Prevent Wildfires with Heat Shrink Alternatives

Gamma Electronics Blog

Prevent Wildfires with Heat Shrink Alternatives

Wildfires are a growing problem.  Want proof?  The National Interagency Fire Center has been keeping statistics on wildfires since 1983.  Since that time wildfires have increased by 223%.  In more recent history, wildfires increased between 2019 and 2021 by 17%.  Over 10 million acres were burned by wildfires in 2020 alone.1

As the leading provider of weatherproofing products for the telecommunications industry we are accustomed to talking about products that will be used on cell phone towers, on buildings and rooftops, etc.  What has surprised us however, (initially anyway), is that in recent months more companies have started looking at heat shrink alternatives.  The primary reason?  Wildfires.

Prevent Wildfires with Heat Shrink Alternatives

The more we looked into the issue, the more sense it made to get away from heat shrink in outdoor applications.  Nearly 85% of wildfires are started by humans according to the U.S. Forest Service Research Data Archive.2  The National Park Service states that most of these fires “result from campfires left unattended, the burning of debris, equipment use and malfunctions, negligently discarded cigarettes, and intentional acts of arson.”3

So, how do humans do a better job of preventing these devastating wildfires?  Issues like unattended campfires, the burning of debris, and negligently discarded cigarettes are largely matters of education, (just ask Smokey Bear).  Arson must obviously be dealt with as a criminal issue.  Equipment use and malfunctions however, present glaring issues that can be handled better.  And unfortunately, equipment use and malfunctions have resulted in some of the largest wildfires in United States history.4

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Increase in Wildfires since 1983 in the United States

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Increase in Wildfires from 2019 to 2021 in US

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Percentage of wildfires in the US caused by humans.

Unfortunately, California is a prime example of wildfires resulting from equipment use and malfunctions.  Just last year, the Dixie Fire burned nearly 1 million acres and over 1,300 structures, including the entire town of Greenville, CA.  Investigations now show that a tree that should have been removed, fell across a powerline operated by Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), sparking the fire.  However, the powerline in question was part of a 10 mile stretch set to be buried5, a move which would have prevented the fire altogether.

The Dixie Fire adds to PG&E’s already poor record with wildfires over the last several years.  In 2020, PG&E pleaded guilty to 84 counts of involuntary manslaughter for having started California’s massive Camp Fire in 2018  Former PG&E CEO and President, Bill Johnson made PG&E’s fault in the matter plain when he said, “Our equipment started that fire.”6.  Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey, who put together a report about the 2018 Camp Fire, stated that PG&E was guilty of “reckless behavior,” and that PG&E’s use of badly outdated technology was “evidence of absolute indifference.”7

Some critics will point out that California’s forest management also plays a role in these wildfires, which is a valid point.  California’s lack of forest management creates a massive amount of fuel for these fires, with experts estimating that California needs to improve its forest management efforts to “around ten times its current level.”8

Business Ramifications

How well a state deals with forest management issues however, is outside of a company’s control.  What should matter to companies are the liability issues.  PG&E has faced “tens of billions of dollars in potential fire liabilities,” leading them to file for bankruptcy in 2019.  PG&E has since restructured their debts, agreeing “to pay $25.5 billion in fire-related claims.”9  Just last month, PG&E agreed to another $55 million dollar settlement in relation to the Dixie and Kincaide Fires.10

Wildfires can be absolutely devastating, destroying property, livelihoods, and in some cases, even human lives. That should be reason enough for businesses to take as many preventative measures as possible.  From a purely financial perspective however, the cost of upgrading to better, wildfire preventative equipment and practices surely costs less than the millions and potentially billions of dollars lost to wildfire related claims.

Just ask PG&E.  Shortly after the Dixie Fire started, the company announced a plan to bury 10,000 miles of power lines so they won’t spark wildfires.  The plan had apparently been in the works but was expedited by several months after the start of the Dixie Fire.  As PG&E’s CEO, Patricia “Patti” Pope said to reporters on the day of the announcement, “It’s too expensive not to do it.  Lives are on the line.” 11

The Heat Shrink Problem

All this leads us back to heat shrink tubing.  An easy, wildfire preventative measure that many companies could start making right away is to stop using heat shrink tubing in outdoor applications.  More specifically, if the heat shrink is being installed outdoors than it should be replaced with an alternative product that does not require a blow torch or heat gun to install.  California is already urging companies to make this standard practice and it’s completely understandable as to why.

Heat shrink tubing is typically used in these outdoor applications as a protective measure.  To make sure that electrical connections keep out water and weather in general, heat shrink is installed over mated connections.  The heat shrink adds a protective layer to ensure the connection is not interfered with, keeps water out, stays mated, etc.

As a heat shrink tubing company, we don’t like to see heat shrink tubing being phased out, but from a safety perspective it makes too much sense.  This is especially true when you consider the U.S. Department of the Interior’s “10 Tips to Prevent Wildfires.” Number 8 on that list states to “Keep Sparks Away from Dry Vegetation,” and to “make sure you never operate equipment that produces sparks near dry vegetation.”12  Using a blow torch or heat gun is quite literally doing the opposite from what the Department of the Interior recommends.  Using a blow torch or heat gun in such scenarios could easily be considered reckless.

All of this may seem obvious, but unfortunately, heat shrink is still seeing regular use in compromising situations.  For example, there are cable boxes all over the United States in which heat shrink is being utilized.  These cable boxes are outdoors and can be found frequently, very frequently.  You have more than likely seen some of these boxes, (many of them are green), which house cables and connections that contractors need access to.  By the nature of their locations these boxes are often found around dry vegetation.  Heat shrink is being installed via blowtorches or heat guns inside these boxes regularly.

For those who might be wondering, yes, blowtorches are quite often used instead of heat guns.  The reason being, heat gun batteries are not known to last very long and having multiple batteries can add up, (in terms of cost).  It’s far more cost effective to have a blowtorch, as propane is far cheaper than batteries for a heat gun and the blowtorch is going to give you much more “bang for buck.”  What this really means is that blowtorches, or open flames, are regularly being used around dry vegetation.

In truth it’s a miracle more fires have not been started by means of heat shrink installation.  That’s a credit to the contractors using these tools.  However, if you were to speak to these contractors, (as we have), they too prefer getting away from the use of heat shrink tubing.  After all, the contractors understand it only takes one bad heat shrink installation to start a fire and they don’t want to bear the responsibility for a fire.

Why Does Heat Shrink Continue to be Used?

The simple answer is cost.  Heat shrink tubing alternatives admittedly cost more and there are a lot of connections out there which do need to be covered and protected.  It’s understandable that companies are trying to save money, but that savings quickly disappears as soon as a fire breaks out.  The larger the fire the more foolish that decision looks.

Looking at Heat Shrink Alternatives

As stated previously, Gamma Electronics is a heat shrink tubing company.  We started out as a heat shrink tubing company and we continue to be a leading heat shrink supplier for numerous industries.  

Cold Shrink Tubing

In outdoor applications like those described above however, we strongly encourage customers to look at an alternative like cold shrink tubing, which requires no heat to be installed. In fact, cold shrink does not require any tools for installation, and it can be installed in seconds.  Cold Shrink tubing is the most similar product to heat shrink tubing in terms of functionality, and has become the product that our customers have turned to when heat shrink isn’t an option.  Even better, we have already manufactured cold shrink solutions sized for the cables and connections in the aforementioned, green cable boxes seen above.

Slide Locks & RF Weatherproof Boots

Of course, there are other alternatives, including slide locks, (a type of clam shell enclosure), and silicone rubber boots.  These can be very specific however in terms of needing to match both a cable and a connector in order to provide a watertight seal.

Magic Tape (Self-Amalgamating Tape)

Another alternative is Magic Tape, (often referred to as self-amalgamating tape).  Magic Tape is a cut-to-size solution that could see implementation right away.  Magic tape adheres to itself and does not require heat or adhesive to create a watertight seal.

Conclusion

Companies, and more specifically utiltiy and cable companies, may very well continue to use heat shrink tubing outdoors, but it only takes one fire before it becomes obvious that doing so was a bad idea.  Many companies love the low cost of heat shrink, but when you consider the literal billions of dollars that can quickly accrue from fire-related claims, is it worth it?  Using heat shrink in outdoor scenarios is reckless.  Heat shrink alternatives might be more expensive, but they will only save you money and headaches in the end.

Citations

1 “Wildfires and Acres,” National Interagency Fire Center, accessed May 10, 2022, https://www.nifc.gov/fire-information/statistics/wildfires.

2Karen C. Short, “Spatial wildfire occurrence data for the United States, 1992-2018” United States Department of Agriculture, accessed May 10, 2022, https://www.fs.usda.gov/rds/archive/Catalog/RDS-2013-0009.5.

3 “Wildfire Causes and Evaluations,” National Park Service, accessed May 10, 2022, https://www.nps.gov/articles/wildfire-causes-and-evaluation.htm

4 “Worst Wildfires in U.S. History,” Earth.org, accessed May 10, 2022, https://earth.org/worst-wildfires-in-us-history/

5 “Power line suspected in Dixie Fire was set to be buried underground in safety move,” LATimes.com, accessed May 10, 2022, https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2021-08-10/pge-power-line-dixie-fire-scheduled-to-be-buried-underground.

6 Phil Helsel, “PG&E pleads guilty to 84 counts of manslaughter in devastating Camp Fire,” NBC News, accessed May 10, 2022, https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/pg-e-pleads-guilty-84-counts-manslaughter-devastating-camp-fire-n1231256

7 Colby Bermel, “PG&E showed ‘absolute indifference’ ahead of Camp Fire, DA says,” Politico.com, accessed August 12, 2021, https://www.politico.com/states/california/story/2020/06/16/pg-e-showed-absolute-indifference-ahead-of-camp-fire-da-says-1293295

8 Bill Chappell, “The Dixie Fire Is The 2nd Largest In California History And Is Only 21% Contained” NPR.org, accessed August 12, 2021, https://www.npr.org/2021/08/09/1026078606/dixie-fire-california-only-21-percent-contained.

9 Carolyn Cole, “Meet the New PG&E, it Looks A Lot Like the Old PG&E” LATimes.com, accessed August 12, 2021, https://www.latimes.com/environment/story/2020-06-17/pge-bankruptcy-new-pge-looks-like-old-pge.

10 Olga R. Rodriguez, “PG&E to pay $55 million for two massive California wildfires,” PBS.org, accessed May 10, 2022, https://www.pbs.org/newshour/nation/pge-to-pay-55-million-for-two-massive-california-wildfires

11“PG&E Will Bury 10,000 Miles of Power Lines So They Don’t Spark Wildfires,” NPR.org, accessed May 10, 2022, https://www.npr.org/2021/07/21/1019058925/utility-bury-power-lines-wildfires-california

12“10 Tips to Prevent Wildfires” U.S. Department of the Interior, accessed May 10, 2022, https://www.doi.gov/blog/10-tips-prevent-wildfires

Additional References

Colby Bermel, “Dixie Fire becomes largest single wildfire in California history,” Politico.com, accessed August 12, 2021, https://www.politico.com/states/california/story/2021/08/06/dixie-fire-becomes-largest-single-wildfire-in-california-history-1389651.

Ivan Penn & Peter Eavis, “PG&E Pleads Guilty to 84 Counts of Manslaughter in Camp Fire Case,” NYTimes.com, accessed August 12, 2021, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/16/business/energy-environment/pge-camp-fire-california-wildfires.html

Eric Ting, “Everything we know about PG&E’s link to California’s raging Dixie Fire,” SFGate.com, accessed August 12, 2021, https://www.sfgate.com/california-wildfires/article/Dixie-Fire-PG-E-power-lines-tree-what-started-burn-16377413.php

Molly Taft, “The Dixie Fire Is Now the Largest Single Wildfire in California History,” Gizmodo, accessed August 12, 2021, https://gizmodo.com/the-dixie-fire-is-now-the-largest-single-wildfire-in-ca-1847459144

“PG&E power line that possibly sparked massive Dixie Fire was set to be buried in safety move,” KTLA.com, accessed August 12, 2021, https://ktla.com/news/california/pge-power-line-that-possibly-sparked-massive-dixie-fire-was-set-to-be-buried-in-safety-move/

Lena Borrelli, “U.S. Wildfire Statistics 2022, accessed May 10, 2022, https://www.bankrate.com/insurance/homeowners-insurance/wildfire-statistics/

“Top 20 Largest California Wildfires,” Fire.CA.gov, accessed May 10, 2022, https://www.fire.ca.gov/media/4jandlhh/top20_acres.pdf

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Gamma Electronics and Alliance Corporation Announce Distribution Partnership

Gamma Electronics Blog

Gamma Electronics and Alliance Corporation Announce Distribution Partnership

Gamma Electronics' and Alliance Communications Announce Partnership

We are pleased to announce that Alliance Corporation has agreed to become a distributor of Gamma Electronics’ products.  Headquartered out of Ontario, Canada but with locations in Alberta, Canada as well as Texas and New Jersey, our partnership with Alliance will make our products more accessible to customers across North America.

In business since 1993, Alliance Corporation, (often referred to as “Alliance Communications” or simply “Alliance”), has become a leader in providing solutions for the wireless industry, providing broadband, DAS, wirelines, and wireless infrastructure solutions.  Alliance distributes equipment to some of the continent’s largest telecom providers, as well as OEM’s, resellers, and contractors.

Alliance Corporation is now carrying Gamma’s RF Weatherproofing line of products, including our AT&T approved Cold Shrink, Slide Locks, and more, (click here to see all of our AT&T approved products).

To see what Gamma Electronics’ products are already available to purchase through Alliance, click here.  To get in touch with an Alliance representative regarding Gamma Electronics’ products, click here.

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Weatherproofing for SMA Connectors

Gamma Electronics Blog

Weatherproofing for SMA Connectors

Do you have SMA Connectors that need weatherproofing? A common problem many face is the size of the connector. Because the SMA Connector is small it is hard to find weatherproofing products that fit and provide watertight protection. It’s important to note the problems that might occur with any connector in an outdoor environment, such as rust and corrosion. This can destroy the cable assembly and performance of the connector.

How can you avoid this? Using Gamma Weatherproofing products solves your problem! We have two SMA connector solutions that will avoid problems and protect your cables and connectors. The Gamma weatherproofing products that are compatible with SMA Connectors are the BT-SMA-LMR-195 and SDL-SMA-60. Let’s learn more about these two products.

BT-SMA-LMR195: A Weatherproof Boot for SMA Connectors

SMA Boot on Connector side view

The newest addition to our weatherproofing product line is the BT-SMA-LMR195. We manufacture this SMA boot from a highly ultraviolet and salt-resistant silicone rubber that protects and seals connections from moisture. We recommend using SMA boots when re-accessibility to a connection is key.  It’s important to note that boots should be installed onto the cable before the cable is terminated, (connector is placed on cable).

The boot dimensions for the connector side are 0.18 inches, and on the cable side, 0.16 inches. These dimensions are specific to matching SMA connectors installed on LMR195 cables.  

 

Weatherproof Boot for SMA Connectors on LMR195 Cables

SDL-SMA-60: Cold Shrink Tubing for SMA Connectors

The SMA connector is used in many industries, such as satellite, telecommunications, medical, and more. Our Gamma Cold Shrink SDL-SMA-60 is the perfect choice for these industries as it provides great weather protection and is easy to install. Cold Shrink creates a watertight seal between the connector and the connection point. Only Gamma Cold Shrink Tubing is capable of shrinking to sizes this small that provides IP68 rated weather protection for SMA connectors.

SDL-SMA-60 cold shrink tubing was made with SMA connectors in mind, being just a bit larger than an SMA connector before shrinking, (0.6 inches), providing a watertight seal on the connection after shrinking, (0.17 inches).   

2 New Weatherproof Boots for LMR195 Cables
SDL-SMA-60 Dimensions

The SDL-SMA-60 is an AT&T-approved product and even has CEQ numbers for easy ordering. Find more information about all our AT&T-approved products for our buying guide!

SMA Connector Weatherproofing: We’ve Got You Covered

Whether you go with the SMA boot or the SMA cold shrink tubing, you’re in good shape either way.  The Boot, (BT-SMA-LMR195), allows re-accessibility to the connection because of the flexibility of the boot being able to slide on and off the connector. The boot perfectly protects SMA connectors on LMR195 cables.  The cold shrink tubing, (SDL-SMA-60), does not have to be LMR195 specific nor does it have to be installed on the cable prior to termination.  These two products are great at protecting SMA Connectors and will help reduce your maintenance issues due to weather.

If you are interested in testing out the RF Weatherproofing products, make sure to take advantage of our 3 for $15 offer.

 

Try 3 of our Weatherproofing products for only $15, including shipping.

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How to Weatherproof Coaxial Connectors

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How to Weatherproof Coaxial Connectors

What Are Your Coaxial Connector Weatherproofing Options and What You Should Know About Each of Them

Coaxial, (or coax), connections are vital to modern day infrastructure.  Coaxial connections see heavy use in the world of telecommunications, (i.e. cell phone service), but they are also frequently used by internet service providers, radio and television broadcasting companies, and more.  With such frequent use, it’s important to ensure that coaxial connections are properly protected and maintained to ensure optimal performance.

How to Weatherproof Coax Connectors

More often than not coaxial connections are found outdoors, exposed to the elements.  This is why weatherproofing coaxial connections has become a priority for many companies in recent years, as better weatherproofing results in more reliable connectivity.

This leads to the question, how do you successfully weatherproof coax connectors?

Coaxial Connector Weatherproofing Options

There are numerous weatherproofing solutions for coaxial connectors, each of them being beneficial for different scenarios.    6 of the most popular RF weatherproofing options are:

Below we take a quick look at the pro’s and con’s of each of these types of coax connector weatherproofing.

Cold Shrink Tubing is a rubber sleeve that slides directly over the coax connector you are trying to protect.  The tubing has an inner plastic core that is holding it in place.  The inner plastic core is perforated so it can be pulled free.  As the plastic core is removed the cold shrink instantly shrinks down over the coax connector.

Cold shrink tubing can be installed in seconds and is quite possibly the best form of coax connector weatherproofing available, (depending on your needs and the circumstances).  It is a true “set it and forget it” form of weatherproofing that creates a watertight seal over connections and has incredible weather resistant capabilities, (including extreme temperatures).

Gamma Silicone Cold Shrink Tubing

There are a couple things to know about cold shrink tubing however that may not make it ideal weatherproofing for every situation.  First, cold shrink tubing is not a “one size fits all” solution.  You cannot buy one size of cold shrink tubing and expect it to simply work for all of your connections.  A larger size cold shrink tube may not shrink down small enough for a smaller connector.  This is why we created numerous cold shrink tubing sizes that we have tested and perfectly matched to different coax connector and cable combos, as seen below.

There are two other things you should know about cold shrink tubing before you buy.  First, cold shrink is not reusable.  Once installed, it is meant to stay on the cable.  It has no adhesive, so removal is fairly easy, but, again, it is meant to be a “set it and forget it” option.

Secondly, there are two types of cold shrink tubing, Silicone and EPDM, and you should know which one you need before you buy.  For the purpose of weatherproofing coax connectors you will almost always want silicone.  Silicone shrinks down smaller and tighter than EPDM and is also able to endure more extreme temperatures.  EPDM is better suited for use in environments where abrasion is more likely.  You can read more about EPDM vs Silicone cold shrink here.

SDL-1A-125 Cold Shrink before and after

Our silicone cold shrink tubing is our most popular form of coaxial connector weatherproofing.  Customers like AT&T use it because it means less return trips to towers and it typically only needs replacement when an antenna, radio, etc. needs replacement.  Our cold shrink tubing has become an industry standard as it has helped to massively reduce maintenance costs for companies using it for coax weatherproofing.

Slide Locks have an outer plastic shell and an inner silicone gel that wraps itself around the connection to create a watertight seal.  The outer shell has a sliding lock to hold it into place, and unlike cold shrink tubing, slide locks are reusable.   In other words, Slide Locks can be removed and reapplied.  Despite the option of being reusable, Slide Locks are still a great “set it and forget it” option, in the right circumstances. 

In order to truly be watertight, Slide Locks must be made to very specifically match coax connector and cable combinations.  For example, if the cable type going into the slide lock is too small, it may be impossible for the Slide Lock to create a watertight seal over the cable.  For this reason, Slide Locks are only available in 3 sizes, as can be seen in the photos below, (where each Slide Lock is shown both open and closed).

Gamma RF Cable Weatherproofing Slide Lock

As you might expect, not all coaxial connectors will fit into Slide Locks.  For example, field-terminated connectors, (like JMA connectors), will not fit into Slide Locks, even if they match one of the three types of connectors we make Slide Locks for.  Field terminated connectors are simply too large to fit into a Slide Lock.  Slide Locks are made to fit very specific dimensions and if your connector or cable does not match than it often becomes a better idea to use a different RF weatherproofing option.

Gamma RF Cable Weatherproofing Slide Lock

The last thing to note is that although Slide Locks are reusable, the longer they are left up the less reusable they become.  If you leave a Slide Lock up on a connection for several years, for example, the inner silicone gel will become more like a permanent mold around the connection.

We find that many of our customers who utilize Slide Locks use them as a permanent solution and love having the option to re-access connections easily, or possibly re-use the Slide Lock if circumstances permit it.

RF Weatherproof Boots are incredibly easy to install as they simply slide up and over the connection.  They slide back off of the connection just as easily, making them a great coax connector weatherproofing solution, especially when you are concerned about re-accessibility to the connection.

There are several types of boots on the market and we take pride in having a one-piece boot solution.  Some boots have a two piece, interlocking design but in our testing we have not noticed any noticeable improvements that merit the two piece design.  Our one piece boots are tested to meet IP68 standards, meaning that we place our boots over a coax connector and dunk it into a tank of water over 3 meters deep and for over 30 minutes.  Once removed, we carefully remove the boot and inspect the connection for any signs of water.  There must be no signs of water ingress in order for our boots to meet IP68 standards, which all of our boots do.

Gamma RF Cable Weatherproofing Boot

Beyond the weatherproofing results however, we take pride in our one piece solution because of the ease of installation. Two-piece boots typically need to be custom cut at the time of installation.  Not only does this result in a much longer installation, but we have heard many stories of dropped parts and bad cuts happening on site.  Our boots avoid these problems entirely.

Weatherproof Boot for SMA Connectors on LMR195 Cables

Like all RF weatherproofing, there are things with the boots you should be aware of.  First, boots must be made to match both your connector and cable.  We offer 12 different types of boots to match different connector and cable combinations, all of which are IP68 rated.

Secondly, for best results boots should be placed on a cable before the cable is terminated, (aka connector is installed on the cable).  We sell cables with our boots already on the cable to help solve this problem.  We also sell the boots on their own for those who are terminating their own cables. RF Weatherproof Boots also have the added benefit of being one of the only types of weatherproofing for coax connectors that has a right-angle option.

Gamma RF Cable Weatherproofing Boot

In some cases it might be possible to put a boot onto a cable that has already been terminated, (connector has already been installed).  However, we cannot guarantee that a boot will be able to be installed in these cases, nor can we guarantee the results of the boot.

Our customers love boots, but typically they order them already on cables or they are going to terminate the cables themselves.  We also offer another type of boot, called the Suppressor Boot, that not only weatherproofs coax connectors, but also reduces RF interference at those connections.  You can learn more about Suppressor Boots here.

Magic Tape is known by many names: self-amalgamating tape, self-fusing tape, cold shrink tape, etc.  Whatever the name may be, the key feature that makes this tape so appealing is that it does not have adhesive.  This is important when it comes to RF weatherproofing in general,  as adhesive tends to melt in the heat and becomes brittle and less effective in the cold.  Long story short, adhesive and outdoor weatherproofing is, more often than not, a bad idea.

This is what makes Magic Tape so appealing, (it’s also why all of Gamma Electronics’ RF Weatherproofing products do not utilize adhesive).  When you stretch Magic Tape and layer it on top of itself the two layers of tape interweave, or “self-amalgamate.”  It creates an incredible bond often described as “self-fusing,” and because it does not require heat or adhesive  it has also earned the nickname of “cold shrink tape.”

Gamma Magic Tape Roll

You can see Magic Tape in use in the video below.

Magic Tape is a fantastic solution but it should be noted that how successful it is as weatherproofing is highly dependent on the person installing it.  Cold Shrink Tubing, Slide Locks, and RF Weatherproof Boots are all a bit more foolproof when it comes to the installation process.  Magic Tape is easier to install than other solutions, (see Tape & Butyl below), but still requires some know-how.

We largely recommend Magic Tape for odd shaped connections that you might have trouble finding a solution like cold shrink, slide locks, or boots for.  Magic Tape is also great to keep around in case of repairs/maintenance.  You may not always have the exact size cold shrink or slide lock you need, but it’s pretty easy to keep magic tape on hand.

Gamma Electronics Magic Tape stretched out

Tape & Butyl is one of the most commonly used forms of weatherproofing because it is typically the cheapest.  As the saying goes however, you get what you pay for.

Tape & Butyl is in all actuality two types of weatherproofing being used together.  The tape is almost always electrical tape, which is typically applied as the first layer around the connection. After a layer of tape, butyl is applied.  Butyl is a thick, clay-like material that is meant to block any water from working its way into the connection.  The butyl is applied by hand and molded around the connection.  Afterwards, another layer of tape, (or more), is layered around the butyl to hold everything together.

While tape and butyl can work, (in certain conditions), it is very likely that it will need to be replaced within a year.  The reason for this is that the adhesive on the tape tends to break down, leading to the tape unraveling around the butyl.  In addition to the adhesive breakdown, butyl tends to melt and become runny in the heat.  Butyl is well known to melt its way into coaxial connectors, often causing VSWR issues.

Cold is also problematic for butyl, as butyl tends to become brittle and starts to crack in the cold.  These cracks eventually mean you have openings for water to work it’s way into the connection.

Lastly, tape and butyl is a long install process, and a terrible uninstall process.  Oftentimes cables are simply replaced after tape and butyl have been applied to them rather than even trying to cleanly remove the tape and butyl.

Over the years tape and butyl have slowly been seeing less use, but they certainly have not been phased out altogether.  We nearly always recommend avoiding tape and butyl as they have much longer installation times and require far more maintenance than other weatherproofing solutions.

 

Tape & Butyl Weatherproofing Cut Open
Tape in the Wind

Heat shrink tubing, like cold shrink tubing, is a rubber sleeve that can slide up and over a connector and be shrunk down with heat to create a protective layer over a coax connector

Can you use Heat Shrink Tubing for coaxial connectors?  While it is possible, we do not recommend it.  There are a few reasons as to why.

First, to create a watertight seal you would need to use a heat shrink tubing that has adhesive.  As discussed in the above sections, adhesive is not reliable outdoors, specifically when you need your weatherproofing to hold up against both the heat of summer and the cold of winter.

Secondly, most heat shrink tubing is made to work inside machinery like cars, tractors, and aircraft.  That means that the vast majority of heat shrink is not meant to see direct exposure to sunlight or have direct contact with rain and/or snow.  There is heat shrink tubing that is made to be UV resistant, (we offer one), but it is unlikely to create a watertight seal the likes of cold shrink, Slide Locks, Boots, etc..  This returns us back to our first point about heat shrink tubing, which is that it requires adhesive/glue to create a watertight seal: not ideal.

Closeup of heat shrink melting
Gamma Electronics Heat Shrink Available in Multiple Colors

Lastly, as the name suggests, heat shrink tubing requires heat to be installed, and typically very high temperatures at that.  Most heat shrink tubing will only start to shrink around 200° Fahrenheit, (with some tubing requiring much higher temperatures), which means a heat gun or blow torch is needed.  Heat guns and blow torches not only make the installation process more complicated and time consuming, but also more dangerous.

To make a long story short, as much as we love heat shrink tubing, (and we really do), we cannot recommend it as weatherproofing for coaxial connectors.

Conclusion

There are numerous ways to weatherproof a coax connector but ultimately the decision on what to use comes down to your needs.  We often find that customers will purchase different types of weatherproofing that all go on the same tower.  It is truly, highly dependent on your needs.

What is important to consider however, is that choosing the right coax weatherproofing can vastly reduce your maintenance and your installation times.  Choosing the wrong RF weatherproofing in the beginning will almost always come back to haunt you in the end.

Try 3 for $15

We’ve made it easy for you to try something new with your coax weatherproofing.  Try 3 of our coax weatherproofing products for only $15, including shipping.

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Gamma Cold Shrink
Gamma Cold Shrink
Gamma Cold Shrink
Gamma Cold Shrink

2 New Weatherproof Boots Made for LMR195 Cables

Gamma Electronics Blog

2 New Weatherproof Boots Made for LMR195 Cables

2 New Weatherproof Boots for LMR195 Cables

As the industry leader in weatherproofing solutions for RF coaxial cables and connectors, Gamma Electronics’ is excited to announce the release of two new variations/options of our RF Weatherproof Boots.  Both boots have been designed to meet the needs of our customers, who have requested boot solutions for smaller cables, specifically LMR195.  The first boot works on LMR195 cables that utilize a Type N connector, while the second boot is for SMA connectors on LMR195 cables.  The second boot is an exciting development as it marks our first boot made for SMA connections and is our smallest boot to date.

As mentioned, both boots have been designed and tested for LMR195 cables, (cables sized approximately 0.195 in diameter).  Test results have shown the boots to be watertight, providing IP68 level weather protection over the connections on which they are installed.  Impressively, these boots provide that IP68 level of protection while still maintaining the ability to quickly and easily install and/or uninstall, as has come to be expected with our lineup of RF Weatherproof Boots.

With these 2 new boot variations Gamma Electronics’ now offers 12 different variations of weatherproof boots, not including our RF Suppressor Boots.  All our boots have been carefully crafted to ensure watertight weather protection over specific connector/specific connector/cable combinations, while still being incredibly easy to install and/or uninstall.  When you’re looking for faster installations combined with incredible weather protection, it’s next to impossible to top Gamma RF Weatherproof Boots.

Both boots are available to order, with a 4 week lead time.  Or you can test out these new boots by taking advantage of our 3 for $15 offer.  With the 3 for $15 you can test out 3 of our RF Weatherproofing products for only $15, (including shipping).  Click here to learn more.

To purchase the Type N, LMR195 Boot click here. 

To purchase the SMA, LMR195 Boot, click here.

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Gamma Electronics’ 2021 Wrap Up

Gamma Electronics Blog

Gamma Electronics’ 2021 Wrap Up

With the holiday season now upon us we wanted to take a moment and wish you the happiest and healthiest of holidays!  As we do every year, we like to take a step back around this time and reflect on the year that we will soon leave behind us.

Without a doubt, 2021 will be remembered as a unique year.  All of us have had to make adjustments in how we work and how we live and I’m sure you’ll agree that we all hope that these adjustments will make us better and healthier going forward.  Here at Gamma Electronics, we are pleased with what we’ve accomplished in 2021 while simultaneously feeling excited and optimistic about 2022, and the future in general.

Below we have highlighted some of the news from 2021 as well as some things we are looking forward to in the future.

Highlights from 2021

New Products for 2021

We released some exciting new products this year, most notably our Rugged, Ultra Low Loss Coaxial Cables and our RF Suppressor Boots.  In addition to these products we also made new options available for our Custom, RF Coaxial Cable Assemblies, and we added new variations to some of our most popular RF Weatherproofing products.  You can learn more about these product releases and updates by clicking on the images/links below.

Rugged, Ultra Low Loss Cables
RF Suppressor Boots
Clear Cold Shrink
2.2-5 Weatherproof Boots

10 New AT&T Product Approvals

AT&T Approved 10 More Gamma Electronics Products

During 2021 we were fortunate to further our relationship with AT&T as they approved and issued CEQ numbers for 10 more of our products.  AT&T continues to utilize Gamma Electronics as their go-to for RF tower weatherproofing products, having approved 5 additional models of Gamma cold shrink in 2021 alone.  Beyond weatherproofing however, we have been fortunate to have our 5G/Small Cell Adapter Kit approved by AT&T as well.  You can learn more about each of these approvals and products by clicking on the image/link below.

AT&T Approves Gamma Clear Cold Shrink
Gamma Adapter Kit Approved by AT&T

Gamma’s Next Chapter

In recent months we have promoted several individuals to better meet the needs of our growing company.  As an organization we are thrilled, as we have been able to promote individuals within our own ranks, helping these individuals better realize their own potential while helping Gamma Electronics reach greater heights.  Beyond on what it means for us internally however, we’re very excited as these changes will allow us to better meet the needs of our customers.

Peter Weyhreter

Vice President of Sales & Operations

Peter has been with Gamma since its inception, and had spent more than a decade as Gamma’s National Sales Manager.  As Gamma’s longest tenured employee Peter has also worked extensively with our operations teams and he will now over oversee both Sales & Operations from a more macro level.

Nathan Street

National Sales Manager

Nathan has spent over 20 years in various sales and management roles and has spent close to 2 years with us here at Gamma Electronics as a Regional Account Manager. In his new role as the National Sales Manager, Nathan will oversee our sales team while further fostering relationships with our distributors and resellers.

Lisa Schlaeg

Production & Logistics Manager

Lisa has been with Gamma Electronics for more than 6 years, serving in production/operations, sales, and customer service roles.  Given her wealth of experience, Lisa’s promotion to the Production & Logistics manager was a natural next step for both her and for Gamma Electronics.

Bella

Gamma Brand Ambassador

Bella has been with Gamma Electronics for 6 plus years, or nearly half of her lifetime.  In her time with Gamma she has epitomized what it means to be a good listener and she exemplifies discipline, by not barking while people are on the phone and always going outdoors to use the restroom.  Frankly, Bella’s promotion was long overdue.

In addition to the changes taking place at our organization, we also have new products that we are preparing for release in early 2022.  So make sure to sign up for our newsletter and to follow our blog to stay in the know!

Thank You

Most importantly, we want to take a moment to thank our customers and partners for your continued support.  Our goal is to earn the trust of our customers and partners by providing top notch products alongside top notch service.  We’re gratfeul that so many of you have come to trust Gamma Electronics’ products over the years, and our hope is to build upon that trust in the years to come.

If you’re not already a Gamma love customer we would to have the opportunity to showcase the quality of our products and service.  Please take advantage of our 3 for Free promotion, in which we offer 3 of our RF Weatherproofing products to you, for free, (through the end of the month/year).  Click on the button below to take advantage of this limited time offer.

On behalf of the entire Gamma Electronics team please allow me to say thank you once more and we sincerely hope you have the happiest and healthiest holiday season.

Warmest Wishes,

Cameron Lanier
Director of Marketing and Media Communications

Happy Holidays from Gamma Electronics

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