Installing Heat Tape in a Downspout, Protecting Pilot Bits and More

By Feb 15, 2013
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Every month, Jack Pullizzi picks the top four 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!

Fore!-tunate ideas
Recently, I had to install heat tape in an existing gutter and downspout. The downspout had multiple turns, and a fishtape would not go through. I tied a bullet string to a golf ball and dropped it down the spout. It came out the bottom, and I was able to pull in the tape, no problem.

Roger Lucking
IBEW Local No. 110
Hastings, Minn.

Bits not pieces
When drilling ½- or ¾-inch holes in a panel, you can save time changing out your hole saw and pilot bit. Everybody knows that, if you drill through a panel can with the hole saw pilot bit, the hole saw will sometimes snag when the pilot bit breaks through the metal; it can snap your pilot bit off. There’s nothing more aggravating than that! Slide a ¼-inch-by-2¾-inch fender washer over your pilot bit on your hole saw. When the pilot bit breaks through the fender washer, it will keep the hole saw from snagging and breaking your pilot bit.

Bruce Brumblow
Boaz, Ala.

Saving trees
What do you do with the other half of a 4-by-8 sheet of fire-treated plywood when plans call for a 4-by-4 phone backboard? All the plywood mills stamp only one end of a sheet, so we have wasted tons over the years. My inspector gave me this tip: before you cut the sheet in half, write your name or sign the board very distinctively (I spray a rainbow stencil) across the middle cut line. Then cut the board, mount one half and save the stamped end for the next job. At inspection, mate the signature halves and show the treated stamp; you get two uses from one sheet. And there’s one less half-sheet headed for the landfill.

Gene Casstevens
Glendale, Calif.

Deployable cover
We carry portable fold-up canopy tent covers in our shop vans. They’re inexpensive, and when working out in the elements (e.g., sun, rain, snow), they keep the work area comfortable and dry.

Larry Ziegler
IBEW Local No. 112
Yakima, Wash.

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 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, email [email protected], or use the online submission tool at

CASH PRIZE FOR WINNING IDEAS Each published author in “Ideas That Work” receives a $50 American Express gift card from ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR.

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 magazine 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.

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