When your reputation is on the line, you use the tools that bring out your best work. A durable, reliable electrical tape will work as hard as you do. In order to determine whether your tape is made with quality materials and will provide a long-lasting repair, seven important traits should be considered:
The capacity for a vinyl tape to stretch contributes to a good seal, protecting the cable with a smooth, professional wrap. Stretched and overlapped electrical tape will conform to the shape that’s being wrapped, and bond with itself to form an effective electrical insulation that prevents moisture from getting in.
The opposite of elongation is elasticity. Not only should electrical tape stretch for a long time without breaking, it must also contract after application to seal connections from external contaminants. The ability to return to its original shape after it’s been stretched gives electrical tape more flexibility during installation. The combination of elongation and elasticity produces compression, a key component in lasting electrical repair.
Premium vinyl electrical tapes are designed to perform in a wide range of extreme temperatures. This is to prevent peel and material deterioration, which can compromise tape performance. Electrical repairs can be required in a wide variety of environments, so versatility to the elements is critical. Evaluation of the application and environment should be assessed when selecting your electrical tape.
Adhesion matters for long-lasting tape, and it’s often the sticking point for product selection. Superior construction contributes to good tape adhesion ratings over a range of temperatures, giving you sticking power when and where you need it. It can be difficult to combine good adhesion with elongation and dielectric strength, but a quality electrical tape will have all three. Although no electrical tape is at the adhesion level of duct tape, most applications of electrical tape don’t require an adhesion level beyond that of masking tape. A good tape will stick to a surface and to itself.
The thicker the tape, the better the protection against punctures and abrasion from rough environments and heavy-duty use. When used as a primary low-voltage insulation, the extra padding helps increase dielectric strength, increases durability and may prolong the life of the repair.
Premium electrical tape is manufactured with special adhesives that don’t contribute to corrosion, preserving the maximum electric field the insulation can withstand. Some DIYers will cut corners and use duct tape or even masking tape as makeshift electrical tape, which is ineffective at best and dangerous at worst. Without dielectric strength, a tape will not offer protection against live currents. Not only does dielectric strength contribute to wire insulation, premium electrical tape won’t break down because of voltage—maintaining that insulation.
When it comes to fire hazards, electrical tape should be a deterrent and not a cause. Thus, a quality electrical tape should be rated as flame retardant under UL 510. Suspend quality electrical tape over a flame long enough and it will melt—not burn.
Quality work demands quality products. Look to these seven traits for guidance on how to select electrical tape that will stand the test of time.
Header image by 3M.