WesBell Electronics
Wire and Cable Blog

Alpha Wire XTRA Guard® Cables

Alpha Wire is a manufacturer of electronic wire and cable that has branded their own XTRA Guard® cables. Other manufacturers might say they can manufacture something similar but it won’t contain all of the same elements used in the “real” XTRA Guard® cables. There are 6 versions of XTRA Guard® cables that will be listed and discussed below.

Alpha XTRA Guard® 1 Cables (Popular)

XTRA Guard® 1 cables are used in applications such as medical electronics, point of sale equipment, computer peripherals and industrial process controls. There are unshielded, shielded, SUPRASHIELD® and multi pair options to choose from. The SUPRASHIELD® is another Alpha branded product in place of a common foil/braid shield. It’s similar, but manufactured with Alpha’s own recipe. This version has an extreme premium grade PVC jacket rated at 300 or 600 volts and 80ºC.

XTRA GUARD 1 CableSee XTRA Guard® 1 here >>


Alpha XTRA Guard® 2 Cables

XTRA Guard® 2 cables are used in CNC machine centers, automotive assembly plant operations, military ground support systems and packaging machinery. This version offers the same shielding options as the 1 series. XTRA Guard® 2 has unmatched resistance to oils, fuels, solvents and water due to the industrial strength extra rugged polyurethane jacket. These cables are rated at 300 or 600 volts and 90ºC.

XTRA GUARD 2 CableSee XTRA Guard® 2 here >>


Alpha XTRA Guard® 3 Cables

XTRA Guard® 3 cables have an extra durable outdoor direct burial jacket so that it can be buried in the ground without the use of conduit or raceway. Common applications are inter building communications, satellite communications equipment, land irrigation systems and pipeline sensor controls. All of the variations of XTRA Guard® 3 cables have a voltage rating of 300 or 600 with a temperature rating of 80ºC.

XTRA GUARD 3 CableSee XTRA Guard® 3 here >>


Alpha XTRA Guard® 4 Cables (Popular)

XTRA Guard® 4 cables are commonly used in wood, paper, pulp and plant operations, mining instruments and controls, food and beverage plants and arctic pipeline controls. This version has unmatched performance in both high and low temperatures reaching as low as -60ºC and as high as 125ºC. Whether shielded or unshielded, the XTRA Guard® 4 cables have an extra protective high/low temperature TPE jacket.

XTRA GUARD 4 CableSee XTRA Guard® 4 here >>


Alpha XTRA Guard® 5 Cables

XTRA Guard® 5 cables are used in applications such as military electronic, steel, glass and metal foundries, mining instruments and controls and in food and beverage plants. With an extra high temperature and chemical resistant FEP jacket, XTRA Guard® 5 cables have unmatched performance at temperatures from -80ºC to 200ºC. This version only comes in 300 volts but still has all of the shielding options including the SUPRASHIELD®.

XTRA GUARD 5 CableSee XTRA Guard® 5 here >>


Alpha XTRA Guard® Flexible Cables (Popular)

The difference between “flexible cables” and “XTRA Guard® Flexible Cables” is more than just the brand name by Alpha Wire. A flexible cable can be bent into an application where an XTRA Guard® flexible cable can be bent back and forth while the machine is running. Some machines that move around will require the cable move with it, so this is the perfect cable to use for such an application. It’s stated in the catalog that it’s a “permanent solution for critical flexing applications” and it’s manufactured in the USA.

XTRA GUARD Flexible CableSee XTRA Guard® Flexible here >>


For questions about our XTRA Guard® cable by Alpha Wire please call us at (800) 334-8400.

Written by: Chris Bell

Is Copper Really Going Down?

Copper PricingYES! Copper has been slowly decreasing over the last 6 months bringing down the price of copper wire and cable. Copper is traded on the NYSE (New York Stock Exchange) which means the cost of copper goes up or down every day depending on the supply and demand. The cost of wire doesn’t automatically change based on the price of copper because there are other price drivers such as the insulation and the coating of tin, nickel or silver that is sometimes used over the copper strands.

Standard Hook Up Wire Pricing

“Standard hook up wire” refers to the most basic types used in the industry. PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride) is the most basic hookup wiring used in appliances and electronics. This particular type of wire has 3 price drives which are copper, tin and PVC insulation. The cost of each will change daily, copper being the most dramatic, which changes the cost of PVC hook up wire. So, if there is a 5% increase in PVC materials and a 5% decrease in the cost of copper, the price will probably remain the same.

PTFE Hook Up Wire Pricing

This type of hook up wire has 4 price drivers including copper, silver, PTFE insulation and PTFE compounds. PTFE refers to a high temperature insulation with many different materials used to manufacture it. PTFE is a group of elements used to withstand high temperatures and create a non-stick surface. Silver is used over the copper strands to resist corrosion when the wire is in applications with high temperatures. Buy PTFE here >>

SOOW Portable Power Cable

In order to understand the actual pricing of any electrical cable you must first understand the construction. SOOW cable is manufactured with very fine flexible strands, EPDM insulation over each conductor, EPDM rubber jacket and fillers in between each conductor to make sure the cable is perfectly round instead of hugging each conductor with a bumpy outside surface. Most sizes also have UL, CSA and MSHA approvals increasing the cost as well. So, just because copper is the most popular price driver as of now doesn’t mean it’s the only one. Your price may, or may not, be changed based on copper decreasing but if you’re unsure why please ask us the question!

On 3/27/2013 the price of copper per pound is $3.45/lb
On 3/27/2012 the price of copper per pound was $4.19/lb
On 3/27/2011 the price of copper per pound was $4.42/lb


Written by: Chris Bell

What Is DLO Cable And What Is It Used For?

DLO - Diesel Locomotive CableDLO stands for Diesel Locomotive because it is most commonly used for diesel locomotive applications. However, as a very powerful single conductor cable, it can be used in multiple single phase applications such as oil and gas drilling rigs, cranes, ship yards, motor leads and mining applications. DLO cables are rated for 2000 volts and used in industrial applications more often than residential areas.

Flexible and Protective

Rather than buying DLO cable for its high voltage rating, you might want to buy it for its flexibility or dually protective jacket. Diesel locomotive cables are manufactured with a layer of EPR insulation and a second layer of CPE insulation for industrial type protection. Imagine using a cable in an industrial setting compared to a residential setting to understand why the added protection is given to DLO cables.


Unlike residential portable power cables, industrial power cables carry UL, CSA and MSHA approvals. These approvals are stamped on the jacket to prove that Underwriters Laboratories, Canadian Standard Association and Mine Safety and Health Administration have tested and approved the ratings given to DLO cable. Without those third party approvals it will be difficult for industrial applications to pass inspection. Those needing cables without UL, CSA and MSHA approvals would typically be home owners and small machine shops that don’t need to pass inspection.

Is There a Cheaper Alternative to DLO?

Welding CableThat depends on your requirements. If your application can get by with a 600 volt cable, less protection and a lower voltage rating than the answer is yes, welding cable. Welding cable does not carry the approvals and it’s only rated for 600 volts with a single layer of rubber insulation. It’s much cheaper and offered in similar AWG (American Wire Gauge) sizes as DLO. Welding cable is also offered in black, red and orange where DLO cable only comes with black insulation.

Learning about the power cable you’re looking to buy is a very good idea because you could be buying more or less than you actually need. Speaking with your supplier will help you understand each attribute the cable has to offer and which of them your application needs. Cutting out one attribute, such as switching from 2000 volts to 600 volts, will save you a lot of money.

Written by: Chris Bell

Industrial Power Cables Rated For 2000 Volts

Industrial power cables are not for a typical home owner looking for a power cable to hook up a generator but they are very similar. Both types of cables will have rubber insulation and a rubber jacket but the industrial size cables will be larger, more powerful and much more durable than those used in homes and small shops.

SOOW Cable (Home Owner) VS Type W (Industrial)

SOOW Cable for GeneratorsSOOW is a typical generator cable used to hook up a generator used to power a home, garage or small shop. SOOW cables are rated for 600 volts and withstand a decent amount of impact that happens occasionally throughout the life of the cable. Buy SOOW Cable here >>

Type W Industrial Power CableType W is an industrial power cable used in much bigger applications reaching as high as 2000 volts. Generators on these sites power large equipment that run on job sites without a power source. While on an industrial building site, a Type W cable can take on severe impact throughout each day. It will need to be protected from being dragged across rough terrain, run over by trucks and equipment, and possibly tough environmental conditions. These are all good reasons to have a more protective jacket to make sure the copper conductors last longer in order to limit replacement costs down the road. Buy Type W Cable here >>

Type G and Type G-GC Cables

Type G and Type G-GCType G and Type G-GC are both very similar to Type W because they all have a 2000 volt rating, similar temperature ratings and identical jacket protection. There’s additional, smaller gauge size, ground wires included with Type G and G-GC cable while Type W doesn’t have any additional grounds. There are 3 or 4 grounds with each cable depending on whether it has 3 or 4 conductors. The amount of ground wires will always match the amount of conductors for those applications requiring grounding. Buy Type G and G-GC here >>

DLO Cable

DLO CableDLO stands for Diesel Locomotive and it’s a 2000 volt single conductor industrial power cable. It’s used to hook up diesel locomotives, oil and gas drilling rigs and other machinery needing a single conductor only. All of these power cables come with very flexible strands and flexible rubber insulation especially when compared to standard electrical cables. Electrical cables are installed and forgotten about while industrial power cables are used each day, so the flexibility makes it much easier to handle on the job. Buy DLO Cable here >>

Please call if you’re looking for a high voltage power cable. Many cables we sell reach as high as 35,000 volts in single and multi conductor versions. We also keep home owner size cables in stock with exact-cut-lengths for a no-waste installation.

Written by: Chris Bell

Using Multi Conductor Electronic Cables

Electronic CableElectronic cables are used to hold multiple conductors of hook up wire instead of running all of the wires individually. When you’re application has ten 22 AWG wires running next to each other it might be a good idea to switch to an electronic multi conductor cable. It will give your application a much cleaner look and it will also give it more protection because of the PVC jacket covering the conductors.

Our multi conductor electronic cables are used in applications such as burglar alarms, cash registers, cable tray installations, intercoms, internal telephones and remote control circuits. The PVC jacket is most commonly manufactured in gray, but some other colors are available upon request with a possible minimum purchase amount. The temperature range that these cables can be used in is -20ºC to 80ºC. Buy Electronic Cables here >>

Shielded Electronic CableWe make sure to keep the shielded and unshielded versions available to our customers. The most common shielding for electronic cables is an aluminum wrapped foil shield to block EMI, or Electro Magnetic Interference. EMI occurs when two cables are running next to each other but have separate connections. The two cables may interfere with each other, for instance, when a phone line or radio station switches lines without the operator making any changes. The shielding will limit this from happening.

Braid Shield CableAnother type of shield used in electronic cables is a foil braid shield. This has the standard foil shield along with an additional braid shield. A braided shield uses tinned copper strands and weaves them together similar to the look of a Chinese finger. Braid shields are used to block much higher levels of EMI.

We also sell the single conductor 22 AWG wires individually if you want to buy various colors without the need of a PVC jacket. We offer about 10 to 12 solid colors such as black, green, white or red along with an unlimited amount of spiral striped color options. Any color spiral stripe can be added to any color of our hook up wire for a small additional charge. This helps our contract assembly customers that sometimes need up to 50 different color options for a single application. Buy Hookup Wire here >>

Written by: Chris Bell

Wire and Cable Acronyms

There are acronyms used in every industry and some of them can be very confusing. There are many different types of wire and cable that use abbreviations and acronyms to describe them. Well, sometimes the acronym becomes a more popular description of the product than the actual name, which leaves the consumer confused. Hopefully this post will help clear the air.


TFFN THHN THWN WireThermoplastic Flexible Fixture Nylon“, “Thermoplastic High Heat Nylon” and “Thermoplastic Heat Water Nylon” are the descriptions of the insulation used on the most popular type of electrical building wire. These three types of electrical wire are used in homes and buildings running power from the electrical box to your outlets, lights and appliances. “Thermoplastic” defines the insulation and “Nylon” describes a nylon coating over the insulation for added protection and lubrication for conduit installations. The middle 2 letters in each acronym represent what the wire can resist or withstand. Buy TFFN THHN THWN Wire here >>

NM-B and UF-B

NMB and UFB CableThese stand for Non Metallic (Top of image) and Underground Feeder (Bottom of image). Both of these electrical cables have multiple THHN / THWN wires bundled together to run more than one wire at a time.NMB cables are used indoors only while UFB cables can run directly underground without conduit or raceway. Buy NM-B or UF-B Cable here >>

Type MC

MC CableMetal Clad cables have a metallic jacket engineered with aluminum interlocked armor to give it enough protection to be used outdoors and in conduit applications. Buy MC Cable here >>


SOOW CableEach letter stands for something in this case and there could be any combination of all letters.

S – Service Cord
J – Junior (300 volts instead of 600 volts)
T – Thermoplastic – A cheaper insulation used for cost effective jobs not needing rubber insulation
E – Elastomer – Usually hand in hand with the “T” for thermoplastic insulation
O – Oil resistant conductor insulation
O – Oil resistant Jacket
W – Water resistant jacket (Not approved to be submersed in water) Buy SJOOW and SOOW Cable here >>


American Wire Gauge is the association that determines the diameter of each gauge size and the tolerance needed to be approved as a particular gauge. You might see “…a 4 AWG wire is…”.


Hook Up WirePolyvinyl Chloride and Polytetrafluoroethylene are both acronyms for hook up wire. PVC is used in applications up to 105ºC and PTFE is used in applications up to 200ºC. Otherwise they are used in very similar applications such as wire harnesses, appliances and electronics. Buy Hook up Wire here >>


SER SEU CableService Entrance (“R” for round and “U” for flat) cables are used to bring power from the telephone pole on your street to your electrical box in order to supply it will enough power to fill your home. The only difference is one is round compared to flat. Flat cables have all of the conductors lying next to each other compared to bundled or twisted inside the jacket. Buy SER and SEU Cable here >>

DLO and Type SC

DLO and SC CableDiesel Locomotive and Stage Cable are both single conductor portable cord cables. Stage lighting cable is used to connect high power lighting displays for concerts and DLO cable is used for industrial applications requiring a very powerful and protective cable reaching as high as 2000 volts with a dual insulation. Buy DLO and SC Cable here >>

There are more acronyms out there that you can call to ask us about if you’re unsure. Never mind acronyms, we also get all kinds of application based requests such as “a cable for my welder”, “generator cable”, “appliance wire” or “automotive wire” that we have to break down with the customer. Call us with all of the information you have and we’ll help you find exactly what you need.

Written by: Chris Bell

Cut To Length THHN and Underground Cable

25th Anniversary!After being in the wire and cable business for 25 years a company starts to realize the many different requests that come up with their customers. Our cut-to-length service works very well with small contractors and electricians because they can get the exact amount of THHN wire that they need for a particular job. That way they can determine exactly what their costs are for the job and get a better idea of the profit they made.

THHN WireTypically, THHN wire and underground cables are sent to distributors on bulk spools and it’s up to them to offer smaller spool sizes. Many suppliers offer 50 foot, 100 foot and 500 foot spools but what about the contractor that needs 75 straight feet? Are they expected to buy 100 feet and scrap the rest? Or wait for another job that only requires 25 feet? That’s not the way for a supplier to conduct business.

CUt to length Electrical WireWe cut most all of our electrical cables to length, especially the larger sizes because they’re very expensive per foot. We also offer Free Shipping to anywhere in the continental USA for orders that reach $250. That’s not very difficult to reach when buying expensive copper cables.

Even though there are many small contractors and electricians buying “per foot” there’s still companies looking to buy large quantity for a discounted price. That’s why we offer much better pricing and free shipping on large orders. When we take care of the shipping charges it helps in more than one way.

Obviously you’re saving money by not having to pay for the freight but you’re also saving the difference of your personal rate compared to our discounted shipping rates. We ship multiple freight pallets per day and have trucking companies fighting for our business by offering good rates and quicker shipping times. All of those perks benefit us and our customers because they’ll get the shipment faster and at a better price.

Electrical cables are the most popular that need to be cut to length because of the installation style. They’re installed and left in the application for the life of the cable. Therefore, the installer only needs exactly what they’re installing for that particular job. At least the same telephone cable is used in all installations. Electrical cables are constantly different for each installation because of different voltage, AMPS and environmental conditions that need to need considered.

Call Us, we’ll work with you!

Written by: Chris Bell

Most Common Copper Electrical Cables

Electrical cables are used in and around homes and buildings. They bring power to the electrical box in your basement and distribute it throughout your home. Some connections only require a small amount of power such as light switches and outlets, while other connections require much larger cables such as your washer and dryer. The cost will be adjusted with the size, amount of conductors and insulation protection. More protection is needed for outdoor and underground cables compared to indoor cables.

SER – Service Entrance Cable

Service Entrance CableService entrance cables bring power from the telephone pole to your electrical box. It will be a very large cable that will supply your electrical box with a certain amount of AMPS that will be distributed throughout your home. The size of an SER cable depends on the size of the home and the amount of power that needs to be allocated. Obviously a larger service entrance cable will be used to power a building compared to a home. Your electrician can help you with the exact size you need for the size of your home. Buy SER Cable here >>


Service Entrance Cable Also known as building wire, THHN is the most common type of copper electrical wire on the market. THHN wire is a single wire, stranded or solid copper, with insulation that allows it to be used indoors, outdoors and in conduit applications. It cannot be used directly in the ground because the insulation won’t protect it. This is used for single wire installations only. If you need a hot, neutral and a ground you will need to look at the electrical cables instead of running all THHN wires individually. Buy THHN Wire here >>

NM-B Cable – Romex® Indoor Only

Service Entrance CableNM stands for Non Metallic because it’s used indoors only. There is an outdoor cable available with a metal clad jacket which is where the indoor term “Non Metallic” comes from. Romex® is a brand of NM-B cable owned by Southwire and used in all of the same applications. This electrical cable uses THHN wires as conductors along with a bare copper ground wire. NM-B cables cannot be installed outdoors for any portion of the installation because the ground wire could be affected due to the low amount of protection given by the PVC jacket. Romex® electrical cables are used to run multiple THHN wires inside your home to lights, outlets and appliances. Buy Romex® here >>

MC Cable – Metal Clad

Service Entrance CableMC stands for Metal Clad because of the aluminum interlocked armor used as jacket instead of typical PVC. You can see the difference in the image to the left. The metal clad wraps around the conductors which serves as its own conduit for indoor applications and allows it to be used outdoors and in conduit underground. It cannot be used directly in the ground unless you get MC cable with an additional PVC jacket which will be much more expensive. The ground wire in MC cable is insulated in the color green unlike the rest of the electrical cables mentioned in the post. Buy MC Cable here >>

UF-B Cable – Underground Cable

Service Entrance CableUF stands for Underground Feeder because, you guessed it, it can be buried directly in the ground without conduit. It’s the most commonly used underground cable in the electrical industry because it’s cost effective and it’s available for direct burial. Notice that, in the picture to the left, all of the wires are individually covered by the jacket for added protection from underground abuse. UF-B cable is offered in sizes 14 AWG through 6 AWG in two or three conductors plus a ground wire. Buy UFB Cable here >>

Written by: Chris Bell
(800) 334-8400

PTFE Wire Is Used For High Temperature Applications

What Is PTFE wire?

PTFE stands for Polytetrafluoroethylene. You might have heard the term high temperature, PTFE, Type E or M16878/4 to describe the basic hook up wire that reaches 200ºC. Standard PVC hook up wire reaches 105ºC so when wire assemblies are being placed in applications with higher temperatures PTFE wire will need to replace PVC wire.

Is it still manufactured with copper?

Yes, copper is still used as the main component that conducts electricity. However, there is a silver coating instead of a tinned coating which helps resist corrosion due to high temperatures. The main difference lies in the insulation because that’s the part that will resist high temperatures. PTFE is a compound created to resist higher temperatures and create a non stick surface to also resist moisture, water, gasses and oils when necessary.

What is M16878/4?

Wire and cable needs to be tested and approved to meet certain specifications, not just by the manufacturer, but also by a 3rd party source. The 3rd party sources are UL (Underwriters Laboratories), CSA (Canadian Standard Association) and the Military (Mil Spec). In this case, M16878/4 is the Military part number that defines PTFE wire at 600 volts. This specific number shows all of the tests completed to prove that the insulation can handle 600 volts, 200ºC and so on.

What is Type E?

Type E is the same as M16878/4, and possibly made with PTFE materials, without the approval stamped on the insulation. It’s a non-approved, cost effective approach for household projects that don’t require certain approvals compared to a contract assembly business manufacturing assemblies for the government. The contract assembly business would need M16878/4 approved PTFE wire instead.

All of these terms are used in the industry, basically, describing the same “PTFE wire” which stands for Polytetrafluoroethylene. Some use different compounds to manufacture it and some have additional approvals to further prove the specifications of their product.

Written by: Chris Bell

Answering Electrical Wire Questions

Sometimes visitors will enter our website looking for a product and other times they will be looking for an answer to a question. We try to brainstorm all of the possible questions that could be asked about our products in order discuss the answers on our blog. Obviously, all of the answers won’t pertain to all of our customers, but the idea is to have our blog show up in the search engine with the appropriate blog post to answer the question.

Is Romex® the same as NM-B cable?

Romex WireYes, Romex® is a brand name of NM-B cable. Southwire, a manufacturer of electrical wire, owns the brand name “Romex®” because they designed it their own way and do not want others to copy it. This situation is the same as Kleenex® compared to standard tissues. Yes, Kleenex® is a brand of tissue but you shouldn’t exactly be asking for a “Kleenex®”.

Can I buy odd lengths of your wire and cable?

YES! We encourage it! We sell to a lot of contractors, electricians and installers that like to have the exact amount of wire for the job in order to cost it out easier. If you’re forced to buy a 500’ roll you might never use it again or have trouble costing your exact expenses for the job. All of our electrical wire and cable can be purchased by the foot and shipping will be FREE when you reach $250.

What makes a cable more flexible and easier to handle?

Electrical cables are commonly less flexible than portable cord cables because contractors install electrical cables and never touch them again. Having a stiff cable helps installations in conduit and walls of homes. Flexible cables are commonly used on a daily basis once they’re hooked up to the connection. Extension cords are a good example because users like them to be flexible in order to coil it and store it for later.

The technical explanation has to do with the size of the copper strands in the cable. For instance, a 2 AWG solid copper cable will be nearly impossible to bend or coil up like an extension cord. Manufacturers use smaller strands of copper and bundle them together until it equals the same diameter of the 2 AWG solid copper cable. This way, both are now 2 AWG and offer the same amount of current, but the one using smaller strands will be much more flexible. The total amount of copper remains the same in both cases.

Written by: Chris Bell
(800) 334-8400