Duct tape is a versatile product. You can use it for many things, including some emergency repairs. What if, unfortunately, you run out of proper electrical tape in your toolbox and you desperately need them? In that case, can you use duct tape instead of electrical tape?
Although duct tape is a multi-purpose product, it is not suitable as electrical tape substitutes. This is especially true if you need one for long-term applications. Electrical tape is specific for the daily needs of professional electricians. It is the only appropriate product when adhesive tape is necessary for electrical projects.
Read on to learn more about whether you can use duct tape instead of electrical tape. You will also know if there are other types of tape that you can use instead.
Can You Use Duct Tape Instead of Electrical Tape?
There are times when it makes sense to substitute one tool for another. One instance is when you use a wrench instead of a hammer. I do not recommend this, though. However, it is best to stick with what has been proven to work for electrical work.
Fireproof and Weatherproof Tape for Electrical Projects
Can duct tape be used instead of electrical tape? You should never use duct tape or any other kind of tape to substitute for electrical tape. Tape used for electrical projects needs high adhesion. It also needs to be highly resistant to corrosion and should be fireproof and weatherproof. Moreover, it should insulate against at least 600 volts of electricity.
Heat Buildup Under the Tape
However, let us assume that you ignored all the warnings that your electrician friends told you. In other words, you continued to use duct tape rather than electrical tape.
What could go wrong? Well, most likely, there’s nothing that could go wrong right after the application. However, after a little while, you will probably feel a bit of heat building up under the tape.
Risk of Fire
Wait a little longer, and the heat would have melted the duct tape’s adhesive. This can make it feel gummy and sticky. Eventually, the cloth fibers in the duct tape would catch fire because of the heat.
Avoid Using Duct Tape as a Replacement for Electrical Tape
With that in mind, avoid using duct tape as a replacement for electrical tape as much as possible. It does not matter how small the repair is. You should always use the proper tools when dealing with electricity.
Electrical Tape Vs Duct Tape – What Are the Differences?
So what makes electrical and duct tape different? Let’s find out in this specific section:
Due to its multiple uses, duct tape is primarily designed to stick to a wide variety of materials. These include porous and non-porous materials.
On the other hand, electrical tape sticks to itself and the electric wire’s plastic insulation. Pulling out too much electrical tape makes it almost impossible to pull them apart once they curl on themselves.
Although duct tape nowadays comes in every color of the rainbow, they are mostly for aesthetic purposes only. Electrical tape, on the other hand, comes in several colors. They also have different applications.
Most electrical tapes are black, which is also the traditional color of electric cables. Electrical tape comes in the same colors as color-coded wires. For instance, the green tape is for ground wires and white tape for neutral.
Duct tape typically uses a polyethylene-coated cloth with interspersed fibers to make it easy to tear by hand. On the other hand, the electrical tape uses stretchable vinyl or PVC.
Although duct tape is strong, it does degrade rather fast, especially when exposed to extreme heat and moisture. As for the electrical tape, you will notice its incredible durability. It is even fire-retardant and water-resistant. The average lifespan of electrical tape is around five years. However, if it already seems brittle before that, you need to replace it.
This is the only category where duct tape wins over electrical tape. The fibers within duct tape make it strong against tensile stress. This means it can carry higher weight loads. However, the electrical tape does not need to be strong. The reason is that its primary purpose is to insulate against electricity anyway.
You can buy electrical tape starting at 3c per foot for the regular kind and 7c per foot for professional-grade. On the other hand, duct tape costs 12c/feet for the regular and 19c/feet for the extra-strong and wide. These prices are just for the ones you can buy at the supermarket. The HVAC-approved tapes are more expensive.
Again, can you use duct tape instead of electrical tape? While duct tape is a multi-purpose product, you should not use it in place of electrical tape. An electrical tape is designed specifically to meet the needs of an electrician needs. However, you can use it as ordinary adhesive tape.
More on Electrical Insulation Tapes
Insulates and Protects Various Electrical Wires
Electrical tape is what electricians use to insulate and protect various electrical wires. Also called electrical insulation tape, you can always find it in domestic and professional applications.
Available in Different Sizes, Materials, and Colors
Like other adhesive tapes, you can find electrical insulation tape in various sizes, materials, and colors. Regardless of the scope and size of your electrical project, you can find a suitable roll of electrical tape. For instance, you can use different colored tapes to color code the wires. That way, you can troubleshoot the connections more quickly if you need to.
Where Can You Use Electrical Tape
Not Recommended for Long-term Repairs
Before you learn how to use electrical tape, know that it is not recommended for long-term repairs. You can use it to repair or join small, low-voltage cables.
Use with Other Forms of Insulation
However, if you intend to use it for household repairs, it would be better to use other forms of insulation. Even if you only intend to use it for small things like repairing a light switch.
What if you will be doing repairs that involve high-load and high temperatures? In that case, use the electrical tape only as support for wire nuts and other purpose-made professional wire connectors. Using it on its own is not advisable as it can be a fire hazard.
How to Properly Use Electrical Tape
Use Electrical Tape with Wire Nuts and Other Professional-grade Fasteners
Keep in mind that you should not use electrical tape on its own. You always have to use it in addition to wire nuts and other professional-grade fasteners. Electrical tape is great for adding a layer of protection to the joint. However, you should avoid using it to hold wires into a wire nut. The wire nut should be the one that holds the wires.
If the wire nut feels loose, you need to use a smaller one. Wire nuts should immediately and tightly grab on the spliced wire ends and not easily pulled out.
Think of electrical tape like it is a band-aid. It works well as a temporary fix. However, you will need to use proper tools, like wire caps, if you want the splice to last virtually forever.
Twist the Exposed Ends of the Wire Together
If you are using electrical tape, make sure to twist the exposed ends of the wires together for security. You might want to test the joints carefully by tugging on the ends to see if they are properly secured.
Wrap the Tape Around the Splice
Now, if you will be using electrical tape, wrap it tightly around the splice as tightly as you can. When wrapping the tape over a joint, pull on the spool of electrical tape a bit. This will ensure that the tape stretches over itself and holds a lot stronger.
Is It Safe to Use Electrical Tape to Insulate Wire?
Not Recommended to Protect and Insulate Wire Joints
The primary purpose of electrical tape is to protect and insulate wire joints and parts of wires with stripped insulation. However, current safety standards no longer recommend using electrical tape. This is especially true if you are doing major repairs on your home or appliances.
Use for Repair Abrasions or Tears in Electrical Cables
Even the Occupational Safety and Health Association (OSHA) has changed its stance on the relative safety of electrical tape. According to them, electrical tape is only for repairing abrasions or tears in electrical cables with an already visible core.
Use Proper Wire Connectors for Repairs
Often, you will need to use proper wire connectors to ensure that your repairs or electrical projects are up-to-code. This is why it is vital to double-check all the guidelines in your area. By doing that, you will know what connectors are code-compliant.
Even Professional-grade Electrical Tape Can Conduct Electricity
In addition, there are very few materials on earth that are consistently non-conductive in all conditions and circumstances. Many electric tapes can insulate against electricity. With a strong enough current, short path to ground, and the right (or wrong) weather conditions, even professional-grade electrical tape can conduct electricity.
Be Wary of Electrical Tape’s Limitations
Always be wary about the limitations of electrical tape, especially when misused. Also, make sure to shut off all electric circuits to the area you are working on. This is an important step before starting any repair or maintenance task.
Can Electrical Tape Catch Fire?
Most leading electrical tape makers ensure that their products have high heat resistance. You can even use most of them in environments where temperatures can hit above 80° C. However, if it does get hot enough, the electric tape can catch fire.
Minimal Chances of Electric Tape Catching Fire
Still, the chances of electric tape catching fire are minimal, especially when used in suitable environments. It will also depend on the type of tape used. Some brands of electrical tape have better heat resistance than others, so choose carefully.
Alternatives to Electrical Tape
What other choices are available if the electrical tape is not the safest option for joining and repairing electric wires? Here are some alternatives to use instead of the electrical tape:
1. Heat Shrink Tubing
Insulates Thicker Gauge Wires
Heat shrink tubing is one of the things that are better than electrical tape. Most professional electricians generally use heat shrink tubing for insulating thicker gauge wires.
Does Not Reply on Adhesive
Also, because it does not rely on adhesive, it will not loosen its grip over time. However, you will need to use a heat gun to shrink it properly.
Contain Electrical Wiring Connections Inside a Junction Box
Note that you should always contain electrical wiring connections inside a junction box. You don’t just heat shrink two wires together and bury them under the drywall. All electrical connections must be inside an electrical junction box.
2. Wire Nuts
Standard for Electrical Works
Wire nuts are among the best alternatives to electrical tape. They are now the standard for electrical works. Wire nuts are plastic caps that twist onto the ends of wires. They come in various sizes to accommodate different gauges of wire.
Always Have a Wire Nut in the Toolbox
It is best to keep a healthy stock of different sizes of wire nuts in your toolbox. That way, you will always have the right one for every connection. Some wire nuts “bite” on the twisted wire ends better than others. If you have already used a wire nut to protect the wire joints, it is unnecessary to use electrical tape.
Conclusion – Can You Use Duct Tape Instead of Electrical Tape?
Even though duct tape is a multi-purpose product, insulating and protecting electrical wires is not one of them. If you need to temporarily insulate and protect wire splices, you should use electrical tape. It is specifically made for when adhesive tape is crucial for electrical projects, repairs, or maintenance tasks.
Although electrical tape is not the safest way to join two separate wires together, it is still usable right now. At least, it is much better than using duct tape.