While using electrical tape and ties can help create more secure electrical connections, some people struggle with connecting wires even when using multiple layers of adhesives. And that’s where heat shrink tubing comes in. These products work as a versatile plastic coating that both DIYers and professional electricians can use on cables easily, and they can also help with organizing wires for a neater connection. Shrink tubing is a marine-grade product that allows you to put electrical wires underground without worrying a lot about water damage. Plus, they can also melt uniformly to seal wires, creating a watertight connection that can withstand tears and abrasions, providing you with a stronger connection.
Using heat shrink to coat and insulate wires is pretty simple, but you need to pick the right product to help prevent errors and accidents. With this in mind, we’ve compiled a list of some of the top heat shrink tubing for 2023 to help you find the ideal option for your unique needs and jobs.
Choosing the appropriate heat shrink tubing should really depend on the specific jobs you’re trying to do. For example, when you’re installing tubing in a water pump connection or a watercraft, you need to use marine-grade tubing with water-resistant properties. Durable and robust tubing is ideal for motorhome electrical repairs because it can withstand a lot of vibration. You can also find heat shrink tubing in several colors and sizes, which helps with labeling circuits. And, some tubes have a maximum length of 4 feet, offering some great value. But you should examine some of the different variables and factors before choosing a product. So, let’s analyze the factors you should consider when purchasing heat shrink tubing. This should help you find something for creating reliable and safe electrical connections.
Choosing the Ideal Heat Shrink Tubing
Tube’s diameter and length
You should ask yourself if the diameters of the heat shrink tubes are sufficient for covering the terminals you’re working with. When purchasing some tubing to attach a wire, you should first measure the length of the terminals you’re using.
Number of pieces in a package
Because heat shrink tubing packs vary in terms of quantity, you should choose something that meets your requirements. A pack of 720 pieces, for example, can assist you in completing bigger electrical tasks such as setting up a wired network in an entire house or working on massive servers. A 275-piece set, on the other hand, can be perfect for general electrical work such as mending, soldering, insulation, and grouping.
The second thing to think about is whether the shrink wrap diameter matches the wire diameter you need to cover. And you should also consider whether a product is flexible enough to allow you to bend a wire after installation. You can find heat shrink tubing in a range of shrink ratios, but the most common ones are 2:1, 3:1, and 4:1.
It’s usually preferable to go for 3:1, which shrinks to around a third of its original size and can handle a variety of wire sizes. And despite being thinner than tubing with a 4:1 shrink ratio, it retains significantly more elasticity, which can help during installation.
Size and colors
Check if there is a sufficient number of pieces and colors in a package to fulfill your requirements. This comes in handy if you work on different installations often, especially when you’re naming the connections. When a circuit you’re working on is already clearly outlined though, the color becomes less important.
The majority of heat shrink tubing is made of polyolefin, which is a very durable material. It’s also tough and shouldn’t break or deteriorate over time, so your electrical connections should be safer for longer.
The interior surface of certain heat shrink tubing contains a heat-activated adhesive lining. And when it’s heated, the glue melts and forces the air out to produce a strong, airtight seal. A high-quality glue should also be watertight and not leave any gaps, even when it’s wrapped around a cluster of wires.
Temperature capacity and other safety measures
The next thing you should consider is whether a product has the appropriate safety features for your specific installation, and you should also check if it’s acceptable for both indoor and outdoor use — or whether a product is only made to use inside buildings. When you are working in high-risk areas, you should choose tubes with a variety of safety features, such as oil-proofing, waterproofing, corrosion resistance, and more. Making safer wire connections is important for the installer as well as the person using the connections after they’re installed. Heat shrink tubing helps protect electrical systems, but if the tubing isn’t rated to withstand the environment where it’s installed, it can lead to a lot of different problems in the future.
How To Work With Heat Shrink Tubing
You should start by figuring out the ideal tube size and shrink ratio. Remember that the tubing must span both its width and length, and it should also comfortably cover any cables or components before shrinking to provide a secure fit afterward.
If the size of the components tubing covers changes after application, double-check the tubing’s expandability by comparing its diameter after shrinking to its diameter before shrinking. And you should also check the heating temperature recommended by the tube’s manufacturer to help avoid uneven application or melting.
Cut an adequate length of tubing using regular scissors and lay or slide it over the tips. Then just heat shrink and wrap it. You can do this by using a heat shrink oven, a heat gun, or even a hot air blower. Heat guns are specialized tools used for more accurate and complex heat applications, so they might be just the right tool for your job, depending on the complexity.
To help minimize the chances of burns while using a heat gun, move the heat back and forth through the tube rather than fixing it in one place. Then you should continue wrapping the wire until it covers the whole connection area.
Best Heat Shrink Tubings Worth Considering for 2023
This option from Eventronic can be an ideal choice for a lot of different jobs, and it can also provide you with a sturdy and adaptable solution for a range of wiring sizes and types. This affordable set can also come in handy for bundling wires or repairing them. And since it’s made from high-quality polyolefin, this product can offer some lasting resistance against tears and abrasions. Plus, because this tubing is flame retardant, you can be pretty confident in terms of safety and avoiding fire damage in your electrical connections.
With its 2:1 heat shrink ratio, this pick can allow you to create strong connections while connecting different wires. And even when this tubing is exposed to heavy weight or high tension, it shouldn’t break or tear apart. Plus, thanks to the multiple diameter configurations, you can count on this product for a ton of different jobs. This pack can also allow you to quickly identify wires because it comes in five different colors.
From connecting and bundling wires to creating insulation seals, the Ginsco Heat Shrink Tubing can help you complete almost any project pretty easily. The package includes 580 pieces of six different colors and 11 sizes, enabling you to work on different size wires, valves, and other electrical components. And with a shrink ratio of 2:1, this tubing seals air gaps by applying less heat and creating a tighter seal for a more secure connection. This option also has a wide temperature capacity and can handle extreme temperatures of -67 to 257 degrees Fahrenheit without cracking or melting.
The greatest thing about this heat shrink tubing is that it’s made from durable polyolefin, which makes it more resistant to corrosion, abrasions, and tears. Using this product, your electrical connections can stay intact and safer for longer, too. And this option also comes with a slotted plastic case, allowing you to store your tubes in an organized way for quick retrieval and some added convenience.
Whether you want to mend a damaged wire or seal out moisture, the Wirefy Heat Shrink Tubing can be a great choice. This heat-activated tubing shrinks to a third of its original diameter to help make secure and tight connections, which can help prevent short circuits and voltage drops. And when you heat this option, it releases adhesive to create a waterproof and long-lasting electrical connection. Plus, because this product is easy to use, you shouldn’t need professional help to repair a damaged wire connection — you just need to slide the wire into the tube and apply heat to seal it in place.
And with this dual wall tubing, you shouldn’t need to repair damaged wires every few weeks because it offers better protection against regular wear and tear. The industrial-grade construction is extremely resistant to abrasion, heat, fluids, and mechanical stretch too, making it super sturdy.
If you don’t want to compromise on precision and are looking for more of an all-rounder choice, this product from XHF can be an excellent option. It comes with double-wall construction and is lined with a heat-activated adhesive, offering more protected connections. Besides allowing for quicker, almost effortless installation, this pick can also let you put a tube on the engine bay of your vehicle without shattering or melting. This product is also compatible with most wire gauges and can be perfect for industrial, marine, and household use.
This heat shrink tubing offers anti-rust and anti-corrosion protection for crimped and soldered joints too, so you can use it for the wiring in your audio system. And it also features a rubber liner with some incredible sealing performance, offering you reliable electrical insulation, amazing sealing, and high-temperature resistance. Plus, this tube has a 3:1 heat shrink ratio — and you can even shrink it with a hot air blower, lighter, or a candle, making it extremely easy to use.
The Innhom Heat Shrink Tubing can efficiently insulate your wires for extended periods without tearing them under extreme temperatures. It also boasts some exceptional flame-retardant and the insulating properties are pretty much unmatched. The tube shrinks to a soft and flexible wire wrap too, even at low shrinkage temperatures. Plus, you can use a heat gun to shrink it in place. This pick also features anti-aging properties to help keep your connection intact for years to come without losing its flexibility, making the connection more adaptable and allowing future position changes.
This tubing also uses dioxin-free construction, making it more eco-friendly. With this tube at hand, you can install wires or bundle them pretty easily, especially if you’ve joined wires of different gauges because it accommodates almost any wire gauge. Even better, this product can prevent wires from rusting, protects solder joints from corrosion, and can provide a convenient wire connection.
Soft, flexibility-retaining design
Securely holds multiple cables
Packs include seven different sizes
Only available in black
People Also Asked
Q: Can I cut heat shrink tubing to match the size of my connection area?
A: Yes. Most of the time, all you need is a pair of scissors and a ruler to get an accurate length of tubing. For thicker tubes, you might need pliers or wire cutters. You shouldn’t try to cut the tubing in half lengthwise because it won’t be able to wrap around the wire completely and may weaken the connection, making it less water resistant and maybe even causing a rupture.
Q: Can I use electrical tape instead of heat shrink tubing?
A: While this could work in certain circumstances, electrical tape isn't as robust as heat shrink tubing and is more likely to lose its stickiness over time. As a result, you may need to check the electrical tape frequently to make sure it remains firm. Electrical tape is pretty simple to apply and doesn’t take long to dry, but it also doesn’t protect as effectively against moisture, corrosion, or wear, making it unsuitable for harsher environments.
Q: How can I remove heat shrink tubing?
A: The first step is locating the end of the heat-shrinkable tubing. Remove the tubing using a blade while keeping the wire disconnected from the electrical circuit. Then, using a thin plier (needle tip pliers work well) carefully remove the tubing away from the attachment.
The Old House Journal Review Team’s product reviews and in-depth guides are here to help you restore, repair, update, and decorate your home. The content is created by The Old House Journal Review Team. The Old House Journal editorial staff is not involved. Old House Journal is reader-supported: When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. All questions regarding articles or product testing can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org