The Importance of Proper Insulation for Electrical Safety: A Comprehensive Guide
Mains electricity has the potential to inflict severe injury and even death. It’s therefore essential that it’s treated with respect. Only qualified people should handle it, and a range of safety measures should be used to prevent the unwary from accidentally hurting themselves.
One of the most fundamental of these measures is insulation. This is the practice of putting a non-conductive material around a conducting one.
What is electrical insulation, and why is it crucial?
Electrical insulation consists largely of the plastic sleeve that surrounds a live (usually copper) wire. Insulation serves several purposes. First, it prevents the copper from coming into contact with the people who might touch it. Second, it prevents the copper from touching the neighbouring wire, which will create a short circuit, the result of which might be electronics that don’t work, or, worse, an electrical fire.
It’s worth noting that moisture and other materials might cause harm if they come into contact with the copper. Thus, insulation should ideally be as tight as possible.
Types of Insulation Materials
In older properties, the insulation on a given wire is often made from rubber, but PVC is more common today. In specialist applications, where performance in extreme conditions is required, you might see a whole range of other materials used. For example, silicone is extremely heat-resistant, and so often used in hot environments.
Insulation Installation Best Practices
The insulation on electrical wire is mostly incorporated at factory level. You should inspect your cable before you get started, to ensure that it’s not frayed or cracked. If you see even a little bit of damage, then you should declare the product defective and return it to the manufacturer. Do not try and make do.
However, there are a few occasions where we need to add our own insulation as we’re installing the electrics. You can use electrical tape to enclose exposed sections of cable. In some cases, you might wish to wear insulating gloves and protective goggles. In every case, you should always turn the power off before you start working with electricity.
If you’re in the slightest doubt, then it’s time to stop and call in a professional – electricity is seriously dangerous, and not something you can learn about as you go along.