To wrap or not to wrap an electrical outlet in a metal box, that is question I can’t find a consistent answer to. When I worked for an electrician, the answer was to wrap the receptacle after the wires are secured. But when I was reading up on it for this post, there are quite a number of differing opinions.
Those who do so wrap electrical receptacles after wiring them to prevent movement of wires or the accidental contact with loose conductors or the sidewall of a metal outlet box. It’s considered a “just in case” precaution, or sometimes just habit.
Whether or not you wrap your outlets in electrical tape, Ideal has come up with a new solution that might change your mind: the ArmourBand. This silicone band is quicker to apply than electrical tape, reusable, and it won’t leave sticky residue behind.
Ideal claims the thickness of the ArmourBand is equivalent to “6 wraps of premium electrical tape.” It is also flame-resistant and has a non-slip finish.
The ArmourBand is marked as “UL recognized,” which means that testing is not complete or the performance is restricted to certain materials or applications. It’s not as definitely not as robust a rating as “UL Listed.”
These are available on Amazon, but the pricing seems a little high at $10 for 10 bands. Alternatively, HNS Tools site is selling a bag of 10 for $5, and a jar of 100 for $35.
Buy Now via Amazon
Buy Now via HNS Tools
The above video doesn’t really add anything new, but I included it because you can get a view of the ArmourBand that is hard to capture in static photos.
While more expensive than electrical tape, the band seems like a no-brainer solution. It’s faster, removable, reusable, and doesn’t leave any sticky residue. Who hasn’t pulled an outlet out of a box and had to find the end of the tape, try to get under the edge to peel it off, and then deal with the sticky tape and outlet because the adhesive has partially liquefied.
So the question is: do you wrap outlets as you wire them, or not, and why?
Not an electrician here, but I was taught to wrap in electric tape. I’ve seen outlets that weren’t wrapped yet shorted against a metal box. Wrapping just seems like a pretty easy measure to take for some added protection. A lot of times when I see electricians changing outlets or switches they just cut the old wires so they are not wasting any time looking for the end of the tape or dealing with the sticky mess. It’s not like these things get changed out every 5 years or something.
Cutting the wires to an old outlet or switch during replacement is a good idea as it allows you to use some fresh pristine wire to make your new connections, if you have adequate wire length.
To answer Benjamen’s question; I only wrap an outlet when things are really tight, which is rare.
P.S. I’m also not an electrician.
If you are finding sticky residue, you used crap tape. Super 35 is the MINIMUM tape allowed in my tool box. As for replacing tape wrapping with some band. Let’s do the logistics, where are you going to keep it? With the screw driver and wire strippers? I’m sure none of them will be there by the time you get to the third outlet. Replace the tape? Nope, that won’t work. Some magical pocket that isn’t already full of wire nuts and screws? Oh yeah, on no actual UL rating. A toy for amateurs.
Using this receptacle-
The device is 8.5 linear inches around (2.75H x 1.5W) around the area that would get taped.
One roll of super 33+ is 66′ long
One round (circumference) around my roll of tape is 8.83″
1.5 times around the same roll of tape is ~13.25″ unstreched.
66′ * 12″ =792″ of tape per roll.
792″ / 13.25″ = 59.77 or 59 receptacles wrapped per roll of $4 tape.
$4 / 59 = $0.068 per receptacle.
$1 per receptacle with the silicone band.
I priced a job with ~850 receptacles today.
That’s less than 15 rolls of tape or $60
$850 in material costs for silicone bands.
I don’t think the silicone band will save enough on my labor costs to save me any money with that big of a difference.
Using cheap tape that is used more often for jobs like this-
My cost would drop to slightly over 2 cents per receptacle or 16 rolls at $18.88 for the job.
60′ * 12″ =720″
720″ / 13.25″ = ~54
$1.18 / 54 = ~$0.022
None of this included tax. Someone let me know if my math is wrong anywhere.
$1 per receptacle for silicone band.
$0.07 per receptacle for good tape.
$0.02 per receptacle for cheap tape.
1.5 times around my roll of tape was from me marking the tape and then stretching it around a receptacle in my hand like I would in the field and watching how much was used. I did this twice and got both almost exactly the same length.
To be fair you are using the absolute worst pricing. 10 bands for $10 shipped free on Amazon.
If you use the $35 for 100 bands you are at $0.35 per band. And since you are talking 850 outlets you’d probably get some kind of discount at 10 jars of 100 (when and if they become more common place)
So you are going to spend more like $300 in bands vs $60 in tape.
I wrap in metal boxes.
Don’t in plastic…but i also don’t use thread locker on the screws…LOL
not an electrician…
1 have never wrapped an outlet 1.5 times … more like 2.5 – 3 times … and it can be finicky between wire length and with the mounting screws in the way.
1.5 times is referring to the measured number of loops taken from the roll of tape in order to get my approximate 13.5″ of tape used per receptacle. I wrapped the receptacle two full loops and pulled on the tape like I would do in the field. I always use nicer tape and two wraps seems plenty for the protection that I look for.
Not sure what the wire length has to do with that, i’m only wrapping the terminals and the wire that is coiled beneath said terminal.
My point was, that with existing setups, with very short wires in the box and not much room to spare … wrapping can be tricky if one can’t pull the receptacle forward. Not enough room add pigtails easily, …
I’m an estimator now…so yes.
Metal box, metal cover: wrap
Plastic box, plastic cover: not needed
Loose excess ground wire: wrap just in case
Silicone band that will dry rot VS plastic tape that will dry out. However, I have dealt with electrical tape that’s about 50 years ago and still held up. Tape is cheaper and multi-functional. Why would I want to reuse the wrap; when it’s supposed to be considered a *permanent* install? People also use the holes at the back.
That’s what I couldn’t figure out. Why reusable? Seems like more of an item for temp installs and rough in work for general protection.
Mike (the other one)
This is my thought as well. I could see this being useful when making temp outlets at a job site or work shop, but for permanent installs, it seems like you are spending a lot of money on something you’ll never see again.
Red Green might frown on this product. He would probably remove the switch, then short it against the box. That way he would know which circuit breaker controlled the box.
Just a Medic
Hmmm, I read the article and used the $10 for 10 based on sticker shock maybe. I don’t remember seeing the other pricing. Maybe I was so floored by the first price, I just got lost in my own thoughts and blurred the others out while I started my math session. 🙂
For what it’s worth, I think the point still stands that these are way over priced at 4-5X the cost of tape for the claims being made in the article.
You state in the article-
“Ideal claims the thickness of the ArmourBand is equivalent to “6 wraps of premium electrical tape.” It is also flame-resistant and has a non-slip finish.”
Anyone who uses 6 wraps of tape is being wasteful or wasn’t taught on any proper techniques.
Tripling my two wraps at .068 cents would raise the cost per receptacle to .204 cents per receptacle which means these bands at .35 cents are not equivalent in cost to 6 wraps of tape.
Premium tape at a thickness of .007 inches (stated on the packageing) times 6 equals .042 inches.
Ideal does not state anywhere the actual thickness of the product, so I can’t compare and I don’t have faith in their marketing to be true at this point either.
“The above video doesn’t really add anything new, but I included it because you can get a view of the ArmourBand that is hard to capture in static photos.”
That video is heavily biased and definitely marketing heavy. The “electrician” is 2X faster with the band??? BS.
The only part supposedly improved is the final wrap of the receptacle (cutting wire to length, stripping, bending, hooking under the terminal, and tightening should remain the same) and wrapping is easily not the longest part of putting in a receptacle. A few wraps only takes a few seconds. Is this band cinched around my wires before I put my wires under the terminals causing me to fidget with something else, or do I stretch it around the receptacle after the wires are in place (they fast forward through that step every time)?
“While more expensive than electrical tape, the band seems like a no-brainer solution. It’s faster, removable, reusable, and doesn’t leave any sticky residue. Who hasn’t pulled an outlet out of a box and had to find the end of the tape, try to get under the edge to peel it off, and then deal with the sticky tape and outlet because the adhesive has partially liquefied.”
I think your giving them way too much credit by saying this is a “no-brainer solution”.
Faster is debatable/debated at this point and i’m probably beating a dead horse.
Tape is removable also.
Good tape is reusable for a good amount of time and anything longer than that means I just re-wrap it several more times at less than the cost of the initial band.
Good tape doesn’t leave a sticky residue. Before someone says “the cheap tape leaves sticky residue everywhere though”, just know that the person before you who used the cheap tape was never going to pay for the most expensive option (bands) and you would have to deal with it anyways.
You don’t need to “find the end of the tape”, just cut it and make your own end.
I don’t mean to sound mean about any of my points and I don’t mean to sound like i’m directing any anger your way.
I’m just building my argument for later when these become more prevalent in the field and I have to make my case.
Just like the wave of idiots that argued *20V tools were more powerful than 18V tools…
They aren’t claiming you need to used 6 wraps, it’s just that thickness. It’s probably the thinnest you can make the silicone band and still be durable.
I included the video to show more how elastic the band is, which is something you don’t get from a static photo. I agree the marketing is very annoying and laid on too thick.
Maybe I haven’t wrapped 1000s of receptacles to get my technique down, but wrapping around the long installation screws does really slow me down. You are right that there could be additional issues with the band if you install it first, but I envisioned finishing wiring the receptacle, then slipping the band over the receptacle from the front.
You’ve definitely made me rethink my stance and that’s a good thing. I’m coming at this more from the perspective of the handyman/residential/repair angle, where you are only having to wrap a few outlets, not a commercial situation where you are doing 100s and everything is in a metal box.
Taking a look from an owners perspective, they should be informed of the two options. They should decide which to use, and if they want to absorb the related cost. That gives the owner more say in the project. And it makes the higher cost to the electrician a mute point.
Don’t you mean a “MOOT” Point?
If the wires are installed on the device correctly and the device is screwed down, there’s no way for them to short against the box or cover. So why wrap at all? Just so you can insert or remove a hot device?
If a wire is so loose or improperly stripped maybe it should trip a breaker before it causes a real problem. Wrapping won’t fix anything, it just masks it.
Silicone bands and tape wrapping seem like a solution in search of a problem.
Am I missing something?
James D Madara
I grew up in Northern Illinois and have never seen an electrician wrap an outlet.
I’ve never seen a commercial job in OR, WA or MI in metal where anything 120 or 240 was wrapped. Nor any metal box residential in OR.
I was guessing some areas it’s code. I’ve seen main panels on the outside of homes on the West coast, but never in my area.
One thing a product like this does is provide consistency, which appeases insurance underwriters.
I tend to find that electricians that wrap outlets are the same people that use both plumbing tape & pipe dope when joining threaded fittings. I’m an engineer and not an electrician, full disclaimer.
If I’m installing several outlets, I’ll actually strip the wires a bit farther back from the end, and just pull the insulation away about a half inch… leaving the insulation ‘tail’ securely on the end. This way all my wires all have the loose ends with nice color coded insulators on the end. Realistically, my house is from the 50s… so rarely do I have the luxury of the extra wire length for my preferred method. I don’t tape the switches; I trim any extra wire dangling off the screw after tightening.
Teflon tape minimum is actually required in weather-proof applications, when connections don’t have tapered threads. Which rigid conduit does not, that tends to be an oil and gas standard.
May have already been mentioned, but the first wrap of tape I put on is sticky side out then flip roll 180 and 2 more wraps. At work (very dirty forge plant) we wrap all 480/3 and 120 volt outlets on the presses and induction heaters as the scale from the billets gets into the outlet receptacles and will arc to the metal box spectacularly.
Thanks, that sounds like a great tip!
Professionals who follow code don’t wrap. Some people wrap to prevent bare ground wires from contacting current carrying conductors via the screw terminals. That risk is minimal with good installation techniques and following the code for maximum wire fill in a box. The issue is that some boxes are overfilled and jamming in dimmer switches or GFCI outlets only makes the problem worse. A proper sized box, metal or plastic, with devices installed correctly does not require any additional wrap, tape or otherwise.
That sounds correct to me. I read that it’s done to protect wall finishers since outlet covers are removed. Or children sticking things into an outlet that has a broken cover.
I guess the children could reach their fingers into the box. If the outlet cover plate is missing.
I always wrap outlets and switches because I never know who may be taking the plate off and no need to take a risk at the cost of pennies. Keep in mind this is usually only a constant for residential, commercial I expect only knowledgeable people to be accessing.
Maybe one of the electricians could explain the correct tape to use in different situations. For example, 3M 33+ (black) and 35 (colors) are the same, as far as I can tell from the 3M site So for a homeowner, those seem to be the best to have on hand, and they tend to not leave residue when removed. But for an auto engine bay, I’ve seen tape in wiring harnesses give up the ghost from heat, so what’s a good product to use in that setting?
There’s lots of different stuff for different functions. 88 and 33/35 are usually bare minimum, and different thickness, used to identify phases, write on, finish an insulation with a non adhesive surface. Under that for insulation, and commonly mistaken floor electrical tape and is bad with heat would be 130c, rubber tape. Which can be different thickness and occasionally referred to as gasket maker regarding the thicker stuff. There’s cambric tape for high voltage insulation, glass tape specifically for heat situations, mastic is pretty much goo and also used in specific insulation situations like high voltage ground splices in stress cones. Sometimes confused with 130c you’ll see 10mil and anti-corrosive wrap for metal pipes in concrete. most higher voltage terminations will require various combinations of tapes in specific orders. There’s probably plenty more I’ve never heard of, and there’s variants of the same spec tape under different names by manufacturer that gets annoying, which is why most of us have a brand, and we don’t stray . 90% of what you’ll see out there is 88/35 or 130c, used in various appropriate and inappropriate capacities.
I am not an electrician, but I found this table (pdf) from 3m helpful. Seems 33+ and 35 are similar (same thickness_ but watch out that 35 is a little less sticky, a little less stretchy, a slightly higher breaking strength, and not rated as cold as the 33+. The Super 88 is slightly thicker and a little stronger than the 33+, but both have the same temperature rating. On the flip side, 35 comes in colors, while you can have 33+ and 88 in any color you want, as long as it’s black.
This is a point ripe for speculation. There’s a million of us sparkies, and we all learned different SOPs, from different varieties of the trade, with varying adherence levels to code, and we all think we’re dead right if you catch us in the right mood lol Does it matter for wrapping? By code, no. By ahj interpretation, could be. By practice of professionals, probably 50/50. Should it be making it breaking a job however it’s done, hell no. It is extra protection, and there’s nothing wrong with that. The only instance I can imagine someone being angry finding tape, is just to be angry it’s not their way. Tape residue is the least of any problems we can ever find. Best solution are the receptacles that you simply stab in the wires, and nothing is exposed, period. I’ll wrap on service work when the box or fill is sketchy, and I’ll just term it right and move on in a new install. Outdoor can be a good situation to wrap, to protect terminals from rotting from condensation or when a gasket inevitably rots out. Like I said originally, and I evidenced in my ramblings, it’s ripe for speculation. But it’s a pretty low importance topic.
Back stab termination method is garbage compared to terminal wrapping. Its a horrible design that is downright dangerous long term. They sound great in theory, but lack the robust compression and surface area neccessary required when used in the field.
If you back stab you still have the exposed terminals on the side and still does not solve the issue being discussed.
All recep’s SHOULD be wrapped, (not MUST be), as it is common for painters, homeowners and contractors to have the covers off when painting. Because of that, the live terminals provide exposure/access to an energized circuit. Professionals are responsible for reasonable reduction of known risk of exposed energized circuit.
Common are stories of families painting rooms and infants/children getting zapped just touching the “shiny little silver thing” in the wall.
Not sure what model you’re talking about that still have exposed terminals on the side, but that’s definitely not what I’m referring to.
And I’m sure that the termination method being garbage is largely a personal opinion since they’re rated and listed. I’m an industrial electrician, probably why I’m less hot-blooded about this crap than others, not really in my wheel house of problems these days. Done my share of residential, though. Held 4 state licenses in fire and life safety for 5 years and some change, so I’m very aware of the hazards and statistics with electrical in the home, the majority of which are related specifically to splices not made in enclosures, and work/modifications on circuits performed by unqualified persons (not electricians).
Hopefully its a difference in semantics or trade languages, I am going to assume we are just not on the same page and are talking about something totally different.
The same electricians who feel comfortable using “backstab” termination probably use Wago’s as well as they are “UL Listed”.
“Back stab” as found on residential devices is bad but should not be confused with rear wire insertion with the side terminal screws operating an internal clamp. The latter works pretty good.
I Know This is a great Invention and it works great.
Way Because I invented it. and Ideal put it on the market.
They waited till my patent ran out to take it on.