Every month, we pick the top Ideas That Work submitted by you, ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR readers. These ideas can't be found in any code or guidebook and are only learned or devised through years of experience and thinking, "There's got to be a better way to do this!" Please remember, the ideas presented in this article are for consideration only. Before using such ideas, make sure codes and safety standards have been fully adhered to.

Now, without further ado, here are this issue's Ideas That Work!

Ceiling tile solution

When dealing with lay-in ceilings—usually in commercial and education projects—it is often difficult to immediately tell what is on the other side. To identify the placement of various boxes and systems above the ceiling, it helps to color in the ceiling tile, signifying what can be found there. (For instance, red can mean fire alarm, yellow can mean lighting, blue can mean 120-volt power, etc.) If there is more than one system above the same tile, then multiple colors can be used. This can be beneficial to both the owner and the contractor.

Eric Branning
Fort Wayne, Ind.

Passing the bar

Terminating multiple wires in a panel can be challenging, with wiring dangling where each conductor needs to be terminated. First, make sure you are working safely, so turn power off to the panel and ensure the proper personal protective equipment is being worn. Second, I like to take a nonconductive squeeze-grip clamp on the outer side of the panel enclosure, with the bar extended outside of it. I lay all of the wires that need to be terminated over the bar of the clamp. The bar works great by simply keeping the conductors away from all termination screws/lugs. Then, one at a time, I grab the conductor and simply terminate it.

Cody Siebrandt
Lincoln, Neb.

Easier access

When opening a plastic bag of tie wraps, make a lengthwise cut in the middle third of the bag. Pull out the tie wraps you need, and you’ll keep them from sliding out of the top or bottom of the package. Sometimes I put duct tape on the package, then cut through for reinforcement. This keeps me from picking up loose tie wraps.

Ryan Richards
Oregon City, Ore.

IF YOU HAVE AN IDEA that has saved you time or money on the job, ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR ­readers would like to hear about it. Be sure to include a good photo of your idea—hand sketches are often hard to interpret. Note that some similar ideas are submitted by more than one person. In these cases, the one that is more clearly written and includes a photo is given precedence. Send your letter and photo to Jack Pullizzi, Ideas Editor, ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR, 3 Bethesda Metro Center, Suite 1100, Bethesda, MD 20814-5372, e-mail itw@necanet.org, or use the online submission tool at www.ecmag.com/ideasthatwork.

CASH AND TOOL PRIZES FOR WINNING IDEAS Each published author in Ideas That Work receives a $50 American Express gift card from ELECTRICAL ­CONTRACTOR. In addition, Southwire (www.southwiretools.com) will send the following set of electrician’s tools to each month’s first-place winner:

• Cable cutter
• Fish tape
• Long nose pliers
• Side cutting pliers
• Diagonal cutting pliers
• Pump pliers
• Screwdriver
• Wire stripper
• Crimpers
• Multimeter

DISCLAIMER: The ideas presented in this article are for consideration only. Before using such ideas, make sure codes and safety issues have been fully adhered to. ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR disclaims any liability from your use of these or any other ideas. ­ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR reserves the right to reprint the words herein at its discretion.