Technically, electrical wire contains a single electrical conductor while cable features a group of conductors protected inside an enclosed jacket. While shopping for electrical supplies for your projects, choose the right wire depending on its application. One type of wire may be suitable to power a new range, while running electricity to your garage requires additional tools and wiring.
Knowing a couple of factors helps to figure out the type of electrical wire or cable you need. Safety remains a top priority so buying a better grade of wire or cable seems prudent. Components must safely power up the panel box and circuits in your electrical projects.
Ensure each wire type is compatible to be used with a particular voltage in the power system. You can buy the cable if its compatibility score is more than the voltage range. So, there is no problem if you use a 500-volt cable on a 30-volt system. However, it will not work if the system’s volt is higher than the cable’s volt.
The cable must handle the electricity flow without overheating itself or the insulation. This can be determined by comparing the electricity flowing through the cable with its resistance. For instance, a 2.5mm² cable is safe for use up to 20 amps.
Volt Drop Rate
The cable size should be perfect for handling the volt drop rate in an electrical system. Calculate the figure by multiplying the acceptable volt drop by 1000, then divide it by the current in amps. Next, divide the result by the total length of the cable in meters. Finally, divide 18 by the above result, and you’ll find the required cable size in mm².
The cable or electrical wire should have enough chemical resistance to withstand the substances it can possibly be put together. For example, cables used in car’s engine bay should have high resistance against oil and fuel. Otherwise, they wear out within a shorter period.
Strength and Durability
Different jobs require electrical wires of various strengths and durability. Suppose a cable needed in the mechanism of a boat’s bow transmits little electrical power but requires powering from the stern. Even a thin cable found inside mobile phones can handle the electricity flow. However, it will not last long because of certain conditions such as chaffing and vibration. So, the cable’s size and physical strength must be up to the requirements of the job.
Metal Clad (MC) cables are one of the most popular cable types. You’ll get them at any electrical supply store in different sizes and specifications. These cables are versatile and suitable for various applications. Take 12/2 stranded with ground MC aluminum armor cable (250 feet) as an example. These cables are widely used in all types of projects – from commercial to residential – for power, cable tray, signal circuits, lighting, and other installations.
Some key features of the cable include:
• Suited for industrial, commercial, and multi-residential applications
• Suitable for hazardous and severe environments
• Applicable in under raised floor and environmental air handling spaces
• Strong in nature as the copper conductors are sheathed with aluminum interlocking armor
• UL listed
If you are still not sure what to buy, find a popular electrical supply store and explain your needs to them. They will suggest the best wire or cable for your job.