Manually pulling cable with a fish tape is something every electrician knows how to do, and for residential and small commercial jobs, that’s the best way to pull cable through conduit.
However, when cable runs are long and numerous, a power puller is needed. Components of most electric-powered cable pullers are the frame, power source, the capstan that pulls the pulling rope and wire and the mechanism that turns the capstan.
Electric cable pullers are available with pulling ratings to 12,000 lbs., and manufacturers offer a variety of pulling ropes, grips, wire feeders, guides and other accessories. Calculators and tension meters make pulling more efficient and safer.
Five manufacturers discussed their cable pulling and pulling products that are currently available.
John Henry, general manager for Current Tools Inc., Greenville, S.C., said no two cable pulls are exactly the same, and every pull benefits from using the correct equipment for the job.
“There are several factors to consider when deciding which puller would be the best fit for each job. They include, but are not limited to, total length of the pull, how many and what type of bends are along the total length, size and number of conductors in the pull and the size of the conduit or cable tray.
“Once all these factors are considered, and a required pulling force has been determined, the right puller can be selected,” he said.
Accessories play an important role in making successful pulls. Properly sized reel stands allow for easy payout of cable off of spools, a cable feeder positioned on the back side of a pull eases strain on the cable puller and wire carts for smaller-gauge wire organize the wire for the pull and can be moved quickly from one pull to the next.
Rope is a critical element.
“The rope selected for each pull should have a breaking strength that offers a safety factor over and above the maximum pulling force of the puller. We suggest a minimum of a 3:1 safety factor,” Henry said.
Safety considerations, Henry emphasized, are paramount on all jobs. Choose a puller with features such as a redirect roller to keep the operator out of the path of the pulling rope, a tension meter that is plainly visible to the operator during use, and a foot pedal for remotely powering the unit.
Current Tools offers cable pullers that can generate maximum pulling forces of 3,000, 6,000, 8,000 and 10,000 lbs. They have a wide selection of support accessories and traditional, double-braid, composite pulling ropes and a lightweight, low-friction rope with up to a 32,000-lb. breaking strength.
Adele Hendrix, product manager at Greenlee, Rockford, Ill., said that when evaluating cable pulling equipment, it is important to compare pull forces, pulling speed and the equipment’s type of mounting.
“When comparing pull force, consider both maximum pull force and continuous pull force. Some pullers may have a higher peak force, but the continuous pull force may be lower than other options,” she said. “The maximum pull force is instantaneous, used for seconds at a time to overcome bends during a pull, while the continuous force is what the puller is capable of maintaining for longer periods of time.”
For pulling speed comparisons, she said, be sure comparisons are made with the same load. If pullers have high and low speeds, consider the force for each speed.
“Mounting options are important because they provide flexibility for pulling in different job environments,” she said. “A boom allows the puller to connect directly to the conduit, and includes wheels for easy transportation. Floor or chain mounts are available for when there is not access to the conduit. These two options also allow longer pull lengths than is possible with a boom mount.”
All Greenlee pullers of 6,000 lbs. and more have a built-in tension meter to monitor force during pulls. The Smart Pull option measures force, distance and speed throughout the pull. It also saves the measurements into a report that can be used to certify a pull after it is complete.
“This information is becoming a requirement on pulls where cable integrity is important,” Hendrix said. “The Smart Pull also has an app to monitor the pull and view reports from a smart phone.”
Greenlee’s cable puller line ranges from a 1,000-lb. handheld puller that attaches to any 18V or 20V drill, to 10,000-lb. electric pullers with multiple mounting options.
Hendrix said many new models and updates have been introduced in recent months.
“We also offer pulling rope and grips and multiple accessories including sheaves, feeding sheaves, right-angle sheave[s] and [a] power fishing system that uses air to move a piston through conduit to install pulling lines,” she said.
David Jordan, president of iToolco, Clinton, Tenn., said one of his company’s biggest concerns as a manufacturer—and a reason iToolco was established—is to improve job-site safety for contractors and the professionals they employ.
“For example, when using a power puller that bolts to the floor, proper sizing of concrete anchors for load requirements is critical to prevent the tugger from disconnecting from the floor during the wire pull,” he said. “IToolco wire pullers never run the risk of improper sizing because they mount safely to the conduit system.”
In addition, Jordan said, traditional, bolt-down pullers typically require two people to safely move them into position for anchoring.
“That’s why we designed wire pullers with wheels,” he said, “with a counter-balanced wheelbase and a maximum working weight of 15 lbs. One person can safely maneuver these pullers around the job site.”
Jordan said that while pullers work with any pulling rope, safe, efficient wire pulls rely on durable rope with stable tensile strength. For this reason, iToolco recommends the company’s high-performance synthetic fiber rope with a tensile strength of 39,000 lbs.
“It is stronger than steel, has 25% reduction in coefficient of friction and it is two-thirds the weight of traditional pulling ropes. In addition, it does not absorb water, will not rot and resists abrasion,” he said.
Jordan said if wire being pulled is not prelubricated, an added lubricant will aid in the pull.
Useful accessories include conduit sheaves that can be locked into place overhead or at any angle, multirollers or radius rollers with adjustable picking arms that permit easy fine-tuning of the adjustment angle, and a 90-degree tray roller that can create a closed roller guide that traps conductors to reduce the risk of job-site injuries.
Tension meters allow operators to stop a pull if the conductors’ integrity is damaged.
IToolco’s cable puller line includes a 3,000-lb. cordless puller; a 3,000-lb. 120V model; 6,000- and 12,000-lb. four-speed, dual-capstan pullers; and a 12,000-lb., six-speed-plus-reverse dual-capstan puller.
“Over the past 24 months we have developed five new wire pullers to accommodate a wide variety of pulling situations.
“The new 3,000-lb. cordless pullers are very popular, because they are highly functional for job sites without power, have long battery life, and feature a rope engagement switch that enables users [to] simply tug on the rope to initiate the pull,” Jordan said.
Tim Bardin, director of equipment products at Southwire Tools, Carrollton, Ga., said contractors across North America have adopted powered cable pullers as a standard for cable pulling applications.
“Having the right pulling equipment on the job can save thousands of dollars in time spent during cable installations. To help contractors better understand our pulling systems, and which one is right for them, we offer free job site consultations and training through our training center,” he said.
Southwire Tools offers five industrial-rated cable pullers ranging in capacity from 1,000–10,000 lbs. pulling tension, pulling ropes, a cable feeder, pulling calculator, tension meter and other accessories.
With improvements in battery technology, Southwire has developed new 1,000- and 3,000-lb. battery-powered models.
“A good cable pull calculator is one of the first accessories I recommend,” Bardin said. “It helps calculate continuous pulling loads and sidewall tension and also recommends which capacity puller to use for a job. Our Simpull calculator can be downloaded free from our website.
“A tension monitor provides protection for the installer and other employees by recording data to make immediate decisions during a pull and records data confirming the pull did not exceed allowable pulling tensions.”
Bardin said double-braided pulling rope is a standard and cites Southwire’s QWIKrope with reduced pulling tensions and less rope stretch during a pull, reducing pulling times by up to 25% or more.
“One of the best often overlooked accessories is the cable feeder,” Bardin said. “A feeder can help manage the conductors by pulling the wire from the spool(s) to the conduit or cable tray, reducing time and effort.”