Electrical cables come in a variety of forms, all of which have their own unique uses and capabilities. But what kind of cable is ideal for each job? When choosing the ideal cable for a particular project, there are endless possibilities! In this article, however, there are three different types of cable that are going to be explored: low-voltage, optical fiber, and coaxial cables.
Low voltage cables are usually created from plain flexible copper conductors that are bunched together. These cables are insulated and colored so they’re safe to use and easy to identify. The copper core wires are twisted together and then covered with a flexible form of high grade PVC, or polyvinyl chloride. These cables are used for a variety of products, from everyday appliances to small industrial machines.
Optical fiber cables are great for electronic devices that need to carry and transport data. These cables are fairly common and are used in households and data centers around the world. Televisions, internet, and other complex electrical equipment use these wires and most people are already familiar with how they work. Optical fiber cables are also some of the most reliable forms of cable, thanks to their flexibility and efficiency.
Coaxial cable is another commonly used electrical cable. This cable has an inner conductor which is surrounded by insulation. It connects with other devices used a tube-like conducting shield. The coaxial cable gets its name because both conductors run parallel to each other on the same axis. Many households and commercial businesses use this form of cable, however, its most common usage is to connect a TV to an antennae.
Understanding what each type of cable does best is a great way to decrease the uncertainty of an electrical project, particularly if you’re doing it yourself. Also remember that electrical accessories are available which can make a potentially frustrating project even easier. If you’re uncertain about what type of cable or accessory is needed for your project, it’s best to ask a trusted and reputable expert to assist you.
Many people get confused about the differences between THHN electrical wire and 6 AWG welding cable. Although these two products are created out of similar products, copper wire and insulation, there are very important differences concerning usage, flexibility, and durability.
THHN wire is typically snaked through interior walls and is never used outside. It’s one of the most common wires of its type and is often used quickly and effectively by contractors for permanent electrical work. 6 AWG is much more versatile, however. This form of cable is usually hooked up to a welding machine or a portable power cable. Cable like 6 AWG can be used inside or outside and is often used for projects where versatility is valued and the environment is difficult for normal kinds of cable.
Two factors affect wire and cable flexibility, namely insulation and copper strands. THHN wire has tightly bunched copper strands that give it a rigid and inflexible quality. Adding to this effect is a nylon coating which helps to prevent outside environs, like gasses and liquids, from corroding the wire as well as thick insulation to keep the wire protected.
6 AWG welding cable is made with thinner copper strands and rubber insulation. The rubber not only protects the cable from harsh environments, but also lends a flexible and bouncy quality to the cable. One of the main reasons that this type of cable has this quality is not only because of the many places 6 AWG is used but also because welders have to coil and uncoil the same roll of cable multiple times throughout a project.
THHN cable is highly durable for what’s it’s used for. This type of wire is meant to only be installed once and the same traits that make this wire inflexible is also one of the reasons it’s the most durable type of wire in its class. However, when looking at overall durability, the ability of 6 AWG cable to withstand a variety of environmental conditions and possible damage makes it the most durable cable between the two.
There are several different aspects to consider when faced with an electrical project. However, most people tend to overlook one of the main concerns while shopping for their equipment; namely, the wires.
Know Your Ampacity
Ampacity is the word used by the National Electric Safety Code to describe the maximum electrical current that a conductor will allow. When an electrical wire goes over its ampacity, it causes either progressive or immediate damage and can cause serious problems like a fire. Generally, ampacity ranges from 10 amps, as with a low-voltage light, to 200 amps, which powers service doors at stores, and every variation between.
Get the Right Size
Electrical wires do a variety of things and it’s important to know which size is needed to handle the project. Size is generally determined by the wire gauge system, which correlates oppositely with ampacity. This is because the amount of ampacity that a wire will carry will grow but the size of the wire will shrink. For example, a service panel that has an ampacity of 100 amps will use a 2 gauge wire while an extension cord that uses 13 amps will have a 16 gauge wire.
Keep Wires Protected
In order to keep wires safe from damage and corrosion, it’s best to have them sheathed in some form of plastic. Non-Metallic Sheathed Cable, or NMS, are often considered ideal for indoor wiring because of their sturdy casing, and some outside wires are available as well. There are three different types of NMS wires available and each one has their own individual strengths. These types are known as NM, NMC, and UF.
- NM- NM wire is commonly used indoors and is perfect for lighting and receptacle circuits.
- NMC- NMC cables are ideal for damp areas inside of the home. This is because of the extra insulation that these wires are coated in.
- UF- UF wire is meant to be used outside and underground. Although these wires are fairly hefty and insulated, it’s important not to use them above ground because the sunlight can destroy the strength of the sheathing.