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Learning Module 14:

101 Basic Series Busway


What You Will Learn We’ll step through each of these topics in detail:

Introduction 4
Distributing Electricity 4
What is Busway? 4
How is Busway Used? 5

Types of Busway 5
Feeder vs. Plug-in 5

Components and Ratings 6

Lengths of Busway 6
Hangers 6
Making Connections 7
Bus Plugs 7
Busway Ratings 8

Installing Busway 10
Sample Layout 10
Pencil Sketch 10
Formal Schematic 11
Handling an Application Cost Efficiently 12
Pricing a Busway Installation 12

Helping the Customer 13

Required Information 13

Review 14

Glossary 16

Review Answers 17

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Welcome Welcome to Module 14, which is about busway, a system for distributing electric-
Figure 1. Typical Busway

Like the other modules in this series, this one presents small, manageable sec-
tions of new material followed by a series of questions about that material. Study
the material carefully, and then answer the questions without referring back to
what you’ve just read.
You are the best judge of how well you grasp the material. Review the material as
often as you think necessary. The most important thing is establishing a solid
foundation to build on as you move from topic to topic and module to module.
A Note on Font Styles Key points are in bold.
Glossary items are italicized and underlined the first time they appear.
Viewing the Glossary Printed versions have the glossary at the end of the module. You may also browse
the Glossary by clicking on the Glossary bookmark in the left-hand margin.

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Introduction The utility company is responsible for delivering power from the power plant to
each building’s Service Entrance. Past the service entrance, it is the responsi-
bility of the building owner to supply an internal distribution system to get
the electricity to the various loads inside the building.
Distributing Electricity For many years, electricity was distributed with ordinary rubber-covered copper
wires. For safety reasons, this practice was stopped. Insulated wiring was then
run through conduit or cable assemblies.
Figure 2. Older Distribution Methods

But conduit and cabling have a serious disadvantage: flexibility. Once these
types of systems are installed, they are difficult and expensive to reroute or mod-
What is Busway? Then came Busway. Busway is an economical, modern method of distributing
electricity within a building. Busway is similar to the tracks that an electric
model train runs upon, both in looks and in function.
Train track sections can be snapped together to form a number of different paths
for the train to follow. Likewise, sections of busway can be connected together
in nearly any configuration to get power to wherever it is needed. Because of
this flexibility, busway is often less expensive to install. This is particularly true in
an application where load locations are likely to change.
Figure 3. Busway is Like Model Train Track

However, one major difference exists between train track and busway: voltage.
The train track has exposed conductors. Because the voltage is relatively low,
there is no danger of electrical shock.

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Busway carries a much higher voltage, and must be protected. For this reason,
the conductors are insulated with an epoxy coating, and covered by an
enclosure to prevent accidental contact.
Specifically, the enclosure is made of 14- or 16-gauge aluminum. It has a protec-
tive finish and is generally acrylic-enameled.
How is Busway Used? Busway does the same job as conduit and wire, by connecting sections
together. The connection process is different – though analogous – for the two
distribution systems. After the connection is made, the junction point is covered to
protect it.
Figure 4. Joining Sections of Busway Vs. Joining Sections of Conduit and Wire

Types of Busway There are two basic types of busway. These are:
• Feeder Busway, which is used to feed power to a distant point.
• Plug-In Busway, which has several outlets close together to plug devices in.
This type of busway costs more than feeder busway.
Feeder vs. Plug-in Feeder busway is analogous to an extension cord. Suppose, in your living
room, you want to place a lamp (or other load) in a location far from an outlet.
Because you can’t plug the lamp into the outlet directly, you can use an extension
cord to feed electricity to the lamp.
There are two types of feeder busway: indoor and outdoor. The main differ-
ence between the two types is the assembly process. Indoor busway provides a
two-piece extruded housing with standard joint covers. Outdoor busway provides
a weatherproof sealant around all assembled components. Outdoor busway also
has special gasketed joint and splice covers to protect connections from the
Plug-in busway is analogous to the end of end extension cord. Plug-in
busway provides outlets every two feet for plug-in devices. Suppose, in your living
room, you want to place a lamp, a radio, and a fan in a location far from an outlet.
Rather than running three extension cords to the location, you can plug all three
loads into the end of the extension cord.
These three types of busway are engineered so that they can be connected
together without using special Splice Plates, or bridge joints.

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Figure 5. Feeder and Plug-in Busway Vs. Extension Cord

Components and
Lengths of Busway The most common length of busway is ten feet. Ten-foot sections are used
wherever possible to run power to a location. However, smaller lengths are avail-
able to meet the customer’s specific installation requirements.
Figure 6. Running Busway to a Location

Hangers Included in the purchase of the busway is a hanger for every ten horizontal
feet of run. Although these are not shown in Figure 6 for clarity, Hangers are crit-
ical to proper busway installation. Busway hangers support the weight of the
busway, keeping it straight.
Imagine a run of 100 feet of busway running horizontally across a factory floor at a
height of ten or fifteen feet. Now consider that busway can weigh as much as 100
pounds per linear foot. You can see that unsupported busway would sag (perhaps
even break) under its own weight.
Figure 7. Typical Busway Hangers, Shown with Customer-Supplied Drop Rods

Hangers are also required when busway is run vertically. (Vertical run hang-
ers are not included with busway purchase.) A special spring suspension hanger
is used, equalizing the weight supported by each hanger. While a hanger should
ideally be used every ten feet, if the distance between floors does not exceed six-
teen feet, only one hanger per floor is necessary.

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The type of hanger required is determined by the specific mounting requirements

of the duct. Drop Rods must be supplied by the customer.
Making Connections Just as electrical fittings are used to turn corners, make tee connections and
crosses, special Busway Fittings – elbows, tees, and crosses – are available.
These fittings provide the flexibility to route the bus to distribute electricity to any
location in a building. Fittings are also used to terminate the busway. Some exam-
ples of termination fittings are end cable tap boxes, end closers, flanges to con-
nect to switchboards or MCCs, and transformer connections.
Figure 8. Sections of Busway Vs. Sections of Conduit

Most fittings can be used on all three types of busway (indoor feeder, outdoor
feeder and plug-in). This adds flexibility in the event the customer need to recon-
figure the bus run in the future.
Figure 9. Elbows, Tees and Crossed Add Flexibility

Bus Plugs Now let’s take some time to consider the devices that are plugged into the plug-in
busway outlets. There are three types of Bus Plug devices. These are:
• Fusible Switch
• Circuit Breaker
• Specialty Plug

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The fusible switch bus plug and the circuit breaker plug are very similar.
Both devices are used to connect a load to the busway, while providing Over-
current (or Overload) protection to the load.
The fusible switch bus plug contains a Fuse. In the event of an overload, the Ele-
ment in the fuse melts, removing power from the load before damage can occur.
To restore power to the load, the fuse must be replaced. Fuses are supplied by
the customer.
The circuit breaker plug-in works much the same way. In the event of an overload,
the circuit breaker trips, removing power from the load before damage can occur.
To restore power to the load, the circuit breaker must be reset.
Figure 10. Plug-in Device Mounted on Busway

The third type of bus plug is the specialty plug. This includes devices such as
special circuit breakers, units such as earth leakage, Optim breaker units, TVSS
units, combination contactors and starters, and bolt-on devices.
Figure 11. Typical Plug-in Receptacle Enclosure (For Use on 100 Amp Busway)

Busway Ratings So now we can connect our busway sections up and get power to virtually any
location. And we can provide power to loads using bus plugs.
But how much power is needed? That is a primary concern when planning an
installation. Although all busway is capable of handling up to 600 volts, bus
bars vary in size depending on the amperage they can carry.
Busway Bus Bars – the metal bars that actually conduct power – are available in
aluminum or copper. Aluminum is a lighter material, but copper conducts electric-

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ity more efficiently. Also, a section of busway with copper bus bars will always be
more expensive than an identical section with aluminum bus bars.
The customer will have to select a material based on which aspect is more impor-
tant to the application.

Bus Bar Material Available Amp Ratings

225 400
600 800
55% minimum conductivity 1000 1200
aluminum 1350 1600
2000 2500
3200 4000
225 400
600 800
1000 1200
98% minimum conductivity
1350 1600
pure copper
2000 2500
3200 4000

Busway ratings are affected by temperature. As long as the ambient tempera-

ture does not exceed 104°F (40°C), busway amp ratings are accurate. However,
as the temperature increases, the busway rating drops. For example, at 158°F
(70°C), a 600-amp busway is rated at only 67% of its full value, or 402 amps.

Ambient Temperature
Amp Rating Multiplier
°F (°C)
104°F (40°C) 1.00
113°F (45°C) 0.95
122°F (50°C) 0.90
131°F (55°C) 0.85
140°F (60°C) 0.80
149°F (65°C) 0.74
158°F (70°C) 0.67

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Installing Busway Now that we have reviewed the components that make up a busway system, let’s
put it all together. Consider this sample factory floor layout.
Sample Layout Figure 12. Sample Factory Floor Layout

In this installation, there are feeder busway sections and plug-in busway sections.
Elbows, tees and crosses are used to connect the busway sections. The busway
supplies power for a motor control center, a lighting panelboard, a piece of
machinery, and a pump motor.
Suppose the building owner wants to rearrange the locations of the loads. Most of
the busway materials can be disassembled and rearranged with no loss.
Pencil Sketch To lay out a busway system such as this one, all you need to do is make a
simple pencil sketch with accurate dimensions. Indicate the lengths of busway
required, and the locations and types of loads that will be supplied by the busway.
A pencil sketch for the busway system shown above is shown in Figure 13. From
this sketch, you can price a busway installation. We will look at pricing in a
Figure 13. Pencil Sketch for Sample Factory Floor Layout

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In the Workplace
This customer wants to run bus into a factory from outside, through an existing
switchboard in the basement. The goal is to provide plug-ins along one wall of the
three-story structure.
The customer has supplied distances between components and approximate run
lengths. From this information, you can draw up an installation plan.
Here is one way you might draw up such a layout.

After completing the drawing, confer with the customer. Changes might be
required. Verify this layout will meet the needs of the application before planning
and pricing and order.

Formal Schematic When you place the order, a more formal schematic will be created, contain-
ing accurately scaled dimensions. This schematic is used for customer
approval and installation.
A formal schematic for the pencil sketch appears in Figure 14. Note that it has
been reduced in size from the actual document that would be presented to the
Figure 14. Formal Schematic for Sample Factory Floor Layout

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Handling an Application In addition to being able to prepare a pencil sketch, you need to understand a few
Cost Efficiently other things to be able to cost-effectively assist a customer.
As we have already stated, busway replaces conduit and wire. Wire is rated in
volts and amps. Like wire, busway is standardized to handle a maximum of 600
volts. Amp ratings range from 225 to 5,000, providing you with flexibility when
working with a customer.
If possible, try to standardize a job on one amp rating. Replacement costs will
be minimized if the customer wants to make changes to his layout in the future
because more material can be reused.
Selecting plug-in devices is just like selecting individual safety switches and circuit
breakers. Refer to your catalog for pricing information.
Pricing a Busway Now, let’s walk through how to price the sample layout in Figures 13 and 14. Total
Installation the number of each component in the layout. You will find you have:
142 feet of feeder busway
42 feet of plug-in busway
3 50-amp breaker plug-in devices
4 elbow sections
1 tee section
1 cross section
1 weatherhead
3 flanges
3 end closers
For the sake of the example, assume that the entire busway layout is rated at 600
amps. Suppose your price chart looked like this:

Feeder busway $20/foot

Plug-in busway $22/foot
50-amp breaker plug-in $100 each
Elbow $120 each
Tee $140 each
Cross $160 each
Weatherhead $170 each
Flange $130 each
End Closer $20 each

NOTE: Make sure that the total footage in your Bill Of Materials includes footage
through all fittings, such as tap boxes, transformer throats and elbows.

The arithmetic is pretty straightforward:

(142 x $20) + (42 x $22) + (3 x $100) + (4 x $120) + $140 + $160 + $170 +
(3 x $130) + (3 x $20) = $5,464
This is the price for the materials specified in the sample factory layout in Figure
14. Note that this price does not include delivery or installation.

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Helping the At this point, you should be familiar enough with busway systems to assist a cus-
Customer tomer in matching products to an application.

Required Information When you meet with the customer, conduct a short interview to obtain the follow-
ing information:
• Any/all electrical specifications, if available, for the busway/distribution system
• Type of electrical service present
• Locations of all devices to be connected with busway, including service
entrance, distribution panels, and loads
• Amp draw of each load to be connected
• Voltage rating for each busway run
• Bus bars preference: aluminum or copper
• Wiring required: 3-wire or 4-wire
• Ground: 50% housing ground or 50% internal ground or 100% ground or 50%
isolated ground
• Neutral: 100% neutral or 200% neutral
• Environment: indoor and/or outdoor busway required
• Types and numbers of plug-in devices required
• Method of hanging, to order appropriate hanger style(s)
• Ambient temperature along busway run, to account for amp rating drop in
high-temperature areas
• Bill Of Materials for the busway installation, if available
If electrical specifications are unavailable, be sure to obtain the following informa-
• Maximum voltage drop allowed
• Minimum short circuit rating allowed for the bus and plugs
• For any fusible units: required fuse type(s). Fuses are supplied by the cus-
You may also want to ask about the customer’s plans for future remodeling or
expansion. This may help in planning the busway system for future needs.
Armed with this information, you can create a sketch of the proposed installation.
After a little fine-tuning with the customer, you should be able to go to your catalog
and work out a price.

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Review Answer the following questions without referring to the material just presented.
1. The main advantage busway has over conduit and cabling is:
2. Explain why busway is covered with an aluminum enclosure.
3. Name the three special busway fittings that are used to help run busway to
any location in a building.
4. Name the two basic types of busway.
5. Name the two bus plug types that are used to connect loads to the busway.

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6. Write up a bill of materials and a price for the following busway installation at a
car dealership:

Price List:

Feeder busway $20/foot Switchboard Flange $130 each

Plug-in busway $22/foot End Cable Tap Box $150 each
Elbow $120 each End Closer $20 each
Tee $140 each 50-amp breaker plug-in $100 each
Cross $160 each 100-amp breaker plug-in $125 each

Bill of Materials:

Feeder busway __________ feet x $20/foot = $____________

Plug-in busway __________ feet x $22/foot = $____________
Elbows __________ x $120 each = $____________
Tees __________ x $140 each = $____________
Crosses __________ x $160 each = $____________
Switchboard Flanges __________ x $130 each = $____________
End Cable Tap Boxes __________ x $150 each = $____________
End Closers __________ x $20 each = $____________
50-amp breaker plug-in __________ x $100 each = $____________
100-amp breaker plug-in __________ x $125 each = $____________

GRAND TOTAL $____________

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Busway An economical, modern method of distributing electricity
within a building. It is similar in function and appearance
to the tracks that an electric model train runs upon.
Busway Fittings Special busway sections that allow busway to turn
corners, branch off, etc., allowing busway to run virtually
anywhere. Fittings are also used to terminate a bus run.
Bus Bars Made of copper or aluminum, these bars are the actual
power conductors in a length of busway.
Bus Plug A device used to connect loads to the busway.
Circuit Breaker An electrical safety device. When the current passing
through it exceeds a certain amperage, the breaker
trips, breaking the circuit.
Drop Rod A device used to mount a hanger to a ceiling, wall or
other surface. The customer must supply drop rods for
the busway installation.
Element The part of a fuse that melts to break the circuit.
Typically, it is a thin strip of metal.
Feeder Busway A type of busway used to feed power to a distant point.
Fuse An electrical safety device. When the current passing
through it exceeds a certain amperage, the element
melts, breaking the circuit.
Fusible Switch A switch with an integrated fuse.
Hanger A device used to support the weight of the busway,
keeping it straight. The type of hanger required is
determined by the specific mounting requirements of the
Overcurrent (or A condition in which current is in excess of the normal
Overload) load being drawn. An ongoing overcurrent can cause
Plug-In Busway A type of busway which has several outlets close
together. Bus plugs are installed in these outlets. This
type of busway costs more than feeder busway.
Service Entrance The point at which electrical power enters a building.
Specialty Plug A special-purpose bus plug, such as an Optim breaker
or a TVSS unit.
Splice Plate A device for joining two sections of busway.

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Review Answers 1. flexibility

2. Answer should basically say “Busway carries a high voltage. Personnel must
be protected against the possibility of shock.”
3. elbow, tee, cross
4. feeder, plug-in
5. fusible switch, circuit breaker
6. Bill of materials:

Feeder busway 70 feet x $20/foot = $1400

Plug-in busway 90 feet x $22/foot = $1980
Elbows 4 x $120 each = $480
Tees 2 x $140 each = $280
Crosses 0 x $160 each = $0
Switchboard Flanges 1 x $130 each = $130
End Cable Tap Boxes 1 x $150 each = $150
End Closers 2 x $20 each = $40
50-amp breaker plug-in 11 x $100 each = $1100
100-amp breaker plug-in 3 x $125 each = $375


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