Six ways to make better use of electrical tape
By Rachel Salisbury, 3M
Tape: one of those everyday pieces of equipment in the electrician’s toolbox and something so easy to take for granted. That’s totally understandable, but the ‘right tape for the right job’ can make the working day easier, such as saving time, preventing moisture getting in, or insufficient insulation, avoiding unnecessary electrical failures and future repair work. Here are six ways in which electricians can make better use of electrical tapes.
Know what’s what – not all tapes are the same. There are four main applications of which to be aware, each of which may require a different tape: ‘holding’ for cable bundling and other temporary applications where long-term performance is not important; ‘insulating’ for both primary and secondary applications, where the tape is a permanent installation; ‘protection’ where tapes prevent corrosion, moisture ingress, or protect against abrasion; and finally, ‘identification’, for colour coding and tagging, and cable phase marking applications.
Don’t waste money – there’s no point using premium tapes for temporary applications such as bundling. However, don’t be fooled into thinking that cheap tapes are the way to go: they can be a false economy. For instance, a premium PVC tape might only need three or so lapped layers, while a less expensive tape may need several more, so ending up costing the same while also creating unwanted bulk. Also, they may lack the quality required for long-term performance, such as UV-resistance.
Cold weather – a thin tape with poor conformability could crack or split in the winter, so look for tapes that can support the right temperature change for the environment. Also, some tapes can be hard to handle in the cold, making it difficult to wrap wires accurately and risking gaps that can lead to connection failure. So, look for tapes that also have high conformability performance.
Choose speciality tapes where needed – for instance, abrasion resistant tapes may cost more, but if a cable is going to be dragged around on site, then it is worth the extra cost. Likewise, tapes designed specifically for pipe protection, or self-amalgamating tapes can make a specialist job easier to complete and provide a better-quality end-result.
Technique matters – as well as choosing the right tape, take time to read the manufacturer’s instructions: don’t assume that the way you’ve used another tape will be the same for a new one. The taping technique used for basic PVC insulating tapes does not necessarily apply to all tapes, for instance self-amalgamating tapes may need to be stretched up to 100% in order to achieve the correct bond.
Don’t rush taping - of course, electricians are always under pressure to work quickly, but it is essential to take time to make sure that taping is applied properly. For instance, some tapes need to be applied in half lapped layers when re-insulating a connector, and hasty application could lead to inconsistency, gaps and potentially a failure.
Choosing the right tape for the application and then making sure it is applied properly may seem like a small step, but it is one that can make a huge difference, saving time, reducing unnecessary wasted costs, preventing mistakes and helping to contribute to a successful project being completed.
Rachel Salisbury works for 3M in the UK. Since joining the company in 1988, Rachel has gained extensive experience through working with the electrical industry, advising customers on their use of the company’s ranges of low, medium and high voltage joint and termination solutions, plus a wide range of electrical accessories. Today, 3M electrical products can be found in an increasingly diverse range of situations, including rail networks, wind farms and within the oil and gas industry.
For further information please visit: www.3M.co.uk/electrical or call 0845 602 8033