Monthly Archives: June 2017

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Copper vs. Aluminum Wire – Applications and Considerations

The wire and cable industry uses a variety of metal conductors, but the two most common are copper and aluminum.  Because each metal type has unique properties, they are best suited for different applications or purposes.

Copper Wire

The most popular conductor used in commercial, industrial and residential construction is copper.  Due to its elemental makeup, copper is an excellent, relatively low-cost conductor (in comparison to gold and silver which are both excellent conductors).

Copper has many features and benefits:  in addition to its common acceptance in most applications, it has high tensile strength and higher current carrying capacity by volume, which means the conductors are typically smaller.  Smaller conductors can be of benefit when working in tight spaces and a primary reason copper is the preferred material when wiring branch applications like to a switch or receptacle.

Most metals corrode which can be detrimental to the efficacy of an electrical system.  While steps should be taken to prevent oxidation of conductors, it should be noted that copper oxidation is semi-conductive.

Copper costs significantly more than aluminum, so when moving large amounts of power is necessary, copper may be cost prohibitive.  Copper is also stiffer and heavier than equivalent ampacity aluminum conductors making it difficult to work with in larger runs.

Aluminum Wire

Aluminum wire has been around for a long time.  Primarily used for utility applications, aluminum is now being used more and more in feeder applications in large scale commercial, industrial and residential applications.  You likely have aluminum coming into your house to your main breaker panel.  Aluminum is a good conductor; however, there are things that must be considered before applying this 21st century metal.

A larger volume of aluminum is necessary to conduct the same electricity as copper, so typically you must upsize your conductor two sizes to accommodate the same circuit ampacity, e.g., substitute a 750 MCM aluminum for a 500 MCM copper.  Download General Cable’s Ampacity Calculator from their app page to help with proper sizing.

Aluminum is very light.  Even though the conductors are bigger they will likely weigh less than the equivalent ampacity copper conductor.  Additionally, the aluminum conductors will have a larger outer diameter due to the increase in size although this is mediated using compact stranding which reduces the air gap in between the strands.  Still, the larger conductors may create the need to upsize conduit.  Aluminum Wire is also “annealed” making it much more flexible than standard copper conductors and much harder to break due to mechanical wear.

Aluminum expands and contracts at a different rate than copper – each metal has a different coefficient of expansion.   Steps must be taken to prevent issues of creep (the movement of metal at connection points in the system while under electrical/thermal cycling) from occurring.  In today’s electrical world, this is commonly achieved by using dual rated lugs provided by the manufacturer of the gear you purchase.

Earlier in this article, we noted that copper oxide is semi-conductive, but aluminum oxide is an insulator.  It is standard practice to use an oxide inhibiting grease when making a connection at any point in your electrical system when there is the presence of an oxide accelerant (moisture or other element).

Return on investment (ROI) is very important to companies today.  Thus, the most obvious advantage in selecting aluminum wire is the its lower material price.  Aluminum is used in everything today, from packaging to airplane bodies and is the most plentiful ore found on the planet and as such the supply is high and the cost associated with it is low and very stable.  When employed to distribute power it is a very cost effective alternative.

Summary

In the end, both copper and aluminum are popular wire materials for commercial, industrial and residential projects.  The appropriate wire solution will depend on the project, situation, location, budget, code compliance and safety requirements.

If you have a question please reach out to the professionals here at French Gerleman:  coupled with our partner in both aluminum and copper wire, General Cable, we can help you with an answer.  General Cable is a 100+ year-old U.S. manufacturer whose wire products are recognized for their reliable performance, durability and safety.  Its products can be found in many high-profile projects throughout North America.

French Gerleman stocks a wide range of copper and aluminum wire sizes and colors in 500, 1,000 or 2,500 foot rolls or cut to length. Pulling heads are also available for most wire sizes.  In addition to wire, French Gerleman offers a variety of wire management solutions from transport to payout to save you time, money and materials.  To learn more, give your French Gerleman account manager a call today!


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Product Spotlight: Panduit VeriSafe Absence of Voltage Tester

This new product from Panduit is a game-changer in the industry! The Panduit VeriSafe Absence of Voltage Tester automates the voltage verification process for control panels to reduce the risk of exposure to electrical hazards for improved worker safety. VeriSafe conducts the same test procedures required by NFPA 70E to verify that equipment is electrically safe for servicing. Fifty-five percent of electricians and technical personnel experienced a voltage testing injury or near miss with handheld testers.[1] That’s when Panduit decided there had to be a better way and created the VeriSafe.

What is the significance of verifying the absence of voltage? There were 24,000 electrical injuries in US workplaces from 2003 to 2012. Thirty-five percent of those injuries are due to contact with wiring, transformers or other electrical components![2] The leading cause of those injuries are from performing work without turning off power and verifying a de-energized condition. This is why verifying the absence of voltage is a critical task that is part of almost every job that includes electrical hazards.

VeriSafe is a tester, not just an indicator. It can verify the absence of phase-to-phase and phase-to-ground AC and DC voltage up to 600V circuits. The automated test sequence helps reduce operator error. It uses active visual indicators that convey the status of the voltage inside electrical equipment and panels before it accessed, therefore reducing exposure to electrical hazards and protecting workers.

In just a few seconds, with just the touch of a button, the VeriSafe Absence of Voltage Tester runs several tests: test the tester, verify installation, check for voltage, verify installation and then retest the tester.

There are three components to the VeriSafe: the indicator module, the isolation module and the AVT system cable. The indicator module serves as the user interface is typically installed in the door of the electrical panel. It is designed to keep dangerous voltage away from the user. With the push of a button, it initiates the test process and provides visual indication, making the process simple, quick and safe. The isolation module is located inside the panel with a sensor that leads to the power conductors inside the panel.

To start, you will push the button to begin the test. A flashing yellow LED indicates that a test is in progress. A solid yellow LED after the test indicates the absence of voltage could not be confirmed. Red LEDs indicate presence of AC voltage and green LED confirms the absence of voltage.

VeriSafe is ideal for:

  • Equipment with a single source of incoming power
  • High risk associated with access, including frequently accessed equipment and high incident energy
  • Remote or difficult to access locations
  • Sites with temporary or intermittent power
  • Equipment with stored electrical energy
  • Equipment frequently serviced by third-party technicians

Panduit is the ONLY manufacturer who provides active testing to confirm de-energized voltage and verifies installation. They’re also the only manufacturer with safety functions that meet IEC 61508 (SIL 3) and meets the requirements for installed testers NFPA 70E-2018 120.5 (7) Exception 1.

If you’re interested in learning more or seeing the VeriSafe in action, here is a great video from Panduit showcasing the features of VeriSafe and how it can help reduce the risk of exposure to electrical hazards.

Call your French Gerleman Account Manager today to learn more about this game-changing Absence of Voltage Tester from Panduit!

 

[1] H. L. Floyd and B. J. Nenninger, “Personnel Safety and Plant Reliability Considerations in the Selection and Use of Voltage Test Instruments,” IEEE Transactions on Industry Applications, vol. 33, no. 2, pp. 367-373, 1997.

[2] US Department of Labor, “Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Injuries and Illnesses,” [Online]. Available: http://www.bls.gov/iif/data.htm. [Accessed 16 April 2015].


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Advantages of Bonitron Regenerative Braking Solutions

In almost every industry, the old saying “time is money” stands true. This saying is no more true than in the world of Industrial Automation. Processes that require frequent stops or continuous braking create a harsh environment for variable frequency drives (VFDs), causing overvoltage faults that stop production.

Integrators are forced to sacrifice valuable time for functionality to create a system that operates properly. Bonitron Line Regeneration models are designed to provide continuous energy regeneration, giving the integrator extreme flexibility to push your process as fast as possible. This increases each line’s production by allowing the customer to stop as fast and as often as you want with no process downtime.

To size our regenerative solution, take the horsepower of your VFD and match it to the horsepower of one of our Line Regen models listed below.

The time it takes to complete your process determines the amount of profit made. When variable speed drive systems are required to brake, excess energy is generated that must be removed or the drive system can lose control of the process due to an overvoltage fault.

Bonitron’s Line Regeneration modules and Regenerative DC Bus Power Supplies give you the ability to expand the braking capabilities of your standard 6-pulse VFDs. Bonitron Line Regen models replace the traditional braking transistor and resistor option.

Instead of dissipating braking energy as heat in a resistor, Line Regen solutions return this energy to the power grid. This reduces demand from the utility, which equates to ample energy savings. Bonitron Regenerative solutions are delivered ready to install with no programming or extra components needed. Access to the VFDs DC terminals and a return 3-phase connection to the AC line are the only installation requirements.  It automatically synchronizes to the frequency of the incoming power line, allowing automatic adaptation to 50Hz or 60Hz. Being efficient and small enough to be integrated into the drive cabinet, eliminates excess resistor wiring, panel space and cooling costs.

Most panels contain multiple VFDs. Each VFD requires their own set of required components: reactor, fusing, breaker and conduit. Implementing the use of a common DC bus system removes the need of components for each individual VFD such as AC breakers, AC fusing, reactor and AC conduit. Removal of these components results in extreme reduction in costs, watts loss, installation time and panel space.

Bonitron’s Regenerative Power Supply rectifies the AC line, supplying DC power to operate VFDs. During a braking event, as the DC bus rises above the AC line peak, the Regenerative Power Supply also redirects current from the DC bus into the AC line to limit the rise in bus voltage and prevent overvoltage faults.

Utilize the Regenerative Power Supply to create a common DC Bus connection that drastically reduces the cost of the panel. To size properly simply add the horsepower of all VFDs to be connected to the common bus and apply a Regenerative Power Supply that rated to the cumulative horsepower.  Use Bonitron’s Regen Cost Savings Calculator to estimate your annual cost savings.

For more information on this or other Bonitron solutions, call your French Gerleman Account Manager or contact us.


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Tray Cable – What is it and when to use?

Efficient cabling system design can take many forms with today’s wide variety of solutions.  Tray cable can be one of the simplest and most effective solutions in your facility today.

You might have heard the term “tray cable,” but do you know what it is and when you should use it? The National Electric Code (NEC) defines tray cables as, “a factory assembly of two or more insulated conductors under a nonmetallic sheath, for installation in cable trays, in raceways, or where supported by a messenger wire.”

Tray cable is a versatile cable that is approved for installation in raceways or cable tray.  Cables come in multiconductor and multipair styles, which means that they can be used for instrumentation/signal, control, power and lighting. Cable tray is used as an alternative to open wiring or electrical conduit systems and is great for cable management in commercial and industrial construction. Cable tray offers many benefits over conduit because cables are easier to access for installation, repair, removal and future development, as well as organization and clean, secure cable routing.

Tray cable is the ultimate all-around cable.  There are types that can be used in both wet and dry environments, in direct burial applications and sunlight resistant to be used outdoors.  Powerful enough to support structure of all sizes, tray cable is used in a wide range of manufacturing, industrial and commercial facilities.  Tray cable comes in a variety of multi-conductor and multi-pair styles that can be used for control, instrumentation/signal, power and lighting.  Insulation types are varied ranging from VNTC (Vinyl Nylon Tray Cable – least expensive), CVTC (Continuous Vulcanization Tray Cable) and ultimately to FREP (Flame-Retardant Ethylene Propylene Rubber – highest quality).  The insulation required depends on the environment and is usually dictated by the end user or engineer.

At French Gerleman, we stock many variations of General Cable Tray Cable in full reels or cut to custom lengths. With General Cable’s FREP® and VNTC®, you have access to the broadest line of industrial tray cable available in the market.

To complement our tray cable offering, we stock fittings and connectors specified for tray cable applications.

French Gerleman’s in-stock tray cable offering:

  • Jacket materials: PVC, XLP, FREP, CPE, LSZH and more
  • Shielded or Non-shielded options
  • Voltages: 300V or 600V
  • Colors: standard and special color codes available
  • Lengths: standard lengths or custom cuts
  • Fittings and connectors in stock

Interested in learning more or getting started with tray cable? Give your Account Manager a call today!


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Convenient Electronic and Online Options for Your Business from French Gerleman

Looking for ways to save time, money and ultimately, make your life, and job easier? You have enough on your plate, and we want to help streamline the process and make the experience working with French Gerleman as simple and convenient as possible. That is why we offer a wide array of electronic and online options!

Technology is constantly changing and advancing, and we want to provide valuable business tools to help you manage your account information and transactions with us.  We have convenient order and Invoice management as well as e-Commerce Solutions that are quick and easy.

In this blog, we will highlight options that are currently available to help build our business partnership. For full details and specifics on our offerings, you can download our Electronic & Online Options brochure HERE.

  • Online Credit Application: Request an account with open payment terms.
  • Electronic Invoicing: Free electronic invoicing, receive statements on invoices faster.
  • Online Payments- Automated Clearing House (ACH): Pay your invoices online and eliminate paper clutter, as well as review invoice history and account balances…
  • Electronic Data Interface (EDI): Receive data from your company via EDI, receive electronic orders, order acknowledgements and invoices.
  • Online Ordering: Order the products you need online with real-time product availability and pricing.
  • Credit Card Payment: Pay using Mastercard, Visa, American Express or Discover cards.
  • Request Quote: Request quotes for your unique item and we’ll respond with availability and pricing.
  • Shipment Notifications: Know when products are being shipped to your warehouse or job site.
  • Return Goods Authorization Request: Easily request a return authorization.
  • eQuote: Access your quotes online for up to 60 days.
  • Punchout: Automate ordering directly from your internal procurement system.

In addition to our electronic and online business options, we offer training on the latest technologies to help increase your company’s return on investment. We offer courses to help you effectively implement your automation, datacom, electrical supply, power transmission and safety investments. We can also create custom and private training.  Contact us for more information.

To discuss available electronic or online options, contact your French Gerleman Account Manager or visit us online at frenchgerleman.com/EZTDBW.  Don’t have an account manager?  Call 800-333-3122 to learn more.