Monday, February 20, 2017

Handhole Frequently Asked Questions

As with most products in the telecom industry, product designs evolve at a rapid pace. Often times specifications are written based on outdated information. Old specifications make sourcing material difficult, especially when updated products meet or exceed the written spec.

In the case of handholes, the sales team at Comstar Supply faces an added level of difficulty. In addition to potentially outdated specifications, there are often assumptions made to the product's capability. Our sales team is trained to help you understand the applications for handholes and their ratings. On several occasions, we refused to provide a quote based on the unrealistic expectations for the design of the product. Ultimately those projects went back to the drawing board for an alternative solution.

Here are a few of the frequently asked questions and requests we receive for handhole opportunities.

Can I order a handhole with an AASHTO H-20 load rating?

No. The AASHTO "H" standards govern materials designed for "deliberate" traffic, such that would be used in the middle of a bridge. Those recognized materials are precast concrete and cast iron, among others. Precast concrete and cast iron are used for manholes, but handholes are composites.

Typically made of a polymer concrete composite, handholes fall outside the framework of AASHTO. Handholes are designed for "non-deliberate" traffic, and they fall under ANSI/SCTE 77 for performance standards.

Why are handholes often confused for AASHTO H-20?

The published test loads of composite handholes may exceed test loads of H-20 materials. Remember that handholes are made of composite material, not precast concrete. Some manufacturer's may claim that their product exceeds H-20, but they will be quick to tell you that the materials are not AASHTO recognized. As Hubbell Power Systems states, "A tremendous misunderstanding has been that if a product tested in excess of the design load, it was thought to be an acceptable product for the intended application. This is a gross oversight. There could be very minimal safety factors, and what does a 1, 10, or 1000 cycle test indicate? A false sense of security could lead to personal injury and/or equipment damage." In other words, buyer beware!

Can I put a steel or cast iron lid on a handhole in order to meet H-20?

We are aware of end users specifying handholes this way. Yes, you can install a steel lid, but it still will not be H-20. Handholes are designed and tested as a complete system under ANSI including the lid and base. So even if you put a steel lid onto a composite box, it is still a system including a composite box that is not governed under AASHTO. The inherent flexibility of steel as a lid may allow for additional cycles (i.e. more vehicular traffic) to the lid itself. However, either the added weight of the lid, or the lateral forces on the handhole in deliberate traffic, may cause it to fail.

What is the difference between design load and test load of a handhole?

The ANSI application tier number relates to a nominal design load multiplied by 1,000 pounds. For example, Tier 8 is 8 x 1000 pounds, or 8000 lbs. All ANSI tier loadings have a corresponding test load, which is 50% greater than the design load. The maximum deflection at the indicated design load shall be one half-inch for vertical tests, and a quarter-inch per foot of length for lateral tests.

Can I order locking lids or hardware for handholes?

Yes. We can offer "tamper-resistant" penta head bolts, anti-vibration systems and keyed locking mechanisms. The most popular locking mechanism on the market today is the Lockout Device.

Can I order a gasket and a closed bottom for my handhole?

Yes, but you would be better off with an above ground pedestal if you want the contents of your handhole to stay dry. Think about how many homeowners struggle with wet basements. Water will find a way.

Gaskets are only effective if they provide a positive seal around the entire inside of the ring. As soon as dirt and rocks compress the gasket, you will have water ingress. Odds are your handhole will encounter a lot of rocks and dirt during installation. If your handhole also has a closed bottom, this will significantly slow the draining process if water does get in. That's a double-whammy.

I hope this helps you to further understand handholes, but please call us if you have any further questions. Handholes are becoming more sought after for their reduced weight and cost for buried enclosures. As manufacturers try to drive value, handholes are becoming lighter and easier to use at the same test ratings. If you set your specifications to the ANSI Tier ratings, you should never worry about outdated handhole spec.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Top 5 Forgotten Items In Network Builds

A Brice Box Blog

How often do you travel and feel like you left your toothbrush, socks, or some other necessity at home? My wife bought me a checklist to use when I pack so I won't omit an essential item from my luggage. Of course I use those items every day, but without that checklist, the odds are high that I'll forget something.

Similarly, if you don't specify fiber splice sleeves on the bill of material, there is a good chance you or your contractor will not order sleeves for that job. Fortunately, Comstar Supply stocks plenty of splice sleeves. Unfortunately, we're not in every major town like a Home Depot.

I polled our inside sales staff on the items they are normally asked to ship out next day air to help complete projects on time. Here are the results:

1. Duct Couplers. When pulling out a 6000 foot reel of 1-1/4" HDPE innerduct, you might not expect to use many couplers on the job. In reality the lengths of bore are much shorter, going for 1000' typically at a time. Accounting for "as-builts" can be one of the more challenging aspects of outside plant construction, and ordering 10-20% more couplers is usually less expensive than having a few shipped next-day air delivery. Not to mention, ordering couplers in advance will save valuable downtime on the job.

If you're not sure what type of couplers you should use for your application, check out our video series comparing the different types of couplers for HDPE.

2. Duct Pulling Eyes. I once joked with a co-worker about how some suppliers like to tout "custom engineered products." In reality, that custom engineering often results in an additional part in the box to suit the needs of the build, much like adding lettuce and tomato to your burger. That's not engineering; that's just customer service! Based on this marketing "genius," we proposed offering a duct reel with a pulling eye already installed in the end.

To this day we laugh about our "engineered solution" for what we call "Finnerduct." Maybe there is a need after all for this solution based on the amount of pulling eyes we ship out last minute. Compare that to custom fiber assemblies sold over 50 feet that come equipped with a pulling eye for convenience. Why not have the same feature for duct?

3. Duct Plugs. I'm starting to see a theme here. Whether you need to plug an unoccupied conduit after it's installed, or seal the voids around cables, we see a lot of last minute plug orders. We stock a wide array of blank plugs, as well as simplex and innerduct organizer plugs. Often times the job isn't complete until plugs are installed, but we rarely see them specified on the original bill of materials.

4. Fiber Optic Cleaning Supplies. As awareness grows for proper fiber optic hygiene, I would say the tides are turning for this product group. Many customers are incorporating fiber cleaning into their operating procedures and ordering plans. Whether you need supplies for splice preparation or connector inspection cleaning, Comstar offers a full line of wet and dry fiber cleaning products.

Deltec™ System
5. Tie Wraps. In our industry, cable management is paramount. Often the technical requirements for tie wraps exceed what you find on store shelves. Comstar Supply supports a full line of industrial-grade, UV, delrin strapping systems for aerial construction, commonly known as the Deltec™ system. We also carry color-coded tie wraps to help maintain TIA-598 fiber color identification for expressed buffer tubes in splice closures and termination panels. In addition to cable tie wraps, we offer a wealth of fiber-specific cable clips to assist with mounting drop cables to structures.

Inevitably, we all overlook the items we need everyday. I hope this blog brings new light to writing your next bill of material. Can you think of anything we forgot to add to this list that might round out a top ten?

Deltec is a trademark of Thomas & Betts Corporation.