Cable Trays vs Pipes (Conduits)

When laying a wiring system in place, a choice has to be made. You either go for conventional electrical pipes (or conduits) or the more modern cable trays. This choice depends upon a lot of factors. This blog discusses these factors to choose a winner.

What are cable trays?

Wireways and cable trays are like the bones and muscles of a wire arrangement system. Cable trays have been a smart solution to various issues faced with traditional wiring systems. As the name indicates, cable trays are trays (generally metal) that support an insulated wiring system through the entire course of the wireway. One of the strongest traits of cable trays is customization giving you the flexibility to adapt them to your specific site and load requirements. Some major advantages of using cable trays have been listed below:

1.Flexibility of Size– Since they are customizable, they can be cast into any size and shape based on length and width. From straight lines to elbows and curves, everything’s possible.

2.Choice of material-Based on the location and project requirements, one can choose between galvanized steel, stainless steel, aluminium, or glass-fibre reinforced plastic for your wiring system.

3.Type selection -There are various types of cable trays in the market today. To discover the different types of cable trays and their advantages please refer to our earlier blog.

A typical ladder-type cable tray setup.

4.Strength of material– The strength of the cable tray material is decided based on the type of wiring. These can be for heavy wires powering a heavy machine or a simple tray carrying LAN cables.

5.Easy Arrangement– Cable trays can be arranged along both walls and ceilings. These days, they have been placed under the floor as well.

6.Simpler installation– Compared to conduits, cable trays can be set up much faster. They also facilitate easy installation even in the hands of less experienced technicians.

7.Ease of access-Cable trays give easy access to wires. Thus, one can easily identify the problematic cables without the need of pulling out the complete bunch at once. They are also easier to maintain and can be reconfigured for any section of a tray network.

8.Lower pricing– Surprisingly, all the cable tray benefits converge to a price point that is much more affordable than electrical pipes. This has contributed hugely to their rapid adoption.

What are electrical pipes (conduits)?

Conduits or electrical pipes are tubes that route and shield wires running across a structure. They have been a preferred wiring  system for a long time. Typically made of metal, there are varieties like – cast iron, aluminium or flexible iron. There are fibre and plastic variants also.


An electrician setting up wires in a conduit.


PVC conduits ready to be installed underground.

As hollow pipelines, conduits are strong and durable. To arrange a wireway, the conduits are laid or suspended with clamps first followed by the pushing of wires into them. This, however, isn’t as simple as it sounds.

A conduit system suspended from the ceiling.

The key advantages and disadvantages of conduits have been tabulated below.

  1. Offer the highest degree of protection to wires.
  1. Setting up a conduit wiring is extremely costly and takes time.
  1. Certain conduits are impervious to electromagnetic radiations. Thus, it maintains the efficiency of the wiring system.
2. It is highly labour intensive and requires good hands — not everyone can work on setting it up.
  1. Most are fire-resistant too. It protects both wires and the environment surrounding them.
3. It is tough to pinpoint a problem since one has to pull the entire wire out to find the fault.
  1. Due to protection against chemicals and water, the lifespan of wires even in challenging industrial setups remains intact. 
4. Maintenance is costly since it is a Herculean task to pull out wires — and put them back.

How to choose a cable tray.

Now comes the question of choosing the right cable tray. Briefly, the following needs to be taken into consideration.

1.Wire type– Cable trays support wirings such as control cables, fibre-optic cables, power distribution cables, telecommunication cables, and high voltage power lines. Sometimes, a mix of cables can also run through the trays. Lock in your choice with proper consultation of the engineer and the cable tray supplier.

2.Need Assessment-For commercial spaces specifically rented out or an office/factory which might see changes in future, chalking out considerations is important. Although cable trays are easy to install, one can’t simply keep changing every now and then.

3.Wire health-Solid-bottom cable trays provide good protection against electromagnetic radiation compared to other tray types. Ladder-type cable trays are the best for heat dissipation. Knowing your wire network, the load on it and the factors impacting the health of the wires are primordial while choosing your tray type.

Some types of cable trays.

4. Location- Whether the trays are situated indoors or outdoors, involve corrosive chemicals or moisture, or whether it is suitable for ceiling or wall are among the many questions related to the site of the wiring system.

A branch cable tray system. These find existence mostly in offices where there are branches of few cable running across.

5. Material-We often come across our clients asking us – what are the advantages of cable trays? Well, the advantages lie in the variety of materials as highlighted earlier in this blog.

Cable tray or conduit – which to choose.In the modern world, wires are everywhere — power, construction, manufacturing, IT and telecommunication, residences, offices, malls, etc. In most cases, the edge is obtained by cable trays because of the fact that they are more convenient, flexible and economical in comparison to conduits. Global cable tray demand is being driven rapidly ahead by the construction industry. The cable tray market size, which was valued at USD 2.75 billion in 2018, is now estimated to reach USD 5.46 billion by 2026 with a CAGR of 9.06%. Besides, with 5G coming up and increasing reliance on robots and computer-aided processes in manufacturing facilities, cable trays are definitely here to stay.