Demand for wiring and cabling is expected to grow in the months and years ahead. Low-voltage applications for light-emitting diode (LED) technology and fiber optic cabling within the power-generation and telecommunications industries will help drive this market. However, to stay competitive and compliant with environmental regulations, electrical contractors (ECs) should be aware of construction trends and builder needs and seek innovation and efficiencies for wiring and cabling installation.
According to Transparency Market Research’s 2015 outlook for wiring and cabling, power transmission and telecommunication will lead demand.
“The demand for wire and cables and subsequently wire and cable materials market is dependent on the growth of power generation and transmission, industrial development, telecommunication reach extension and commercial and residential infrastructure growth,” the outlook states. “At present, all the applications sectors of wire and cables are exhibiting steady growth, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region, which augurs well the wire and cable materials market growth outlook.”
Within various industries, low-voltage LED installations should be strong.
“I believe low-voltage LED lighting will see a huge technological jump in the coming years,” said Rich Galgano, CEO of Windy City Wire, Bolingbrook, Ill. “This low-voltage lighting may be powered by something as simple as Category 5 or 6 eight-wire cable. We also believe you will begin to see low-voltage electrified ceiling grids, which will have the ability to power the low-voltage devices that reside in that grid, basically acting as a huge power supply.”
“Increased use of and technological advance of LED lighting may mean more requirements for category-type cable,” said David Brender, national program manager for the Copper Development Association (CDA). “Certain ballasts for dimmable LEDs require not only standard branch-circuit wiring but two No. 26 wires for the dimming function. As these types of ballasts become more common, an increased use of category cable is expected in higher-end homes.”
Telecommunications—namely fiber optic cabling installs—is also an opportunity for ECs that are able to keep pace with demand.
“Demand for the fiber optic cable manufacturing industry has surged as downstream customers upgraded infrastructure that was delayed during the recession,” according to an IBISWorld report on fiber optic cable manufacturing in the United States. “In addition, the industry will continue to surge forward at light speed over the next five years. Wireless carriers will expand their fiber optic cable networks at higher rates as more carriers upgrade their networks and consumers increasingly demand high-speed internet on their mobile phones, necessitating more fiber optic cable purchases.”
Aluminum is the new copper?
For many different wiring and cabling markets, materials could change. For example, to reduce cost, aluminum wiring may replace copper.
While copper has long been a leading metal—not just in wire and cable manufacturing but also for the production of many industrial products—its cost and weight have steadily driven manufacturers to consider the merits of aluminum.
According to the Aluminum Association, it takes only 1 pound of aluminum to equal the current-carrying capacity of 2 pounds of copper, making it an attractive material for utilities, builders and others.
In spite of this, Brender still believes copper should remain a first choice for wiring and cabling conduit material.
“When considering reduced maintenance cost and increased reliability, copper provides the lowest cost from a life-cycle perspective,” he said. “Copper is the most energy-efficient and reliable conductor, so it will play a vital role in energy efficiency for the future.”
Installation methods will always be subject to change as better innovations allow for more efficient and effective wiring and cabling installation.
Dallas-based wireway products supplier Connectrac believes builders are eager for more efficient installations. It commissioned construction cost information supplier RSMeans to compare its wireway products to traditional drilling and trenching. RSMeans concluded that it saved 50 percent in installation costs. Improving cabling connectors and blocks will expedite better installation.
Cabling installation is also bolstered by wire packaging innovations such as Southwire’s CoilPAK.
Roxtec, a Swedish manufacturer, markets its conduit connection and penetration products with the appeal of timesaving installation and better overall cabling routing.
Codes and standards may influence wiring and cabling, as well.
“We may see increased adoption or tighter requirements for limited voltage drop in circuits, for example,” Brender said. “California and New York already mandate a 5 percent voltage drop maximum—which the National Electrical Code does not. LEED requirements may be another factor. I would be aware of, and watch for, any changes in the energy requirements of new construction.”