Step outside and you’ll notice that the air is brisk and people are bundled up in coats. Winter is upon us. And while that brings festive parties and holiday deals, winter means extra strains on wire and cable. Cold temperatures and atmospheric changes that come with winter weather can impact the effectiveness of some cabling materials. Prepare for cool weather and winter storms to ensure uninterrupted operation that’s reliable every day of the year.
Learn how winter weather can impact wire and cable and how to prepare for those seasonal challenges.
Know Your Local Area
The properties of materials used in electrical equipment can be affected by low temperatures. Components that are damaged by cold weather may become unsafe or even unusable. Research your local climate to learn what temperature changes your area may expect in the winter. Review manufacturer's instructions and learn local electrical code requirements to ensure that your wiring is compliant. If necessary, make changes to installation and operational methods to ease the effects of low temperatures.
Choose the Right Materials
Low temperatures can cause metals to become brittle. This makes it difficult for wire and cable insulation to withstand impact and excessive bending. When faced with vibration, expansion or contraction, the materials could fracture. Components like fasteners, mounting structures and equipment housings are more vulnerable to damage caused by low temperatures.
Plastics can react the same way as metals in cold temperatures. In some plastics, embrittlement can occur in temperatures as high as 32°F. When choosing wire and cable, make sure the components are made from materials that will withstand local weather and temperature changes.
Dealing With Static
Because cold air holds less moisture, winter is typically the driest season of the year. The lack of humidity means more static electricity is in the air. Electricity and Electrostatic Discharge (ESD) can damage computer components and blow fuses. Static electricity can build up on plastic surfaces, creating problems with electrical equipment. Meters and other sensitive electronics may give incorrect readings because of static electricity. Facilities like data centers that contain a lot of wiring and cabling should abide by acceptable humidity ranges to protect components from static.
Take Care During Installation
Cold temperatures can make the biggest impact on wire and cable during installation. A cable’s installation temperature is defined as the lowest temperature recommended for the installation. Generally, the installation temperature is found by increasing the cold temperature rating by 10°C to 20°C. Cables should be kept indoors in a temperature-controlled facility for one day before installation in a cold environment. After taking a cable out of storage, be careful to not drop or overbend it during installation. By taking the necessary precautions, your wire and cable will be positioned to effectively withstand winter weather.
Don’t Get Caught Off Guard
Winter storms and extreme weather often come unexpectedly. By preparing for cold temperatures, your wire and cabling will be able to handle any seasonal surprises. Best of all, you won’t have to repair damaged equipment later on. Review maintenance manuals and choose materials suitable for local weather so your equipment will be ready to operate on the coldest days of the year.
In some industries, things are relatively stable from year to year. While manufacturing was done in much the same way for many years, emerging trends promise to change that. An original equipment manufacturer (OEM) must be resourceful and search for opportunities to stay competitive in an increasingly volatile market. While there may be challenges ahead, applying industry best practices will help any manufacturer operate at the top of their game.
Article originally published Sept. 2, 2016, and updated for accuracy and relevance.
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