Ideas That Work: Identifying MC Cable, Catching Drywall Dust and More

Every month, we pick 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!

Multicolored duct tape
We are doing a project with thousands of feet of MC cable, feeding multiple systems of varying voltages and sources. Multicolored duct tape makes it easy to identify MCs by using the different, vibrant colors to mark the cable. It has a large surface to write on and is easy to see. Just look and you can see right away the voltage and source for each MC cable, making it easier to keep track of things.

Eric Branning
Fort Wayne, Ind.

Sticky note
When cutting a hole in finished drywall, use a sticky note folded in half to create a shelf for dust to fall into, so the mess does not fall on the customer’s carpet. I also use this idea when cleaning out taper’s mud from the outlet box before trim out.

Terry Hunt
Stillwater, Okla.

Round hose clamp
There are times when a square cut is required on PVC, EMT or rigid conduit. Get a stainless steel, round hose clamp of the appropriate size. Slip it over the conduit, tighten and trace over it for a quick and accurate square guide for cutting.

Fernando Padilla
IBEW Local No. 413
Murrieta, Calif.

Camera for lighting fixture
There is a quick way to determine if a fluorescent lighting fixture has the old magnetic ballast in it or if it is outfitted with an electronic ballast. You only need a smartphone. Set it to the camera mode, and point the lens at the fixture. You do not even have to take a picture. The display will indicate if the ballast is magnetic or electronic. If the viewfinder image has yellowish lines across the lights, the ballast is magnetic. Conversely, if the viewfinder image is bright white, with no lines, the ballast is electronic. Simple as that!

Jeff Moore
Alabaster, Ala.

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, or use the online submission tool at

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 ( 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.

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