When you are pulling hundreds of feet of cable for dozens of circuits in a big job, it's critically important to properly identify all cabling. For years, electricians have done this with phase tape or other identification products. But there's still potential for confusion during installations and inspections.
That's why Encore Wire Ltd., McKinney, Texas, decided to expand its line of color-coded wire and cable to NM-B, THHN and XHHW-2 building wire, where each wire size now comes in a different color. Encore Wire introduced its colored wire and cable for the commercial market in 1999 to help contractors with installation and inspection, simplify inventory management and provide a safer, more efficient work environment. With the cable for larger commercial jobs, each conductor comes in a different color.
Encore Wire's efforts have not gone unnoticed: The panel of judges for the 2002 EC&M/CEE News Product of the Year Award and readers of the magazines selected the new product line as this year's winner.
The company's newest line of color-coded cable was selected as this year's winner by electrical contractors and other end users on the judging panel at the Electric West 2002 trade show and online voters at the EC&M and CEE News magazines' Web sites. The product line beat out several dozen other products in the Product of the Year competition.
Encore began manufacturing color-coded wire for the residential market in December 2001.
The company now colors all of its 12/2G NM yellow and 10/2G NM orange wire, after numerous requests from electrical contractors and distributors, said Bill Kincaid, marketing manager for Encore Wire. Vincent Rego, Encore Wire's CEO said customers wanted a safer method of identifying wire and cable on the job. Several years ago, he and Dan Jones, the company's president, were at a meeting with electrical inspectors, maintenance engineers and electrical contractors in Columbus, Ohio, and attendees said they were paying electricians $50 per hour just to wrap colored tape around conductors to identify them. Soon after returning from the meeting, Encore Wire began test runs of colored feeder cable.
“The safety engineers loved it because over time with the heat or cold, the tape tends to drop off,” Rego said. “When they come back in for maintenance or upgrading, the tape might not be on. They had to start from scratch to see what was hot and what was not.
“Making the colored wire is so much safer than having it all black. It's a little more expensive because you make a little more scrap. From the safety viewpoint, we had been told that quite a few people grab a hot wire and get killed.”
Rego started making colored nonmetallic wire after hearing similar feedback from the field.
“Art Boyle, our rep in Indianapolis, was at a meeting with quite a few inspectors. They said, ‘The colored feeder cable is a brilliant idea, why don't you do it with the nonmetallic?’ We had never thought of that. They said some electricians would put in 14 AWG where they should have put in 12 AWG. If it were colored, it would be very easy for the inspectors to see what was in there. He mentioned it in the morning, and that afternoon we made a few changes and started to ship some wire with the colors. It went over like hotcakes.”
Kincaid of Encore Wire said from a marketing perspective the colored wire differentiates the company from competitors. Encore also promotes its ability to cut, parallel and deliver reels to job-sites anywhere in the U.S. in three to four days in most cases.
In explaining his selection of the colored wire as Product of the Year, a Pittsburgh, Pa.-based general contractor, said, “In residential wiring, there is no longer any question of, ‘Did I use the correct gauge?’ I think this is the clear winner.”
Another voter, a Kentucky distributor, said many of its contractor customers first saw Encore Wire's new line of colored cable in a photo display in its counter area, and that the installation photos convinced the contractors to try it on their own jobs.
“It created a buzz,” said Sharon Butler, Richards Electric Supply Co., Louisville, Ky. “The colored wire makes the job look professional and neat. If someone has not seen it on a job before, they need to. They will be using it on their next job.”
The EC&M/CEE News magazine Product of the Year competition, now in its third year, was developed in 2000 to honor excellence in new product development in the electrical industry.