Electrical tape is something that every DIYer should have in his/her toolbox. The tape can be used for many purposes, from repairing minor electrical wire damage to preventing pipes from freezing in winter. However, there are some times when electrical tape should not be used at all, and other times when knowing how to properly use it will make your job easier. So, here are some tips on how to best use electrical tape.
1. Don't Use as a Replacement for Wire Nuts
When wiring light switches, junction boxes, or outlets, don't use electrical tape as a permanent connection insulator. Those wires cannot be permitted to get loose because it would consequently compromise a solid constant connection, and therefore result in generating heat at the connection creating a serious fire hazard. Although we've all seen it in older installations, electrical tapes are not designed for this type of application, and electrical connectors specifically manufactured for this purpose are readily available.
2. Use Only on Minor Cord or Wire Damage
Although a good 33+ rated electrical tape can be used to repair minor cord or wire damage, it should never be used on cracks or frays that expose bare electrical wire. If the cord has cracked or nicked outer sheath, but the inner insulation is still intact, then electrical tape can be used as a safe repair option. However, never cover an electrical tape wire repair with a rug, cloth, or other flammable material.
3. Avoid Covering With Insulation
If you use electrical tape to provide heat for water pipes in the winter, never cover the tape with insulation. This is particularly important when electrical heat tape is used to insulate hot water pipes. Electrical heat tape gets hot enough that, if covered with flammable insulation, it can easily become a fire hazard.
4. Avoid Buying Electrical Tape at Surplus Stores
Even the very best brands of electrical tape only have a shelf life of about five years. If you see electrical tape on sale at surplus stores, you should think twice before purchasing it. You have no way of knowing how old the tape is, and how long it will hold up for your use. Old tape is not reliable and should always be considered too dangerous for use. Regular hardware and home improvement stores sell much more electrical tape than a surplus store and frequently receive new shipments, so tape from one of these stores can be considered much newer and safer to use.
5. Stretch the Tape as You Wrap
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.
6. Spray with Dielectric Spray
When using electrical tape on sensitive connections, it may be a good idea to spray the taped area with clear coat enamel or another dielectric spray. This will help to better protect the tape and provide more insulation. Just be sure no power is being supplied to the wire or cable before the spray is applied. Once the spray cures or dries, the power to the cable can be restored.