Electrical transmission is a complex process with many moving parts, but some pieces get more recognition than others.
Most people know about the massive power lines carrying electricity from power plants to substations, then along distribution lines to our homes. But fewer know about the tie wire used to keep everything in place so the system can work smoothly.
Also known as utility wire or copper/aluminum cable, tie wire ensures conductors stay where they’re supposed to be without too much sway. Without them, electric power lines could disconnect from their insulators, potentially touching nearby lines, trees, and other objects.
Workers usually leave some slack when tying the conductor to the insulator to prevent damage from high winds and storms. The extra give allows the wire to move slightly, reducing tension on the line and preventing breaks.
When using tie wire, it needs to be the same type as the conductor it’s being used with.
For example, #6 AWG bare copper tie wire is generally used to secure bare copper wires, while covered wire protects covered lines from moving away from their pin insulators.
Insulator type also dictates the type needed for the job. Bare tie wire is needed if the electric utility company uses low-cost porcelain insulators. Covered tie wire is used if the company opts for more expensive High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE) insulators.
Electrical tie wire is used on active distribution lines to keep cables from slipping away from the insulator, but they aren’t just randomly tied to the conductor.
There are several ways to safely secure a conductor to an insulator, either by going over the top or around the side, depending on where the grooves are. In either case, the tying process involves crossing the tie wire at the insulator point to attach it to the insulator, then twisting a few times along both sides of the conductor to stabilize it.
Electrical distribution systems are incredibly complex, but tie wire is a simple product with one goal: keep the wire attached to the utility pole.
Without it, power lines could accidentally sway into objects, creating dangerous arcs or faults. With only a couple of feet of #6 AWG copper wire, workers can easily attach live lines to utility poles, saving time, money, and effort.
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