If you’ve ever had to order tray cable before, you likely know how many options there are.

From color codes and cable jacketing to voltages and shielding, building a tray cable that fits the exact purpose you need it for is easier than you might think. Tray cable is a multi-use product that functions well across several environments. Part of its adaptability comes from the sheer number of insulations available to warp around the conductors.

Insulation is meant to protect conductors from damage during initial installation and for the life of the wire after it’s installed. Depending on the type of insulation used, it can help dictate what protections the tray cable has in its environment. Let’s say it needs to be installed in a tight location where people will congregate. At that point, it’s worth selecting insulation that has fire-retardant capabilities and low smoke.

Not every insulation will perform well in every situation. That’s why it’s worth knowing where your tray cable will live and how it will interact with the environment.

Typical Materials Used for Tray Cable Insulation

Thermoplastic High Heat-Resistant Nylon (THHN)

THHN insulation consists of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) insulation with a nylon sheath. This insulation is widely used for electrical applications and is rated for indoor and outdoor use.

In most cases, THHN insulation also has a THWN rating, giving it water resistance on top of the high-heat protection. Additionally, this cable insulation is oil, chemical, and solvent resistant and is an affordable option for electrical projects.

Cross-Linked Polyethylene (XLPE)

XLPE insulation is typically seen in XHHW/XHHW-2 cabling and is applied as a thermoset insulation to a single conductor.

As a result, this insulation works well at temperatures up to 90 degrees Celsius in dry and wet environments. XLPE is durable and flexible, making it abrasion and stress resistant. It can also protect conductors from chemical and water damage in the field.

Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) for 20-10 Applications

PVC is a thermoplastic polymer applied to conductors during the extrusion process.

It’s cost-effective insulation for multi-conductor tray cables and is fire, oil, and chemical resistant. The fire protection is especially worthwhile, as PVC will meet VW-1 Flame Test specifications.

Durable and flexible, PVC insulation performs across a variety of temperatures and in hot and cold environments. Lastly, PVC insulation does a great job of maintaining color saturation – colors added to the polymer remain brighter for longer.

Tray Cable Finished Products:

Vinyl Nylon Tray Cable (VNTC)

VNTC is multi-use insulation, making it a popular choice across many applications.

The vinyl/nylon combination is moisture, heat, gas, oil, and sunlight resistant. It also has a direct burial rating, meaning it’s durable. VNTC insulation is also weather resistant, making it an excellent choice for outdoor use and for applications where cable stress may be a factor.

Cross-linked Polyolefin (XLPO)

This compound extruded onto conductors doesn’t contain halogen materials. Halogens are elements that could create toxic gases if the wire is exposed to flames.

XLPO insulation is fire retardant, resistant to sunlight and chemicals, and protects against moisture. It’s also a lightweight and very flexible insulation, making it acceptable for installations in tight spaces or areas where the wire will need to be manipulated.

Flame Retardant Ethylene Propylene (FREP/FR-EPR)

FREP is a highly flexible, weather-resistant insulation that can survive in the elements but is also rated for direct burial. Additionally, this durable insulation is tear, abrasion, and impact resistant and is safe to install in hazardous locales.

Use this insulation in areas where high-heat exposure is possible, but away from oils. FREP insulation is not particularly good at resisting oil damage.

Low Smoke, Zero Halogen (LSZH)

This insulation is flame retardant and has the ability to self-extinguish if it catches on fire.

In the case of a fire, LSZH insulation doesn’t release toxic gases and produces little smoke, allowing for better visibility. These features help LSZH look like a more environmentally friendly option compared to other insulations available today.

Low smoke, zero halogen cable is best suited for confined areas and places where people may gather. Those locations include office buildings, retail outlets, and other public buildings.

Insulation is Only One Part of the Tray Cable Equation

Just like ordering the perfect burger at your favorite restaurant, ordering the best tray cable for your installation is an art.

The application determines everything from the number and style of copper conductors you choose to the insulation and jacketing surrounding them. Before placing an order with Kris-Tech or any other copper wire manufacturer, take a moment to look through your project. Try to determine what hazards might be present, where the wire will be installed, and who or what will be near it.

Once you have the lay of the land, it will be easier to figure out what tray cable you need to get the job done right the first time. If you still need help, Kris-Tech has a team of tray cable experts with decades of experience. They can guide you toward the best fit for your application, ensuring your next job is done right and will be safe for years.

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