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Heat Shrink Tubing vs Electrical Tape | Product Knockout

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Our Product Knock-Out series highlights two products that have similar applications but differ in their construction. Heat Shrink Tubing and Electrical Tape are both options used to insulate and protect electrical wires. They both can be used in a variety of applications and come in a variety of colors. However, they also have a few key differences that make one more useful than the other in certain situations. This article can help you find which product best fits your application.

What is Heat Shrink Tubing? Heat shrink tubing is exactly what its name suggests. It is a type of tubing that when heated, shrinks to fit a specific application. The tube starts out larger in size to fit on or around a wire or set of wires. It is then heated to a smaller size which is a pre-determined shrink ratio. Heat Shrink Tubing comes in a range of shrink ratios for a multitude of applications. In addition to shrink ratio, Heat Shrink Tubing also comes in a plethora of materials. These materials include FEP, Neoprene, Polyolefin, PTFE, PVC, Kynar, and many more. The application determines what material is best used. Different materials boast 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 protection of outdoor elements such as chemicals, corrosion, water, and surface abrasion. To learn more about this specific type of heat shrink tubing, check out our Allied Encyclopedia article on M23053.

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 such as vinyl, rubber, mastic, and varnished cambric. Vinyl is the most popular and widely used material. Electrical tape has high flexibility and the ability to stretch which allows it to be used in many applications. Electrical Tape comes in different materials and colors. The most common electrical tape color is black. Electricians use only the 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. This is its primary use. 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.

Heat Shrink Tubing vs. Electrical Tape 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. 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 more variety of materials that are specific to 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 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 electrical tape. Electrical Tape also offers a quick way to identify voltage by its many colors and phasing. There is also a standard with Electrical Tape that specifies voltage for each color used in phasing and black tape is known to be the only color used for insulation. These products may seem similar at first, but when they are closely examined, their differences outweigh their similarities. “Winner by unanimous vote? Instead, it seems as if the match has ended in a technical decision. In this case, it looks like our crowned champ depends on your specific application or use.” 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. Visit our website to submit an RFQ or call us for more information - 800-472-4655.

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