Filed under: Electrical, Raceway, Duct and Conduit
Ever had to paint or hang a picture up in an old house, just to have your simple plans complicated by that old-fashioned surface conduit that they used to use? I used to find the stuff really annoying, until I learned how it came to be. It turns out that surface conduit, at least in the United States, was largely brought about by Wiremold in the early 20th century.
By around 1920, Americans were catching the electrical gadget craze, and were buying and accumulating more electrical devices than they had outlets to plug them into. Back in those days, walls more or less all fell into the plaster and lathe category, which, if you’ve ever worked on an old house, are no picnic to cut into and repair. Even for people who were lucky enough to have homes with in-wall wiring, the existing number of receptacles just wasn’t enough, but ripping into plaster walls to add additional outlets was pretty much out of the question.
And so, Wiremold came to the rescue with metal-based surface conduit for electrical wiring. It allowed people to add extra electrical circuits and outlet boxes anywhere they wanted, without demolishing their fragile plaster walls in the process. And while these days we’re spoiled with retrofit-friendly sheetrock walls, Wiremold metal conduit is still coming in handy, albeit in a slightly different form.
Meet Wiremold’s Aluminum Surface Raceways - the hipper, sleeker next generation of surface conduit. Instead of being used in homes, aluminum surface raceways have now carved out a niche in offices, where they’re used to run power and data cables around the perimeter of a room, with stops for built-in outlet wherever they’re needed. And what’s really cool is that they actually have cutouts into which wires from existing wall boxes can be fed, to be spliced onto new wire runs. Doesn’t get much easier than that.
Covering up and routing cable runs has always seemed like such a no-brainer… just reach for a few sticks of raceway, right? Not so fast. What if the cables you want to cover up are running down an outdoor surface? That’s a little trickier. Raceway typically adheres to surfaces by way of an adhesive backing – one that only works in nice temperature-controlled indoor spaces. One look at a rain cloud or the beating sun, and it would wilt and fall right off the wall. Time for something tougher. Time for Wire Guards.
I really like it when I’m surprised by the simplicity of a very effective product, and that’s definitely the case with these. Wire Guards are basically just extruded plastic arch-shaped channels with flanges down either side. That’s it. The channels are laid over the cable or cables of your choice, and then the flanges, which are pre-punched for nails or screws, are fastened down to the surface. The cables are held in place, and get a layer of lightweight armor to boot, so they’re considerably more resistant to the unwanted advances of weather, pecking birds, and even bored kids in search of something to mess with.
Wire Guards are terrific for exposed outdoor power cables, speaker wires, and the Cable TV coaxial cable running down the side of your house. They would even be great for use in semi-finished basements, if you need to run wire along a wall surface. And as far as size goes, you can take your pick – Wire Guards can be narrow enough to provide cover for just one wire, or wide enough to fit over an entire cable bundle.
Filed under: Electrical, Power and Data Distribution, Raceway, Duct and Conduit
Earlier this week, I was reading up on the history of Wiremold, a 110 year old company that’s been a lot of places and done a lot of things over the past century. They started out making electrical conduit, and moved on to things like raceway, loom, duct, and power products, with a few segues into War Effort manufacturing along the way. One thing that caught my eye was Wiremold’s introduction of the Tele-Power Pole in 1969. I though to myself, “Hey, wait, I know that thing!”
Turns out, I had seen the very same product a bunch of times over the past few years (yes, we sell it)… I just hadn’t realized that it was made by the same company I was reading about. So, after that lightbulb went off, I thought it might be worth a mention, because it really is a pretty cool item, and it’s still going strong after 40 years.
Tele-Power Poles were invented with the wide-open, cubicle-infested workplace in mind. Yes, I know, I hate cubicles too, but hear me out. Nowadays, we have the luxury of power and data connections right at our desks, no matter how far said desks may be from the nearest wall (and wall outlets/data ports). That’s largely thanks to innovators like Wiremold, and inventions like the Tele-Power Pole, which began allowing us to drop power and data cables from above the ceiling down to any workstation, anywhere in the room. Otherwise, we’d not only be seated in cubicles, we’d be seated in cubicles with extension cords and mile-long data cables running everywhere.
Take a minute to imagine that. It would be mass chaos, and people would be tripping everywhere. Not to mention that every inch of wall space would have to be encrusted in receptacles and data faceplates to accommodate everyone. Nope, it just wouldn’t work. But with Tele-Power, well… it’s a totally different story. Like the heavens have opened and are showering connectivity down upon us (literally – these things go from ceiling to floor). Since that fateful day they hit the market in 1969, Tele-Power Poles have let us tap into power and communications, without even leaving our rolling office chairs. I’ll raise my coffee mug to that.
Filed under: Electrical, Raceway, Duct and Conduit, Tools and Cases
A few months back, my sister put together a birthday care package for me, and while she was shopping for fun little treats, she came across one of my personal childhood favorites, Silly Putty. Needless to say, it made the cut, and I got a huge kick out of finding it in my Box O’ Fun. Incidentally, I had an even better time when I plopped down on the middle of the couch and sat, Indian-style, for a good 15 or 20 minutes, blowing off stress by stretching, sculpting, and snapping the stretchy stuff in a state of blissful oblivion. In addition to causing my husband to question my sanity (but that’s beside the point), the experience seems to have reawakened my love of things you can squish, which leads me to wonder if that’s why I’ve lately been drawn to putty-like products such as, oh, I don’t know, Duct Seal Compound from Gardner Bender.
I just found out about this stuff a few days ago, and I think it’s pretty neat. The actual purpose of Gardner Bender sealing compound is very basic, but important: it lets you seal seams and gaps in electrical boxes, conduit, duct work and cable trays so that dust and other contaminants can’t weasel their way inside and start causing problems. What makes it interesting is that it’s got a putty-ish texture, and because of that, you can just work it into place with your bare hands, no tools or gloves needed. But here’s the kicker: it never actually dries or hardens. You can remove, reinstall, or modify it at any time, because like my old pal Silly Putty, it never sets up or becomes unworkable.
Something else cool: despite the duct seal compound’s eternal flexibility, you can still do things like paint over it – no waiting period necessary. And beyond that, it’s safe to handle, is FDA and USDA approved for use in food prep and processing areas, and comes in 1 or 5 lb packages, so you’re not committed to a huge supply if you don’t need it.
Filed under: Cable Pulling, Raceway, Duct and Conduit, Tools and Cases
When you think of pulling cables through conduit, what do you imagine one of the biggest problems to be? Working the wiring through tight bends? Or how about friction damage? Both of these are undeniably conduit-related pains in the, ahem… tokus, but there’s another possible pulling snafu that’s even more obnoxious: twisted cables.
Now, when I say “twisted,” I’m not talking about a little benign spiraling. I’m referring to the hard core wrapping and tangling that sends conduit friction levels through the roof, and can even cause your cables to start attenuating. The kind of mess that demands a do-over every time.
Spare yourself a lot of frustration, not to mention that overwhleming sense of deja-vu with every re-pull, by enlisting the assistance of a Rack-A-Tiers® Wire Puller Strap. This simple but ingenious cable-pulling implement actually staggers the wires you’re pulling, so while they’re technically together, they stay distinctly separate (read: knot-free and running parallel to one another). The cables enter the conduit untangled, and emerge at the other end the same way. Quite the winning concept, isn’t it?
Here’s how it works. The Wire Pulling strap is approximately 4 inches long, and has triangular wire holes cut out along its length. You just attach a cable to each of these holes, rig the pulling strap to your fish tape or wire puller, and haul away. Having the cables staggered just that little bit with the pulling strip makes a huge difference – as a matter of fact, it can actually cut labor time in half.
Rack-A-Tiers® cable pulling straps are made of powder-coated steel, and come in sets of 3 (one each of red, blue, and green). Having the multiples lets you attach 2 or more together if you have a large number of cables to pull, and the mix in colors helps you to keep different groups of cable visually separated while they’re being simultaneously pulled into the same pass-through or junction box.
Over the past 5+ months that I’ve been writing this blog, it’s probably seemed like I have broken-record syndrome, because I can’t seem to stop saying how easy it is to use surface raceways to manage your cables. I mean, you just stick the stuff onto the wall (literally – most of it comes backed with adhesive), open up the cover, pop your cords into it, and snap the lid shut again. If you’re feeling really crazy, you can go a step farther and paint it to match your walls, but basically, using raceway is a no-brainer. But guess what? I just found out that surface raceway has gotten even easier. Meet my new pal, Neoprene Rubber Surface Raceway.
Now, I don’t know if I’m fascinated by the fact that someone actually thought to make a cord channel out of Neoprene, or if I’m just getting lazy, but any way you slice it, this product is really cool. It has the same basic rectangular shape as standard PVC raceway, but because it’s made of Neoprene rubber, it’s extremely soft and flexible. The last time I checked, softness and flexibility weren’t exactly conducive to the structural requirements of a snap-open, snap-closed lid. So this product’s designer decided to do away with the latching cover altogether, and go with a simple slit, instead. And that’s what makes Neoprene raceway so much more convenient. You just push cables right into it – no opening, no closing, no finger fatigue. Nice.
Thanks to its simple design and installation, Neoprene cable raceway is a great introductory cable management product to use around the house, because you don’t need to be a pro to install it. And even though it’s perfectly at home in your office or home theater, it’s absolutely perfect for kids’ rooms, where the general rule of thumb tends to be “the softer and safer, the better.”
Basket-style cable trays are the standard pretty much anywhere you need to run cables overhead (like server rooms, manufacturing facilities, and warehouses), but once they’re full, they’re full. Because overfilling a cable tray can damage cables and cause pretty heavy signal attenuation, it’s vital not to exceed capacity. But obeying fill capacity rules can often mean upsizing to a larger cable tray system when you need to expand your network. A complete upgrade not only costs a lot of money, but can also be a major installation headache – when you’re already suspended an entire network of cable baskets from your ceiling or overhead beams, why would you want to go through that again?
Whether you’re about to network a facility from scratch or are facing the influx of more network cables than your current cable tray system can handle, think about opting for the ERICO Caddy J-Hook CAT Link System. This aerial cable support system not only costs significantly less than traditional cable trays, but can also be added onto at any time.
The CAT Link J-Hook System is, as you probably gathered from its name, made up of J-shaped hooks that route cables along the ceiling or support beams of your facility just like cable trays would. In the past, J-hooks weren’t completely in favor with some installers, because there was the concern that they allow the cables to sag between hooks, causing signal loss. But this system has a far superior design: the hooks reduce friction during cable pulls, and have wide bases with smooth, beveled edges that provide excellent support and help to maintain a safe bend radius for your cables.
As I mentioned before, it’s really easy to expand a network with these ERICO caddy J-Hooks, because instead of replacing, you just add on. The hooks (which are available in 1, 2, 3, and 4-inch sizes, by the way) are designed so that you can just attach new hook to existing ones wherever they’re needed, allowing you to tier you cable runs instead of just mixing everything up in one tray. And unlike most cable trays on the market, these J-Hooks require no grounding, screws, rivets, or specialized tools for installation.
Filed under: Cable Pulling, Raceway, Duct and Conduit
It’s pretty well known among cable installers that when you’re pulling cables through long runs of conduit, friction is your biggest enemy. When cables are dragged through conduit, they not only rub together and against the conduit, they can also get caught in spots where the conduit bends. To keep things running as smoothly as possible – and to protect cables against the damaging effects of friction – cables are often sheathed in an innerduct material, like corrugated tubing. Corrugated tubing works great protection-wise, but since it’s rigid and essentially makes cables take up several times as much space as they would on their own, it can really waste conduit space. Wasted conduit space just means you need to use more conduit to get the job done, and more conduit translates into (you guessed it) more money.
So that begs the question: how do protect your cables from friction while saving valuable inner-conduit real estate? Easy. Give up rigid innerducts, and go with a soft and compact option like MaxCell Fabric Innerduct instead. These woven polyester sleeves surround cables to help them glide through twists and turns in conduit, but also conform much more closely to the cable’s shape and size, so you can fit many more cables into one conduit that you would ordinarily be able to with rigid innerduct.
MaxCell Fabric Innerduct is a soft, semi-sheer material, but it still has the ability to protect cables from moisture, petroleum products, chemicals, and UV light, and can be used in both manual/mechanical and air-blown cable pulling applications. It’s available in several versions to fit almost any environment: Standard protects against chemicals in conventional installations, Plenum and Riser Innerducts are low-smoke zero-halogen for safe use in indoor air handling spaces, and the Detectable version contains an 18 gauge copper core tracer that helps the conduit and cables be located easily in underground/buried installations.
I’ve mentioned raceway quite a few times since starting this blog, but there’s a great reason why – the stuff is incredibly versatile, and you can use it pretty much anywhere you want to hide cables. If you’ve never used, or even heard of, cable raceway, let me explain a little bit about it. It’s basically a square or rectangular-shaped channel that’s designed to conceal cable runs along walls. You could say that it’s a lot like conduit, except that most raceways have the very handy feature of a hinged lid that snaps open and closed whenever you need to add or remove wires. You typically install raceway onto your walls with double-sided adhesive (which often comes pre-applied), or, if you need a really permanent installation, you can drill holes through the back and screw it onto the wall. In most cases, though, you’d just stick with the adhesive.
While raceway is one of the easiest wire management options out there, it can present a bit of a problem storage-wise for installers who use it in bulk. Conventional cable raceways are rigid, and usually come in 5 to 6 foot lengths. That’s no problem if you only need a few pieces, but when you order it by the hundreds, shipping costs can start to add up, and the product can eat up a lot of storage space on shelves and in work vans. But Premiere Raceway Products has come up with an extremely compact solution: Raceway On-A-Roll™.
Made out of the same sturdy PVC that many raceways are built from, the main difference of Raceway On-A-Roll™ is that it’s manufactured flat, instead of being extruded into a rigid rectangular shape. Because it’s flat, Premiere’s Raceway On-A Roll™ can be rolled up, so it’s very easy to carry and takes up hardly any space. To use it, you just measure out the length you need, cut off a piece with heavy-duty scissors, stick the adhesive surface onto your wall, and fold the raceway into shape along its hinges.
Aside from being very sturdy, one of the standout features of Raceway On-A-Roll™ is that it actually latches open and closed, just like standard cable raceways do. There are other flat-pack rolled raceways on the market, but they form a permanent channel once assembled, so you don’t have the freedom to make changes. With Raceway On-A-Roll™, you change out or add wires at any time, with no hassle.
Filed under: Cable Pulling, Raceway, Duct and Conduit
Cabling technicians can have quite a sticky situation on their hands when removing old cables fom conduit. Aside from obvious challenges like friction, which can make it hard to pull cable around curves or bends in the conduit, there’s the trickier problem of conduit gunk, which can build up and solidify over the years, virtually cementing cables in place. The presence of sticky substances like wax, rust, soap, bitumen and dirt inside of conduit, combined with zero maintenance, almost always guarantees that cuts will need to made in the conduit in order to free cables. But cuts in conduit usually equal steep repair and replacement costs, which do nothing but kill your budget and make the task even more frustrating.
In the interest of saving installers the hassle of conduit cutting and replacement during cable removals, American Polywater® has developed CableFree®, a liquid removal aid that dissolves conduit buildup and frees cables so that they can be easily removed. A product like this can greatly lengthen the life of conduit, because it allows you to keep the conduit completely intact instead of cutting it open. Once cables have been removed, conduit can simply be cleaned and reused, saving you repair and installation costs.