Electrical tapes are widely used to bundle wires, insulate them, and give extra outer protection. They are used in high-voltage electric wires and appliances; in such cases, it is common to fear they would catch fire. If you have this confusion, you are at the right place.
Electrical tape can catch fire if it is exposed to high temperatures above 220 degrees or if it is used improperly. Electrical tape is made of plastic and can melt or ignite if it comes into contact with a heat source. However, the chances of catching fire are quite low if used correctly.
In this article, you will understand the heat resistance of electrical tape and how to use it safely to avoid fire.
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Understanding the heat resistance of the electrical tape
Electrical tape is commonly used to insulate wires, cables, and other materials that conduct electricity.
It is a pressure-sensitive material that offers insulation and outer protection.
It also provides resistance against water.
But does it give heat resistance?
Let’s discuss it!
Electrical tape can bear heat up to 200 degrees maximum of up to 221 degrees.
If the electrical tape is exposed to more heat above this temperature, it will start to melt and deteriorate.
The adhesiveness of the electric tape will also begin to degrade at temperatures above 200 degrees.
It can also result in fire hazards.
Here are the best heat-resistant tapes available in the market:
- Glass tape
- Bio-soluble fiber tape.
- Fiberglass tape.
- Ceramic tape.
Potential fire hazards associated with electrical tape
Electrical tape is used to provide insulation to electric cables and wires.
But it is also essential to analyze the potential fire hazards associated with electrical tape.
Here are the common causes associated with fire hazards.
Each electrical tape is manufactured with different materials with different capacities of heat resistance.
If you wrap electrical tape around a wire, cable, or electrical component at a high temperature, the electrical tape with lower heat resistance will start overheating.
It will start to melt, soften, and even ignite, encouraging fire hazards.
It happens when you use the wrong type of electrical tape, which can be avoided when you read the specifications of the electrical tape before buying it.
Use electrical tape, which has heat resistant capacity to handle overheating.
Each electric tape has specific voltage and temperature ratings.
It is not recommended to use electrical tape as the only insulation to protect high-voltage electric appliances, wires, cables, or other components.
This is because electrical tape can be used as extra protection but not as the only protection for electric appliances.
If you are temporarily fixing the broken wire or cable with electrical tape, it may cause hazards in the long run.
Instead, replace the damaged wire to safeguard yourself.
When the voltage and temperature rating of the electrical tape is not compatible with the appliance you use, it will start to melt slowly and cause a short circuit, potential fire, and elocution.
Avoiding this will prevent electrical fires due to insufficient insulation.
When you wrap the electrical tape around a damaged wire or cable which is plugged, there are more chances of electrical arcing.
It happens when the electricity flows through the gap into the ionized pathway.
So, applying the electrical tape correctly to the surface is crucial.
A small gap or the exposed area around the electrical tape can cause electrical arcing.
When electrical arcing occurs, extra heat is generated around it, and it can ignite the fire.
While using electrical tape, apply it correctly on the surface to avoid such instances.
Low-quality electrical tape
There are certain low-quality tapes available in the market that do not have the heat-resistant capacity, low melting point, and poor adhesive capability.
They do not meet safety standards.
They may be cheaper than the standard electrical tapes but are not recommended to use with wires, cables, or other components.
If you use such tapes, it will increase the risk of fire hazards.
You can easily find low-quality electrical tape by looking at the specifications.
In the long run, when the electrical tapes are subjected to physical stress and exposure to water, they become loose, develop air inside, and unravel from the electric wires.
It will expose the wire, cable, or other electrical component.
Due to this, there are high chances of electrical shock, short circuits, and electrical arcing.
If you have wrapped the electrical tape around wires long ago, check it and rewrap it with the new one to avoid such issues.
Follow the steps below to minimize fire hazards while using electrical tapes:
- Choose electrical tapes which meet the safety standards. If you are going to use electrical tape in a high-voltage appliance, use electrical tape with high heat resistance. Low-quality electrical tapes can melt, lose adhesiveness, and cause fire hazards.
- Clean the surface free of dust and waste materials before applying the electrical tape. Apply it with appropriate pressure and make sure it sticks to the surface firmly.
- After applying the electrical tape, keep inspecting them for signs of aging, wearing out, would start to melt, or gaps in the tape. In such a case, replace it with the new one.
- Electrical tapes are heat resistant only to some extent. It cannot bear the heat of more than 200 degrees Celsius. So, avoid using electrical tapes at high temperatures; instead, use some other alternatives to provide protection.
- If you are not aware of which type of electrical wire to choose and how to use it, refer to the instruction manual or consult a professional.
Common mistakes to avoid when using electrical tape
Here are the common mistakes to avoid while working with electrical tapes:
- Insufficient overlapping of the electrical tape around wires and cables will result in exposed areas and gaps on the wires and the cables. It reduces the insulation of the electric components. As a result, a short circuit, electrical arcing, and fire may occur. So while wrapping an electrical tape, make sure there are no gaps and exposed areas.
- It reduces the insulation to the electric component. As a result, a short circuit, electrical arcing, and even fire may occur. So, while wrapping an electrical tape, make sure there are no gaps and exposed areas.
- The way you apply the electrical tape will also affect its efficiency. If you give too much pressure while applying the tape, it will stretch and become thinner. And if you apply low pressure while applying, it will loosen in the long run. You can avoid this by putting medium pressure while applying the tape on the surface. Make sure the pressure you apply is consistent throughout the surface.
- Before applying the tape, never fail to prepare the surface. Clean the surface to remove dirt, dust, moisture, and other particles. Applying the tape on an unprepared surface will reduce its adhesiveness. It will also cause the tape to lose its insulation properties. You can avoid this by cleaning the surface thoroughly. So that electrical tape can stick thoroughly.
- Some electrical tapes may have been damaged, cracked, or torn. While buying tape, inspect if there are any of these signs. Also, avoid using improperly stored electrical tapes as they most probably have lost adhesiveness, insulation, and protective nature. In such cases, it is recommended to use new and fresh electrical tapes to avoid electric hazards.
- The electrical tape must not be used as the permanent fix for repairs providing insulation to wires or other electric appliances. Using electrical tape as the permanent fix for insulation will cause electrical and fire hazards. Because in the long run, electrical tape will loosen, degrade, and lose its adhesiveness. For long-term insulation, you must use the proper insulation methods recommended by professionals.
- Each electrical tape had specific voltage and temperature ratings. Neglecting the voltage and temperature and continuing to use low-resistant tape to high voltage appliances can ignite fire due to overheating. You can avoid this by considering the voltage and temperature of electrical tape while buying it.
- Electrical tapes are to be used only in the electrical connections used. Avoid using it to repair plumbing, seal containers, or other objects.
When avoiding all the mistakes and following the guidelines will prevent fire or electrical hazards.
Safety instructions for using electrical tape
Here are the five safety instructions that you must follow while using electrical tape:
- While applying the tape on the electrical wire, cable, or any other electrical component, ensure there is no electricity passing through. If the electricity passes through it, switch it off and apply the tape on the surface.
- While wrapping the electrical tape, make sure you overlap it. Wrapping only a single layer will hinder the protection. You must wrap the double layer no matter how strong your electrical tape is.
- You must never cover the electric wire with plastic or any cloth. You must use only electrical tape to cover the electric wires. Using plastic or clothes can cause fire hazards.
- While applying the electrical tape on the wires or any other surface, you can stretch it to the extent to increase the adhesiveness. But make sure you do not stretch beyond the limit.
- While storing your electrical tape, ensure it is not exposed to direct sunlight, humidity, or moisture. Store it in a proper way to prevent damage like getting crushed or bent.
- Follow all the electric codes and safety guidelines of your local area or region while using electrical tape. You can also consult a professional to educate yourself about the local codes.
Testing the heat resistance of the electrical tape
Here is how you can test the heat resistance of the electrical tape:
- The easiest way to understand the heat resistance of electrical tape will be to check the owner’s manual. It contains the temperature rating and the methods to check the heat resistance of the electrical tape.
- After reading the manual, you can select the equipment to test the heat resistance of the electrical tape based on the resources available. You can use the oven, heat gun, or hot plate to test the heat resistance of the electrical tape.
- The next step is to cut the tape and make it ideal to run the heat resistance test.
- After selecting the equipment to test the heat resistance of the electrical tape, you can set the desired temperature. The desired temperature must match the temperature mentioned in the user manual of the electrical tape. Make sure the test environment has all the safety precautions and is well-ventilated.
- Now, place the tape sample in the equipment under the desired temperature for a limited period of time. You can also check the multiple samples at the same time to analyze the results. Let the sample tape in the equipment.
- In between, check the electrical tape for any sort of melting, degradation, or loss of adhesiveness, which indicates the failure of the tape under heat conditions.
- The duration of the heat resistance test must continue from 30 minutes to 1 hour, based on the instructions in the user manual.
- After 30 minutes to 1 hour, remove the sample from the equipment and check for any degradation in quality. Check if there is a sign of melting, deterioration, or loss of adhesiveness. If you have more than one sample, compare each sample to give the analyzed results.
Based on the analysis, you can come to a conclusion.
And the heat resistance test must be conducted with the safety measurement, and you have experience handling the equipment and tape.
If you are experienced or knowledgeable on the task, it is best to hire or consult a professional to do the task.
Alternative methods for securing wires
There are different other alternative methods that you can use to secure wires instead of electrical tape.
Here are a few alternative methods:
- Heat shrink tube.
- Liquid electrical tape.
- Electrical connectors.
- Self-fusing silicone tapes.
- Cable ties.
Electrical tapes are heat resistant only to this extent. If exposed to more than 221 degrees, they may begin to melt, deteriorate, or lose their adhesiveness. Using electric tape as the only material to insulate wires, cables, or other appliances is not recommended.
Note the temperature and voltage ratings of the electric tape. Use them only at the desired temperature and voltage. Using low-grade electrical tape at high temperatures will lead to fire hazards.
There are specialized heat-resistance electrical tapes available. If you want the electrical tape to withstand high temperatures, you must buy these tapes instead of regular electrical tapes.
Does heat weaken tape?
Over-140°F surfaces cause the adhesive to weaken, lose its tensile strength, and come loose from the attachment. Duct tape does not adhere to cold surfaces very well, either. The adhesive hardens under colder temperatures, reducing its sticking ability.
Will electrical tape burn?
Even while most trustworthy brands of electrical tape will typically have adequate thermal qualities (to handle temperatures up to about 80 degrees Celsius), several different types of insulating tape are combustible if they’re allowed to get hot enough.
How long does electrical tape last?
Although circumstances like high-temperature changes, physical stress, and exposure to direct sunlight can shorten this period of efficacy, electric tape often lasts up to 5 years before the adhesive starts to lose effectiveness.
Reference: Electrical tape Wikipedia