Most DIY enthusiasts have at least one roll of electrical tape lying around in a toolbox or drawer just in case you may need it. The odds are good that even if you don’t know what electrical tape is, you may have used it for one of the other uses that it is suitable for.
Electrical tape is used to insulate bare electrical wires to prevent accidental electrocution or short circuits in wires. The tape is wrapped tightly around the exposed wire surface, ensuring that the edges overlap, like a bandage, fully covering the exposed wire, making it safe to touch.
Electrical tape is available in many different varieties, so buying the correct type of tape can be challenging. Let’s explore some popular types and their uses.
What Is Electrical insulation Tape Used For?
Electrical tape is a non-conductive tape made from stretchy Vinyl or PVC material and is designed specifically to be used to isolate exposed electrical wires. Electrical tape is made for domestic applications for low-voltage circuits up to 380 Volts.
High voltage circuits can exceed the insulation and thermal protection properties of PVC or Vinyl electrical tape. High-voltage insulation materials should be used to ensure the circuits are compliant.
Everyday domestic use electrical insulation tape is made from PVC material and Vinyl. These materials have excellent insulation properties and are well-suited for low heat-generating insulation applications.
Note that PVC and Vinyl electrical tape is not a permanent solution for the insulation of wires because the tape and adhesive material eventually degrade, especially if exposed to wind and weather. However, electrical insulation tape does last for years, especially if used indoors.
PVC and Vinyl electrical insulation tapes are slightly stretchy and are sticky on one side. The stretch in the tape is essential to ensure a snug, waterproof fit around the wire. When applying the tape to the exposed wires, make sure to apply some tension by stretching the tape slightly while winding it around the wire.
Stretching the tape slightly during application ensures a snug fit and assists the overlapping sides of the insulation tape to sit tightly and form a proper seal around the exposed wire. Ensure that no openings are evident between the layers of tape, as this will leave the wire exposed and allow an electrical shock to occur.
Electrical tape is available in various roll sizes and colors to signify different wiring configurations. An example is red tape indicating a positive or live wire, black tape for use on negative or neutral wires, and green tape representing an earth or ground wire.
A smooth, wrinkle-free layer of tape will avoid the entry of moisture or grime onto the wires. A handy tip is to start the tape wrapping off at a shallow angle to the wire. This will ensure that the tape doesn’t form wrinkles as it is wrapped along the exposed section of the wire.
Other Uses For Electrical Tape
Electrical tape, much like duct tape, sticky tape, and plasters, can have innovative uses other than electrical insulation.
Below is a list of such uses, although the user’s imagination only limits the list.
- Decorative wrapping of various items due to different color tapes being available
- Temporary repair of low-pressure water pipes
- Wrapping of books and gifts
- Sticky tape alternative
- Temporary repair of broken items such as broomsticks
- Taping closed an over full lunch box
What Are The Different Types Of Electrical InsulationTape?
Electrical insulation tape variations vary, with some countries listing more options than others. Generally, if a wire needs insulating, an appropriate electrical insulation tape solution is out there for the specific purpose.
Below is a list of the electrical insulation tapes commonly encountered in the electrical industry:
|PVC||Broad use, mainly for domestic low voltage use. Well suited to cold climate use|
|Cloth||A very strong tape, but it has lower insulation properties than most tapes.|
|PTFE||A Great insulating material where bare wires need to be protected from harsh chemicals up to five hundred and seventy-two degrees Fahrenheit or three hundred-degree Celsius temperatures,|
|Rubber||Also known as rubber wraps. The vulcanized rubber tape is great for use in environments exposed to harsh elements and where the insulation required caters to medium to high-voltage applications.|
|Mastic||Mastic tape is most suitable for use in bulk application settings. The Mastic material with its putty-type texture is ideal for applications where high moisture resistance is required.|
|Vinyl||Vinyl tape is a general-purpose tape primarily intended for use in low-voltage applications typically found in domestic applications.|
|Polyimide||Polyimide insulation tape is primarily used in the automotive and computer manufacturing trades. Polyimide tape is frequently used to protect sensitive components on circuit boards. The tape is extremely thin and is very temperature stable.|
|Polyester||Polyester tape is perfect for use in environments where layer insulation and coil-over insulation are required. The material is heat resistant up to 266 degrees Fahrenheit or 130 degrees Celsius.|
|Glass Cloth||The tape is polyester reinforced with glass fiber and used for high-temperature insulation purposes such as oven controls and furnace power supply systems.|
|Cambric||This tape is a cotton-based tape insulated with non-conductive varnish. Its application is for insulation of busbars and high voltage moto leads etc.|
|Silicone Rubber||Silicone rubber tape is a great all-purpose tape with outstanding insulating properties. Additionally, the tape can withstand extremely low and high temperatures without degrading.|
|Self-Amalgamating||This tape is an excellent product that, when overlapped on itself, leaves a virtually seamless insulation layer that is impervious to moisture and effectively seals off any current transfer. |
The self-amalgamating tape is often used as a temporary insulation material when splicing thicker cables as it can be easily removed when necessary.
Will electrical tape melt or is it heat resistant?
Electrical tape will generally melt as it is not heat resistant. It is often made out of PVC or another plastic material. The glue is also not able to withstand high temperatures.
For this reason, you shouldn’t use electrical tape in hot areas as it can deform after a while.
Is electrical tape flammable?
Yes, electrical tape is flammable. While it can withstand some heat, it will start to ignite around 175 degrees Fahrenheit. This also depends on the material that it is made out of.
Electrical tape shouldn’t be used next to flames or other heat sources that can make it melt.
Once electrical tape is on fire, it can spread. Given that it melts, it can be hard to contain the fire. For this reason, it is important to make sure that you only use electrical tape in environments that don’t have heat or flames nearby.
Does electrical tape conduct electricity?
No, electrical tape does not conduct electricity if it is properly installed. Make sure that you get electrical tape that has the right insulation rating.
There are different qualities of electrical tape on the market and cheaper ones might conduct electricity in some situations. This should be avoided.
The best way to do this is study the manual of the electrical tape that you are getting. It is also a good idea to stick to the bigger brands as they test their electrical tapes and verify this by sending their product to independent labs. When in doubt, you can ask the manufacturer for a test report of an independent testing agency.
Is electrical tape waterproof?
No, electrical tape is not waterproof. It won’t hold water out. While it is often made out of plastic parts, the glue can dissolve if it gets in contact with water.
For this reason, it is important that you don’t use electrical tape in wet or moist environments (such as bathrooms or washing rooms). This can avoid problems such as electrical fires.
As discussed before, there are several uses for electrical tape but is also has its limitations. You should keep these in mind when you are using this tape.
Electrical insulation tape is a convenient invention designed to insulate potentially hazardous bare wires safely and efficiently. It is a non-conductive adhesive tape. Wrapping electrical tape around exposed electrical wires effectively seals the exposed wire and renders the electrical circuit safe for use.
We have discussed how to extend electrical wires here.