How FlatWire Works


FlatWire Safety

The thought of bands of copper attached to a wall conducting electricity might worry some people. How safe is it? What are the chances it will short out? What happens if after you accidentally drive a nail through a wire while you're trying to hang a picture?

The good news is that Southwire has already taken these issues into consideration while designing FlatWire. Southwire coats the copper bands in FlatWire with an insulating film that doesn't conduct electricity. That means FlatWire is safe to touch even when a current is running through it. The film acts just like the insulating coating on a normal wire.

If you install FlatWire correctly, it can be safer than normal wires and cables. Because you can trim FlatWire to the right length, you don't have to worry about slack coils of wires and cables. And because you can lay FlatWire almost flush with any surface, you can avoid creating a tripping hazard. You can even run FlatWire on your floor and lay carpet on top of it.

If you were to pierce the FlatWire accidentally while it conducted electricity, you'd create an electrical short. The piercing object will cause the ground and neutral layers to make contact with the hot layer. This causes a short circuit -- the electrons flowing through the hot layer will flow back through the neutral and ground layers.

The short circuit immediately trips your home's circuit breaker and current ceases to flow through the wire. All of this happens at an incredible speed. From the point of view of the person putting a nail through an active FlatWire, it's instantaneous.

At the 2009 Consumer Electronics Show, Southwire held several demonstrations showing that driving a nail through the wire would cause a short and trip a circuit breaker. At the time of this article, Southwire is awaiting certification from the Underwriters Laboratory for its 120 VAC electrical FlatWire. Southwire has secured approval from the National Fire Protection Association. Low-voltage FlatWire products are already on the market.

To learn more about wiring and electricity, take a look at the links below.

Related HowStuffWorks Articles

More Great Links

Sources

  • Bender, Hal. "Valence Electrons." Clackamas Community College. 2002. (Feb. 2, 2009) http://dl.clackamas.cc.or.us/ch104-06/valence_electrons.htm
  • Eastman, Abraham et al. "Device and Method for Connecting Wire." U.S. Patent 6,688,912 B2. Filed Feb. 14, 2002 and issued Feb. 10, 2004.
  • Elert, Glenn. "Dielectrics." The Physics Hypertextbook. (Jan. 30, 2009) http://hypertextbook.com/physics/electricity/dielectrics/
  • FlatWire Ready. (Jan. 29, 2009). http://www.flatwireready.com/
  • Hyperphysics. "Electricity and Magnetism." Georgia State University. (Jan. 30, 2009) http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/emcon.html#emcon
  • McCurdy, Michael W. et al. "Non-uniform Transmission Line and Method of Fabricating the Same." U.S. Patent 6,774,741 B2. Filed May 28, 2002 and issued Aug. 10, 2004.
  • Sexton, Robert Jay. "Flat Surface-mounted Multi-purpose Wire." U.S. Patent 6,492,595 B2. Filed Feb. 14, 2001 and issued Dec. 10, 2002.

More to Explore