Should You Organize Your Cables with Hook-and-Loop Ties or Straps?
It seems as if electronic cables and wires are everywhere. Whether you’re wiring a desktop workstation, an IT closet or an entire data center, you know you’ll have a tangled mess on your hands if you don’t organize and bundle your cords.
So, what’s the best way? It depends on the bundle itself – how it needs to be deployed and how often the cables might be changed or moved.
The two most popular bundling products on the market are plastic cable ties, also known as zip ties or hook-and-loop ties, and hook-and-loop straps. (The straps are often called Velcro® even though that is only one of many brands that are available.) Both types of fasteners are strong, easy to install and versatile for a variety of uses.
Let’s talk about the best way to apply each product.
Plastic cable ties were first designed in 1958 for wire harnesses in airplanes. The inventor got the idea while touring a Boeing aircraft plant and seeing that cable bundles were kept together by tightly hand-tied loops of braided nylon cord. Sore-handed employees yearned for a better alternative.
Now hook-and-loop ties are the most popular solution for cable management. In fact, some electrical equipment manufacturers install attachment points on their products to accommodate hook-and-loop ties.
One of the biggest selling points is that they’re inexpensive, especially when bought in bulk. And usually you don’t have to pay extra for ties that aren’t black. They come in many colors if you want to color-code your cable bundles.
Hook-and-loop ties come in different lengths or can be lengthened by linking two or more ties. Some typical sizes for electrical applications are 6, 8 and 10 inches.
Despite their thin profile, they are very strong and resistant to loosening or breaking over time. And yet they can be loosened or tightened if cables need to be removed or added to a bundle.
But hook-and-loop ties can have drawbacks. If you overtighten one it can eventually damage the cables it bundles. This is more likely to happen if the cables are moved around a lot. Also, it can be harder to loosen a tie to remove a cable than it is with a hook-and-loop strap.
The idea for hook-and-loop straps first came to a Swiss engineer in 1941 when, during a hunting trip, he wondered why cockleburs stuck to his pants. After 14 years of R&D, he patented VELCRO®. Now many companies manufacture a similar hook-and-loop fastener and it is used widely for bundling electrical cords and wires.
Perhaps the best thing about hook-and-loop straps is their adjustability. If the size of a cable bundle changes or wires need to be rerouted or upgraded, the straps can be quickly removed and reattached. That makes it easier to identify cable paths and troubleshoot issues.
Another plus is the ability to customize the length of hook-and-loop straps. If you buy it in a bulk roll you can cut it to the exact length you need for any bundle size. Bulk rolls also cost less than individual straps in the long run, though they still come out to be pricier than plastic ties. But you can increase the value by reusing straps you have cut.
Because hook-and-loop straps are wider and a bit more flexible than plastic ties, they won’t damage the shielding on your cables. A few common strap widths found in bulk rolls are 1 inch, ¾ inch and ½ inch. The bigger the cable bundle, the wider the strap.
Which Is better?
So should you manage your cables and wires with hook-and-loop ties or straps? The answer might be: both. Both items are robust, easy to install and come in a variety of lengths. Plastic ties are very cost-effective. They’re great for more permanent cable installations that you don’t expect you’ll have to change or move around very much. Hook-and-loop straps are more expensive, but less so when bought in bulk rolls. They are easier to fasten and unfasten, making them ideal for bundles of wires that have a greater likelihood of undergoing troubleshooting or being changed or moved.
You might start your search for both types of fasteners right here. NavePoint offers hook-and-loop bulk rolls in three lengths and three widths. We carry plastic hook-and-loop ties in packages of 25, with a choice of four lengths and three colors. If you need any additional help or advice on what product is best for you, contact the NavePoint sales team!