using EMT outdoors in certain circumstances. However, for installations in wet locations or exposed outdoor settings, we highly recommend opting for weatherproof conduits to mitigate the risks of rust, corrosion, and electrical hazards.

By prioritizing weatherproofing and selecting appropriate conduit materials, such as PVC or weatherproof EMT fittings, you can ensure the longevity and safety of your outdoor electrical systems. Remember to adhere to local building codes and regulations and consult with qualified professionals for expert guidance on selecting and installing conduits for outdoor applications. With the right choices and precautions, you can enjoy reliable and hassle-free outdoor electrical installations for years to come.

FAQs on Using EMT Outdoors

Can EMT be used in wet locations?

Yes, you can use EMT (Electrical Metallic Tubing) in wet locations, but you should consider the level of exposure to moisture. While EMT provides some protection against moisture, it is not as resistant to water ingress as other conduit types like PVC or rigid metal conduit (RMC). Therefore, it’s advisable to use EMT in wet locations only when you take additional measures, such as sealing fittings and using waterproof connectors, to prevent water penetration.

Will EMT conduit rust outside?

EMT conduit can rust outside when exposed to moisture and other environmental factors such as humidity and salt spray. While EMT has a layer of zinc coating to provide some corrosion resistance, prolonged exposure to outdoor elements can still cause rust formation over time. To minimize the risk of rusting, it’s essential to properly seal and protect EMT conduit fittings and joints and consider alternative conduit options, such as PVC or galvanized steel conduit, for outdoor installations in corrosive environments.

What type of conduit should you use outdoors?

The type of conduit you should use outdoors depends on various factors, including the specific environmental conditions, application requirements, and local building codes. For maximum durability and protection against moisture and corrosion, we recommend weatherproof conduits such as PVC or galvanized steel conduit for outdoor installations.

These conduits are specifically designed to withstand exposure to outdoor elements and provide long-term reliability in outdoor environments.

Can you use PVC or EMT on the outside of the house?

Yes, you can use both PVC and EMT conduits on the outside of a house, but the choice depends on the specific requirements of the installation. PVC conduit is a popular choice for outdoor applications due to its resistance to moisture, corrosion, and UV exposure. It is lightweight, easy to install, and cost-effective, making it suitable for a wide range of outdoor electrical wiring projects.

On the other hand, EMT conduit offers greater mechanical protection and is preferred in applications where additional strength and rigidity are required. Ultimately, the selection between PVC and EMT conduits for outdoor use depends on factors such as the level of protection needed, budget constraints, and local building codes.

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