Tips for Choosing a Cable Puller

For running cable on a big job, a cable puller can be even more useful than an apprentice.

Pulling cable can be tedious and exhausting. That’s why it’s often relegated to apprentices on electrical or telecommunications jobs. For large commercial jobs, however, having an electric cable puller may be even more useful.

A cable puller, aka cable tugger, is used to pull cable through a conduit. Rope, which is lighter and more flexible than cable, is manually pulled through the conduit, then tied to one end of the cable being pulled. With one person guiding the cable, the electric cable puller does all of the hard work.

Electricians might pull cable by hand over short distances, like in residential settings. But most professionals rely on electric cable pullers for the larger wire and long conduit runs on commercial jobs, noted Stephen Moore, owner of Granite State Electricians in Manchester, New Hampshire. A foot of industrial wire can weigh a pound or more, said Moore, and it’s common to be pulling hundreds of feet of wire — not practical to do manually, even with two or three people pulling.

In general, Moore recommends using an electric cable puller when you’re working with wire that carries 200 amps or more, and when you’re covering long distances. Since an electric cable puller reduces the manpower needed to pull cable, it can save on labor costs.

Consider these factors when choosing an electric cable puller:

  • Pulling force. Cable pullers exert a certain amount of pulling force. For example, one model can have up to 2 000 pounds of pulling force, while another can have up to 10 000 pounds. To calculate how much force you need, you’ll need to know the weight of the cable, the length of the run, and the layout and angles of the conduit. Pulling wire vertically or through angled conduit will likely require a stronger cable puller. An online pulling calculator can help you identify the pulling force you’ll need. Note that a cable puller’s sustained pulling force will be lower than its maximum pulling force. So, if you’re getting close to the maximum, choose a more powerful puller.
  • Speed. Pulling speeds, measured in feet per minute, vary greatly. A model with more pulling force may have a lower pulling speed. Some models have high and low speed settings. Some allow the operator to control the speed using a foot pedal, which can be useful when you’re pulling cable through angled conduit. Note that the listed pulling speed is without a load; the actual speed when pulling a load will be slower.
  • Boom length. Choose a cable puller with a boom long enough to reach the end of the conduit you’re pulling cable through. The cable should be able to rest on the boom once it has exited the conduit. Many cable pullers come with adjustable booms.

To use a cable puller, you may also need:

  • Pulling rope: Cable puller rope connects the cable to the cable puller. Choose the appropriate length for the job and a diameter that will fit within your conduit and support the cable weight.
  • Lubricant: Cable lube, also known as wire-pulling compound, may lessen the required pulling force. It’s not appropriate for all wires.
  • Cable feeder: A cable feeder can help ensure that your cable doesn’t get tangled as it’s pulled into the conduit. Choose one that fits the cable diameter you’re working with.

Next time you’re on a big job, consider giving your apprentice a break and letting an electric cable puller do the hard work. Also consider consulting with experts regarding cable pullers and the specifics of your big job to ensure safe use and operation, as well as compliance with applicable rules and regulations.

Kelly Burch is a freelance writer who covers business, manufacturing and consumer guidance.


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