Beware the Frightening Consequences of Fraudulent Cable

Dan Dunar by Dan Dunar | 10.29.2012

Halloween: the only socially acceptable time of the year to intentionally scare the neighborhood kids. But as you are preparing a spooky but safe path to the fun-size candy bars waiting at your door, are you prepared to deal with a safety threat that can impact you and your customers all year long?

When you pull cable, you could be pulling the fuse that spreads a deadly fire. Although the National Electric Code (NEC) and Underwriters’ Laboratories have specific flame and smoke requirements, counterfeit and sub-compliant cables continue to creep into the market and put lives at risk. Before pulling cable, make sure to choose the right flame rating for the installation, verify the agency listing (UL or ETL), and scrutinize abnormal prices and unfamiliar suppliers. Here’s why.

Rated for the Installation Environment
Multi-dwelling residences and commercial buildings require various ratings depending on where cables are installed. Runs between floors require a riser rating. Riser rated cable inhibits vertical propagation of flame. Cables installed above drop ceilings or in plenum air spaces need a plenum rating. This rating ensures that a cable exposed to flame will resist burning and emit minimal smoke. The NEC mandates minimum requirements for cable smoke and flame performance, but local jurisdictions have the final say and may demand more restrictive requirements, so consult them to avoid any inspection complications or safety risks.

Verify Agency Listings
To bear the UL or ETL marks, cables must be tested and listed with these agencies. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon to find non-listed cables with the UL or ETL marks fraudulently applied. How do you know if a listing is legit? Both UL and ETL maintain directories of listed products on their websites. If uncertain, check the directories before blindly trusting a listing mark. UL also requires that UL listed products bear a special holographic label.

Scrutinize Abnormalities
Finally, be skeptical of a brand you’ve never heard of or a box priced several dollars below one of the trusted brands. Meeting flame requirements requires quality materials, which naturally inflate the price of the cable. How do you know if a cable isn’t up to snuff? Burn it, (in a safe and controlled manner, of course). A cable that fails to pass requirements will ignite fairly quickly, whereas a standard compliant cable will put up a fight (although it’s much less fun to watch.) Taking a torch to a cable is not the most scientific method, but it’s a good warning.

Several months ago, we sent some samples of low price competitor cables to UL to see if they would make the grade. The frightening results can be seen here.  

To ensure safety and prevent the spread of fire, installing cables that meet fire standards is critical. Always choose cables with the proper flame rating, verify the agency listing, and scrutinize abnormal prices and unfamiliar suppliers. Picking a proven and trusted brand such as Honeywell Genesis Series helps to prevent fires and save lives.