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What are wire pulling lubricants and how do they work?

Industrial Lubricants 507357208

Wire pulling isn’t always an easy process, especially when installations involve pulling lengthy runs of cable through networks of corridors or conduits within largescale commercial and industrial sites.

Not only is the process of physically pulling wire through the conduit tough, the friction that occurs during pulling can also cause damage to the insulation packed around the conductors. Abrasive forces during the pulling process can lead to conductors becoming exposed. This increases the risks of multiple unwanted impacts including arcs, sparks and, in extreme cases, electrical fires.

To stop abrasion damage occurring, many professional electricians employ wire pulling lubricant, sometimes referred to as wire-pulling compound or cable lube. This solution can reduce potential damage to the wire but also make the installation process simpler and swifter.

Wire lubricant effectively reduces the friction coefficient of the wire as it traverses the raceway. This is the ratio of force between two surfaces pressing one another resisting motion. This allows electricians to pull wire much faster through conduits while decreasing cable abrasion damage.

Considerations when purchasing wire pulling lubricant

When selecting to use a wire pulling lubricant, it is vital to understand the application it will be used for to make an informed decision and find an effective product. Consider which conductors are being used and the length of the spans involved. Longer spans will present greater opportunities for drag.

Operating conditions are also a concern. For instance, some wire pulling lubricants are better suited for dry locations or may be able to cope with a wider temperature range. Consider the route cabling must take, the more bends involved and the more likely that rubbing will occur. Does the cable have a wide diameter and what are the dimensions of the conduit? The thicker the wire involved and smaller the conduit, the harder it will be to pull.

What are the different types of wire pulling lubricant?

Today, cable lubes come in multiple formats, and each has its own unique strengths and will be suited to different applications.

However, the four most common types of wire pulling lubricant that electricians will encounter are synthetic wax, foam, gel and liquid sprays. Depending on the specific application, knowing the best product to use in certain installations will make the work easier, decrease mess on site, and make the process faster.

All these products share common attributes. For example, they are by necessity nonconductive, odourless, non-toxic, and non-corrosive, making them completely safe for use in working environments without the need for PPE like gloves or masks.

Many wire pulling lubricants include polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE). This is a synthetic fluoropolymer which can resist high temperatures and water while offering greater lubricity.

It is important to remember when and when not to use wire pulling lubricants to reduce operational costs. For instance, some types of cable may not need lubricant and can be easily pulled without any. Additionally, for a short run of wire or when using wire with a narrow diameter (small gauge) a standard dry pull may be perfectly possible.

Wax wire pulling lubricants

Synthetic waxes are exceptionally heat resistant, making them ideal in areas where high temperatures exist. Wax is also resistant to water, allowing it to not only repel moisture but maintain its attributes underwater, making it perfect for wet places. As it dries slowly, it needs less frequent applications than other products.

Foam wire pulling lubricants

Foam lubricants can be sprayed into conduits instead of direct application to wires. As cabling is pulled through a conduit it becomes coated in foam, facilitating a smoother pulling process. As the lubricant is limited to the interior of the conduit, minimal mess occurs, making the cleaning process faster. Additionally, the chance of walls and carpets becoming stained is drastically reduced.

Gel wire pulling lubricants

When you want less mess on the work site, gel lubricants can help. Effective across a wide array of different temperatures, gel lube sticks to wires without much dripping. As a result, it is an outstanding choice for running wires around indoor spaces like completed office spaces. Easy to apply gel lubricants are also simple and quick to clean up.

Liquid wire pulling lubricants

Finally, liquid lubricants offer multiple choices for application. Users can pour them onto the wiring, or into conduits, or they can spray lubricants onto the wire during the pulling process. Liquids are especially suited for vertical cable runs. Electricians simply pour the wire pulling compound down from the top of the conduit and because of gravity, it will efficiently coat the entire run from start to finish.

However, spraying or pouring liquid lubricant does have certain drawbacks. Messy to use, it can quickly spread all over the worksite, particularly when workers must run wiring throughout overhead areas. It can also increase the risk of slip hazards on the job site, making observing health and safety protocols and appropriate signage essential.

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