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electrical tape

A Complete Guide To Electrical Tape

The first time I heard someone yell out for some “33” I had no idea what they were talking about. You see, electrical tape isn’t just for color coding wires or making up a head before a wire pull.

I’ve seen too many situations where conductors have been wrapped with electrical tape and it looks like a 3 year old did it. It’s time you learned how to properly use electrical tape, the differences between each type, and when to not use it.

The tapes in the market today are highly versatile and offer long term performance in electrical insulation, adhesion, and corrosion resistance.

Most Common Electrical Tapes that Electricians Use Daily

All these three tapes are 3M brand tapes and each has its specific uses and few setbacks. The three tapes are the 3M Super 33, 3M Super 35 and 3M Super 88.

3M General Purpose Vinyl Tape

General purpose electrical tape tape is useful for color coding or “phasing” wires, motors, or preparing a wire head before a pull. The super durable vinyl resists typical wear and tear, and the flexible backing has rubber-based adhesive that bonds even to irregular surfaces.

As an electrician this is your typical “go-to” tape for just about any anything.

3M Super 33+ Electrical Tape

The 3M Super 33+ is a top quality premium grade vinyl electrical insulating tape. When working on the job you may hear the older electricians call out for some “33” if they need to re-insulate a nicked wire.

This is the most common “go-to” tape in the electrical industry.

Applications for Use:

It’s primary duty is for electrical insulation for all wire and cable splices up to 600 V and 220°F (105°C)

Key Features:

  • Excellent electrical insulating properties for up to 600 Volt applications.
  • This extremely light tape has an aggressive adhesive and elastic backing that ensures easy, water-resistant conformation to even irregular surfaces.
  • An all-weather tape that performs brilliantly whether in cold or hot conditions. Its ideal operation range is from 0ºF (-18ºC) to 220ºF (105ºC).
  • It offers great resistance to abrasion, corrosion, acids, alkalis and moisture.
  • It is suited for both indoor and outdoor usage.

The fact that it is compatible with solid dielectric insulation and is ideal for splicing components of up to 600V. It can be used to offer protective jacketing to for high-voltage cables and random wire harnessing as well.

3M Super 35 Electrical Tape

The 3M Super 35 color coding tape is an electrical grade tape that is used for phase identification and to color code motor leads. The 0.178 mm thick tape has a pressure sensitive rubber adhesive and has an array of nine colors to use in labeling and electrical cable coding.

This all-weather tape offers good electrical insulation and is highly resistant to moisture and corrosion. It’s relatively easy to unwind and smoothly wraps round the cables or wires and conforms well to irregular surfaces.

3M Super 88 Electrical Tape

The Super 88 is the other premium grade electrical tape. The 0.2mm thick extremely light tape has an elastic PVC backing and performs excellently even in the harshest of weather conditions.

It offers great resistance to abrasion, moisture, alkalis, acids, UV rays and corrosion. Its weight makes it easy to carry around and is extremely easy to unwind. The pressure sensitive rubber adhesive is easy to elongate and provides conform-ability to irregular surfaces.

It is ideal for primary electrical insulation of wire and splices of up to 600V. It can also be used to insulate fixed wire joints rated up to 1000V and can also harness cables. Most electricians prefer to use this tape outdoors.

We all know how important it is to correctly insulating electrical components. It’s not only a safety measure, but also reduces interactions of with foreign agents like water.

Electrical tape works best when it conforms to the object it is being applied to. So, when you apply electrical tape to a cord, piece of wire, or anything else, stretch the tape as you wrap. The tape will adhere better and will provide more insulation protection than when it is applied loosely. Check out this guide from ECM about the lost art of taping skills.

Choosing The Right Electrical Tape for Each Task.

Choosing the right electrical tape for a specific task can be confusing especially if you are new apprentice. The type of electrical tape depends on the purpose the tape is meant to serve, the conditions in which it will be used, and the magnitude of electrical current it is meant to insulate.

There are three primary types of materials used to make electrical insulation tapes – rubber, vinyl, and mastic.

Cambric is also used to make varnished tapes but it’s very rare in the market today.

Rubber tapes are generally non-adhesive and are used as an effective moisture barrier and offer great electrical insulation.

Vinyl is the most effective and widely used material in making tapes. They are normally used as the outer layer of insulation in electrical tapping because they are long lasting and very flexible.

Their versatility allows them to be used for various important purposes.

Mastic is used to make mastic pads which is sandwiched between layers to form the secondary layer of the insulation assembly.

From electrical insulation, abrasion protection to corrosion resistance, vinyl tapes come in different grades. Vinyl tapes offer great conform-ability, are extremely easy to unwind, and don’t lose their adhesiveness even in the most extreme of weather conditions.

Here’s an excellent reference to download on your phone from 3M – 3M Electrical Tapes Chart.

It’ll give you product descriptions and which type of applications it’s used for.

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