A comparison: Heat shrink alternatives

Protecting cables with durable cable management solutions

Heat shrink tubing, cold shrink tubing and electrical tape are all used as cable management solutions. Is one better than the others? That depends on what you want it to do. Let’s take a look at each and then compare.

1. Heat Shrink Tubing

Heat shrink tubing insulates wires and protects them from abrasions and environmental factors. It’s also used to repair insulation on wires, or to bundle them together to provide protection. It’s popular for applications such as a rack mount cabinet and it’s widespread across industries, from automotive and aerospace.

How heat shrink tubing works

• Wires or cables are fed through plastic tubing.

• Tubing shrinks when heated with a heat gun or gas torch to form a fitted, secure casing.

• Tubing becomes extremely rigid when heated.

• This makes them ideal for mechanical protection and industrial installations with operating temperatures below 194˚F (90˚C).

With high chemical resistance, heat shrink tubing has a pre-defined shrink rate. This means that it’s simple to decide your shrink tube sizes, depending on the diameters of cables or wires to be encased.

Heat shrink tubing material is usually made of polyolefin, while polyester is another popular choice. You can also get heat shrink braided cable sleeving, which is made of Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET). It’s available in a variety of colours, so that it can be used to organise and identify cables and wires.

2. Cold Shrink Tubing

Cold shrink tubing, like its heat-shrink cousin, is used to terminate, splice and provide environmental seals on cables.

How cold shrink tubing works

  • It comes with a removable plastic core that keeps the tubing stretched to allow the cables to be fitted.
  • It also contains active memory that causes the tube to shrink once the core is removed.
  • It’s constantly attempting to return to its original shape. This means that it will expand and shrink around cables as they change size due to changes in temperature or load swings.
  • This makes it a good choice for environments where temperatures are likely to fluctuate considerably. It also possesses excellent weather resistance and does not age when exposed to ultraviolet rays.
  • This means it is a good choice when cables are likely to be exposed to the elements.

3. Electrical Tape

Electrical tape is an adhesive tape that is typically made of vinyl, rubber or mastic. Electrical tape is extremely flexible, and can also be stretched, meaning it’s extremely versatile and can cover a wide range of cable shapes and layouts.

Although electrical tape is available in a wide variety of colours, black tends to be the favourite for insulation, bundling, grouping and repair. Other colours of tape indicate different levels of voltage or phases of wire.

Electrical tape is not as durable as, for example, heat shrink tubing. Over time it will lose its adhesive properties and eventually fall off the cable or wire. When using electrical tape, it’s important to regularly monitor the condition of the tape, which is an impractical use of your time.

Although it does not offer the same level of protection as heat shrink tubing against abrasion, corrosive substances or the elements, electrical taping is easier and quicker to apply and remove. This means it can be a good cable management choice for temporary solutions.

At a glance: Best at




Humid environment

Mechanical protection

Chemical resistance

UV resistant


Heat shrink tubing




Cold shrink tubing




Electrical tape


Should only be used as a temporary measure


Of course, there are other cable management solutions. Just a few examples include:

If you’re unsure of which cable management solution is right for your application, get in touch with us on 0845 758 5070. The right solution for you is out there, and we can help you find it.

Download free CADs and try before you buy

Download free CADs and request free samples, which are available for most of our solutions. It’s a great way to ensure you’ve chosen exactly what you need. If you’re not quite sure which product will work best, our experts are always happy to advise you.

Whatever your requirements, you can depend on fast despatch. Request your free samples or download free CADs now.


Email us at sales@essentracomponents.co.uk or speak to one of our experts for further information on the ideal solution for your application 0345 528 0474.