There are various industry terms for organizing wire: structured wiring, structured cable systems, wire and cable management systems etc… They all have the same basic meaning though. The goal is to organize the wire and cable in your office, factory, building, machinery, equipment, data center, security system in a neat and organized way to avoid the tangled mess of cords running loosely so that the wires themselves can be easily traced back. Bundling wires and cables does just that.
The most common choices to bundle wire and cable are: 1) zip ties, 2) velcro straps, 3) electrical tape, 4) nylon harnesses.
1) Zip Ties – Advantages: Good for short and long runs of communication and data wire; Good for organizing wires so that people don’t trip over them; They are inexpensive to purchase. Disadvantages – If pulled too tightly, they can damage the wire; For large bundles and runs, an electrician can spend a lot of time repeatedly applying multiple zip ties; Since the zip ties have a thick tail, they can get caught or snag when pulling the bundle through conduit or even tray; they are only applicable for low voltage cable by code in conduit. Overall: Zip ties are ideal for small and long runs of low voltage cable such as data or communication cable, as well as home use and small budgets since they are cheap to purchase. However, they have inefficiencies and limitations.
2) Velcro – Advantages: It is easy to apply; Since it is soft it is unlikely to damage the wire; The velcro pull tabs makes them easy to tighten, remove, and reuse; It is an alternative to an “H stitch.” Disadvantages: The velcro can fray over time; Like the zip ties, the velcro bindings’ thickness can result in a cable bundle getting caught on something when being pulling through conduit or tray; It is not applicable on any wires that tend to get hot. Overall: Velcro has good applications at data centers but has limited applications for industrial and commercial construction, particularly since it is thick (increased chance of it snagging) and it is not suitable for high voltage wires.
3) Electrical Tape – Advantages: It holds the wires together while still being loose enough for the wires to “breathe” as well allow the heat to disperse; Electrical tape is less expensive than velcro straps; It leaves minimal sticky residue. Disadvantages: Electrical tape/pull tabs are not very durable and can be easily snapped; Bundles made with electrical tape are very loose in between the area where the tape is applied on the cables; Electrical tape again may not be approved for use in the electrical conduit itself, since it can be considered a foreign object by most electrical code books. Overall: Electricians love the ease and cost of using electrical tape. In fact we use them as pull tabs on our nylon harness wire bundles. It is a popular, cost-effective way to bind wires together. But for long runs, it can consume a lot of the electrician’s time.
4) Nylon Harnesses – Advantages: It has excellent heat resistance (and can even be plenum rated) which makes it good for high voltage or use in “public” spaces or in transportation applications; It holds the bundles together tightly while also providing enough room to breathe; It saves time for repetitive, long bundles; The nylon harness is good for large, multi-conductor bundles; It is ideal for long runs in commercial construction. Disadvantages: Since the nylon harness spirals around the entire bundle (which could be 100 feet+ in length), it is designed to be more permanent than Velcro; Adding and subtracting wires can be challenging since once the nylon harness is cut it will need to be replaced. Overall: We’re obviously a little bias since we specialize in manufacturing bundled cable encased in a nylon harness. Nonetheless all of these bindings have pros and cons which an electrician must weigh when they are on the job site.
Rudy Hanecak is the general manager of One-Pull Wire and Cable Solutions, a marked and bundled cable manufacturer.