How to pull wire when working alone

JoeNorm

Senior Member
Location
WA
Thanks for all the replies. I agree pulling wire solo is not ideal, and in a perfect world I would have a helper every time I needed one. But like others have said having to look after an employee opens a whole other can of worms that I may not be ready for for awhile. In the meantime it is encouraging that people do it at all, and have some nice tips also. I didn't know about the pulling buddies, those look great.
 

paulengr

Senior Member
The real answer is probably to have a helper. He or she will keep you from getting lonely along with helping you with the pull. :)

I have seen a fair number of electricians who do field installs of equipment try and do everything themselves. Probably to keep as much of the money they charge for themselves, and that is understandable. However, as often as not, it seems to me like they probably are taking longer then if they broke down and got some help. Even if it is just someone to run errands. having to go get parts or tools out of a truck that is a 20 minute round trip walk, wastes time. Having to go to home depot to get an extra outlet box takes time. A guy that is worth $100/hour or more should not be doing this kind of thing regardless of whether he is working for himself or someone else.

I once saw an electrician installing EMT under an overhead conveyor using a ladder. I asked him why he didn't get a lift. he said they cost money and I already have the ladder. The thing is that he probably spent far more time on that part of the job then he had to, and likely would have been ahead by renting a lift. Probably needed a helper too. he was using some kind of 2X4 arrangement he had cobbled up to get the EMT sticks in place under the bottom of the conveyor so he could climb up the ladder and secure them in place.

Sounds nice if you do commercial or industrial construction.

It is normally the case that a lot of residential guys and most service technicians work alone on most jobs. It’s sort of crazy and impractical to expect to pay for two techs to come back out to refresh say 15 feet of control wiring when one can do the whole job in an hour or two.
 

petersonra

Senior Member
Location
Northern illinois
Occupation
engineer
Sounds nice if you do commercial or industrial construction.

It is normally the case that a lot of residential guys and most service technicians work alone on most jobs. It’s sort of crazy and impractical to expect to pay for two techs to come back out to refresh say 15 feet of control wiring when one can do the whole job in an hour or two.
Service work is probably the primary exception
 

readydave8

re member
Location
Clarkesville, Georgia
Occupation
electrician
sometimes on shorter pulls it is possible to have rope long enough to pull while pushing

or tape wires to fishtape and push it in

if pipe comes out side of box, sometimes open or make hole on opposite side, KO seal when done

but if it's big heavy pull I usually find a way to draft a helper
 

Eddie702

Licensed Electrician
Location
Western Massachusetts
Occupation
Electrician
I had to pull 3 wires in an 1 1/2" emt. Forgot the wire size 3#1s or maybe 1/0s? It was about 40 ' run but had 3 90s in it. I pushed and pulled for a while ....no luck. I had a rope in the pipe and the pipe came into the room 6' off the floor. I ran the rope through a pulley secured to a floor joist and tied on a bucked that I filled up with heavy weight. Then went back and pushed and it went right in.

Of course I had to go back and retie the bucket a few times but it worked ok
 

Fred B

Senior Member
Location
Upstate, NY
Occupation
Electrician
I had to pull 3 wires in an 1 1/2" emt. Forgot the wire size 3#1s or maybe 1/0s? It was about 40 ' run but had 3 90s in it. I pushed and pulled for a while ....no luck. I had a rope in the pipe and the pipe came into the room 6' off the floor. I ran the rope through a pulley secured to a floor joist and tied on a bucked that I filled up with heavy weight. Then went back and pushed and it went right in.

Of course I had to go back and retie the bucket a few times but it worked ok
Wow I like that one.
 

hillbilly1

Senior Member
Location
Atlanta,Ga
Occupation
Field coordinator/ technical support
Interesting comments. We just don't use conduit or EMT here.
I noticed in the Dominican Republic they use plastic tubing (not pvc) with thhn pulled in, on the houses. Didn’t see any commercial or industrial to see what they do.
 

titan1021

Senior Member
You will learn to improvise! I've pulled long runs, large runs alone with things such as my Truck, come-a-longs, a series of pulleys, and everything in between. You'll surprise yourself with the things you come up after years going it alone. Been working solo for the last 15 and have come up with some really cool methods to get it done.
 

JoeNorm

Senior Member
Location
WA
You will learn to improvise! I've pulled long runs, large runs alone with things such as my Truck, come-a-longs, a series of pulleys, and everything in between. You'll surprise yourself with the things you come up after years going it alone. Been working solo for the last 15 and have come up with some really cool methods to get it done.
How do you look back at your last 15 years working solo? Would you do it the same way if you started all over?
 
I am a commercial/industrial electrician. I work by myself a lot. I do most of the suggestions that have already been put forward. One thing I do often is pulling #12 THHN with a box in the middle of the run up high. I can pull a loop at the high J box that reaches all the way to the floor. I put a swing side
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pulley or something smooth like a pulley around the wire bundle and a weight on it so it won’t tangle while I pull the loop up. I can wash, rinse, repeat until I get the whole thing pulled.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 

WSG

MN elec contractor
Location
Minnesota
Occupation
Electrician & Contracor
1. Tie mule tape on the right size fish headz pulling sock with a piece of mule tape.
2. Place cable reels on a stand.
3. Fish it through.
4. Inset pull buddies or rollers at the first box/conduit.
5. Pull through.

Steps 2 and 4 are NOT optional when pulling alone. If you do it right you can completely eliminate someone to feed cable in. Also things like pull buddies can often be used to skip a separate pull with boxes you are just feeding through.

Alternatively if you have say a rope rigged up or a remote control for a puller of some kind you can play the part of feeder and run the pull remotely. On short pulls often I can do both.

I don’t use anything larger than a Pullzall which has a 1,000 pound limit except on vertical pulls up. I try to do those down. You will damage if not break most cables at 1200 pounds or less. If you can’t pull it with a Pullzall you are in serious danger of damaging the cable anyway and since you can buy one for the price of an average power tool instead of the price of a used car, it’s affordable and does the same thing a multi thousand dollar tugger does plus it can be used as a hoist for all kinds of things. If the Pullzall stops then it signals you to stop the pull and start looking for what went wrong.

The big trick with ANY pull is preparing ahead of time. I’m guilty myself of just going straight to fishing the conduit and then using a second man to feed the wire. But there are lots of issues:
1. When you just flip the cable off the end of the spool instead of properly unrolling it you put a twist in the cable. This has a tendency to twist at every bend and causes cables to jump over each other and jam up. Even a piece of half inch conduit through the rungs of a step ladder is better. There are very cheap reels out there. You don’t need those huge expensive cable racks. Mine is just two stands that accept 1/2” or 3/4” conduit and a couple compression fittings to keep the conduits from falling off. Everything is under $100.
2. The cable WILL find every sharp edge or corner to catch on. Rollers or nylon guides prevent this even with the most diligent feed man, I bought these on a whim and now the biggest trouble is having enough.
3. Cable lube is necessary on long runs or big cable. But if you just squeeze a huge glob down the conduit it will mostly do the job. It’s not strictly necessary to slime up every last foot.
4. If the conduit is too small jams will happen especially when trying to add more cables to an existing run. But also if it is too larger the cables can lay flat and twist around each other causing jams. Also generally speaking length of a pull is not nearly as critical as every bend or corner. It takes very little force to pull cable hundreds of feet horizontally especially with enough lube and rollers in tray or on poles. But have you ever exceeded 360 degrees of bends? If in doubt Greenlee has a free pulling app that is well worth it especially with the price.
5. A field bend in a conduit pulls far easier than a factory fabricated elbow even if it’s a long radius type. Every LB you can eliminate (360 degree limit!!) saves time, money, and pulls easier.
6. Pulling socks or clips of some kind are not absolutely necessary but wish I bought them sooner. They pretty much eliminate tying knots and taping. The big advantages are your pulling “head” will be smaller and smoother so it has much less chance of jamming and there is no sticky mess to clean off the fish or wasted tape and cable ends cut off or to take apart. It is much faster to hitch and unhitch everything.
7. Do NOT pull all the slack out of a pull box in a multiple box pull. I’ve tried taping and other methods but the best I’ve found is pull as much slack as you can manage without snarls at the first box, then use a roller or pull buddy and pull to the next box. Keep repeating until you get the whole pull. I have not yet found an easier way. If you have just 3 boxes though you can set up in the middle, do one pull to one end, then unspool cable and pull to the other end.
8. I’ll mention this but I try to avoid wasting time doing it. Some guys unreel all the cables first and manually bundle everything first before pulling. It’s a lot of taping and work, it can avoid snags in some situations such as oversize conduit and multi box pulls but the tape snags at the first pull and sometimes on threaded fittings. It always seems to be a mixed bag for me.
9. Along the same lines is pulling jet line or Mike tape first. The only reason to do this is if you might damage the fish. If you are running a tugger bigger than a Pullzall then pull s rope first. But I’ve had zero problems with fiberglass fish. Old steel fish are another matter.

None of this should be a surprise. The major difference is that everything I’m suggesting makes a 2 man pull more efficient and less likely to jam or damage something. The best pull is the man on the fish (or running a tugger) pulls with almost no effort and the feed man does nothing other than squirt some lube. So when pulling Aline there is nobody feeding so that job has to go away completely or you will be running your tail off.
Thanks for the great, detailed information. I'm wondering what type of grips do you use with the Pullzall?

I'm a residential guy, so am ignorant of these methods. I do need to pull conductors every so often.

Thanks for sharing your experience.
 

Electromatic

Senior Member
Location
Virginia
Occupation
Master Electrician
I tried something recently for the first time and was successful...

It was about a 100' pull with the first 20' straight up out of a panel, and I was pulling to a 4sq box on a roof beam. I had already vacuumed a pull string into the conduit and had to pull (7) #10 in 3/4" EMT. One thing I knew doing solo pulls is that the momentum of the reels/spools always interferes. If you can keep the reels moving, it's easier. I chucked a long ≈1/2" masonry bit into my cordless drill, put it in low gear, and wrapped the pull string around the bit. It was a little slow, but STEADY and beat repeatedly hand-pulling a few feet then getting things moving again.
 

LarryFine

Master Electrician Electric Contractor Richmond VA
Location
Henrico County, VA
Occupation
Electrical Contractor
One thing I knew doing solo pulls is that the momentum of the reels/spools always interferes. If you can keep the reels moving, it's easier.
Also,spools can keep spinning and unwind too much slack and cause tangles. Putting adjacent spools on the holder to spin in opposite directions can provide enough friction to minimize it.
 

kwired

Electron manager
Location
NE Nebraska
had some pulls of 14 and 12 that can be a real PITA. Steel raceways and stranded conductors generally are easier pulls though. PVC raceways take on a lot of pulling resistance in general.

yet pulled couple hundred feet sets of up to 500 all alone with little troubles - usually pulled those with a backhoe though

XHHW pulls easier when cool weather conditions, and can be horrible to pull if been sitting in hot sun
 
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