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In our This vs. That series, we're comparing (and contrasting) two seemingly similar products. A lot of products seem the same at first glance but can greatly affect the outcome of your next application. Today, we're taking a close look at the differences between heat shrink tubing and electrical tape.

Heat shrink tubing and Electrical tape share similarities like having the same electrical insulation, come in different colors, and are fairly easy to apply. However, their prominent differences set them far apart.

What is Heat Shrink Tubing?

It is a type of tubing that, when heated, shrinks to fit a specific application. The tube is initially larger in size to fit around a wire or set of wires then shrinks to a smaller size. The smaller size is dependent on a pre-determined shrink ratio.

Heat shrink Tubing comes in a variety of materials. These materials include FEP, Neoprene, Polyolefin, PTFE, PVC, and Kynar. The application determines what material is best used since different materials have different qualities. Some materials have higher flexibility properties than others, but others may have better abrasion resistance.

Heat shrink tubing is used in an assortment of applications. These include strain relief, wire bundling, electrical insulation, environmental protection, and identification. Heat shrink can also be used for temporary repairs and preventative maintenance. M23053 is a specific kind of heat shrink tubing that is most commonly used when the military standard is required. This tubing can be used to increase the overall durability of wires and in the protection of outdoor elements such as chemicals, corrosion, water, and surface abrasion.

What is Electrical Tape?

Electrical tape is a type of pressure-sensitive tape that is used to insulate and protect electrical wires. It can be made of different plastics like vinyl, rubber, mastic, and varnished cambric. Vinyl is the most widely used material for electrical tape. Electrical tape has high flexibility, which allows it to be used in many applications.

Electrical tape also comes in many different colors. The most common electrical tape color is black. Electricians use only black tape, and not colored tape, for insulation. Unlike colored electrical tape, black tape is used for more than one purpose. It can be used for insulation, bundling, repair, and identification. Colored electrical tape is used to indicate voltage and the phase of the wire. Each color represents either high, low, or neutral voltage. When used in wire phasing, the colors tell electricians about the properties of the wires it is being used with.

How Do They Compare?

Heat shrink tubing and electrical tape have their similarities, but their differences are what stand out the most. Both materials are used for electrical insulation, come in different colors, and are fairly easy to apply. However, that is where the similarities stop.

Heat shrink tubing comes in predetermined shrink ratios. This allows for a more precise fit when applying. It also has a larger variety of materials that are specific to different applications. electrical tape has a few different materials, but the most commonly used is vinyl.

Heat shrink tubing is also more reliable. It will not come off with time or use, where the electrical tape will eventually lose its adhesiveness. Electrical tape will also not perform as well in applications that have a high risk of being affected by outside influences such as chemicals and abrasion.

When compared to heat shrink tubing, electrical tape is easier to apply and remove. Although both are fairly simple to apply, once heat shrink tubing is shrunk to fit, it will be secure and not as easy to remove as peeling off the electrical tape. Electrical tape also offers a quick way to identify voltage by its many colors and phasing.

These products may seem similar at first, but when they are closely examined, their differences outweigh their similarities. Whether your application calls for something heavy-duty like heat shrink tubing, or you need electrical tape for simply phasing wires, Allied Wire & Cable is the place to go. Submit an RFQ or call us at 1-800-472-4655 for more information.