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For covering copper wire and the like (whether it is carrying current or not), what's the advantage of applying electrical tape as opposed to 'normal' consumer adhesive tape (of similar thickness?

How much of an improvement in insulation or other important factors does it offer?

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By "normal consumer tape", I'll assume you're referring to scotch tape or similar. I think that part of the advantage is that it's more flexible and durable, which is good when you're wrapping wires that would potentially bend or rub against things. – kjgregory Jul 18 '14 at 3:16

3 replies and no-one's stated the blindingly obvious idea that insulating tape is (or should be) specifically designed with electrical insulation properties, and exposure to voltage in mind.

Other tapes may or may not behave nicely in that application - some materials (both tapes & adhesives) can become conductive or worse over time.

I would also like to add that it seems a lot of people believe electrical tape is a suitable long-term / permanent solution in various applications. As far as I'm concerned it's not, ever. Heat-shrink sleeving, spiral wrap, flexible conduit, self-amalgamating tape, rubber sleeves, junction boxes, table ties/clips, grommets, cable markers, etc. are all better solutions for almost any given use of electrical tape other than to temporarily hold, bundle, insulate, or mark a cable.

I've not seen it specified as a permanent or proper solution to anything in the commercial/industrial/telecomms/electrical world.

From personal experience, tape WILL go brittle, shift, fall off, fail to hold and/or leave a nasty sticky residue all over whatever you stuck it to after a while.

Edit to add: The case for "proper" electrical tape is similar to "proper" VDE rated insulated tools, most screwdrivers you buy will have a plastic handle that insulates you from voltage but only VDE rated ones come with an actual guarantee of safety with a rated voltage (1000v usually).

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To quote the OP "How much of an improvement in insulation or other important factors does it offer?" – placeholder Jul 18 '14 at 13:15
    
^ That's a good point, that was indeed my question! Not what's better than electrical tape, but what advantage it has over regular office tape! – user22246 Jul 18 '14 at 23:11
    
Exactly. I bought a reel of electrical tape as part of a kit of tools in the 1970s. I still have it. I service vintage hifi and the first thing you look for is poor workmanship on previous repairs, and top of that list is tape. – EJP Jul 21 '14 at 23:09
    
+1 The difference is the same as between a bath floor mat and a certified insulation rubber mat. The bath floor mat is simply not designed for this use - you can't be sure that it doesn't simply accumulate moisture and lose its properties. – sharptooth Aug 4 '14 at 8:46
    
Right, the electrical tape is listed for that use. That means if things go horribly wrong, you acted in good faith, the fire insurance company will pay, and recover from the maker of the electrical tape. Otherwise your fire insurance will not pay, you better find an apartment before your credit report gets burned from your mortgage lender calling the note, and and you'll have fun trying to find a contingency lawyer to sue 3M for the poor dielectric strength of their Scotch Magic Tape. – Harper May 2 at 3:28

The big difference between electrical tape and "regular" adhesive tape is that electrical tape is stretchy. This allows the tape to wrap around a wire junction and still grab the insulation to either side. This helps keep the tape in place. Regular tape is likely to get stiff, lose adhesion, and slide away from the joint, leaving it exposed.

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2  
Not that this doesn't happen with cheap electrical tape, of course. – Ignacio Vazquez-Abrams Jul 18 '14 at 3:29
    
Oh heavens, no. It is, of course, unthinkable that anybody would sell stuff that doesn't work right. – WhatRoughBeast Jul 18 '14 at 3:39
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Cheap electrical tape is the worst. It gets brittle in like 2 months and crumbles apart. I hate it. – dext0rb Jul 18 '14 at 4:28

Other factors is that the material choice also minimizes pinholes and in some cases the tape is tested to be be pinhole free. Kinda important not to find a pinhole when you are expecting to be dealing with an insulator.

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Pin holes are a particular concern for high voltage circuits!!! – Michael Karas Jul 18 '14 at 3:54

The electrical tape is able to withstand much more heat and like the others said the adhesive is better and it can stretch 200 percent.

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