A Homeowner’s Guide To Buying Electrical Cables

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Electrical cables are essential components of a home wiring system. Without them, electricity might not be possible in any building. These cables have different types, and each works for a different purpose. Some wires are intended to transmit electricity from a robust power source to a lower-voltage receiver. Others connect between standalone electrical systems or devices.

electrical cables

If you’re planning to build your house, you may want to know more about the best electrical cables you may buy and use. This way, you’d learn about the types, characteristics, and uses of the wires for your benefit. Here’s an article that could help you for that purpose.

Types Of Electrical Cables

If you’re looking for a cable you’d use in your home wiring, you may want to check on various electrical supply stores such as CablePro and others. You may delve into CablePro Cable’s Category and similar pages and websites to gain more ideas about cables, including the following types:

1. Non-Metallic (NM) Cables

These could be the most commonly installed cables in your home. They have tube-like shapes and are designed to fit the home interior. In many cases, they’re placed under walls and ceilings and even under floors.

All NM cables are color-coded, indicating the following wire gauges and amperage (amp) ratings:

  • Black: could be used for 6- and 8-gauge conductors and 55- and 40-amp circuits, respectively
  • Orange: with 10-gauge conductors and 30-amp circuits
  • Yellow: with 12-gauge conductors and 20-amp circuits
  • White: with 14-gauge conductors and 15-amp circuits

They’re easy to install and work on. Generally, they’re used in common electrical spaces such as countertop outlets.

2. Underground Feeder (UF) Cables 

These types are for wet spaces, ideal for outdoor connections such as lampposts. They contain neutral and hot wires sheathed in solid plastic. Generally, you could buy UF cables with a grey cover. If you’re working with it, you better be careful as it contains a high amount of voltage.

3. Thermoplastic High Heat-Resistant Nylon-Coated/Thermoplastic High Heat And Water-Resistant Nylon-Coated (THHN/THWN) Wire

These refer to the commonly used wires wrapped in plastic conduits. Often, many electricians use THHN/THWN wires in damp locations such as laundry areas since they have protective properties, making them safer than the other cables.

If you want to be familiar with their sub-types, you may refer to the following:

  • Green and yellow-green for ground wires
  • White and brown for neutral wires
  • Black, red, and orange for hot wires

4. Low-Voltage Wires

These lines are used for connections with 50V or less. Generally, they’re used in intercom systems, doorbells, and garage door openers. Many electricians also choose low-voltage wires in landscape lighting and alarm systems. The wires ranging from 12-22 gauges are less likely to be involved in major electric shocks.

What To Consider In Buying Electrical Cables

rolls of electrical cables

After knowing about the different types of cables, you may now consider the points you need when choosing the suitable cable for your wiring. For that purpose, here are some of the qualities you may check out:

1. Durability

Generally, the durability of cable relies on its thickness and material. Yet, there are also thick wires that are unlikely easy to cut. If you want to try a cable’s durability, you may use cutting pliers. In many cases, durable cables won’t allow easy slicing and bending. However, for others, durability could mean the capacity to withstand high voltage. In addition, it may also indicate the collective resistance against extreme temperatures.

2. Material

The cable materials may refer to the wire—the material within the sheath or the conduit—and the sheath or conduit material itself.

For the wire, here are some of the common types:

  • Copper: This type is considered the most economical and suitable for crimping. Yet, this cable may need flux when soldered. 
  • Aluminum: This type is next to copper when it comes to availability. It’s also lighter and easy to work on.
  • Silver: It has better-conducting properties but is generally expensive.
  • Tin: This type protects against rusting.

For sheaths and conduits, here are some common materials:

  • PVC: It’s suitable for under-the-ground and behind-wall applications. It also melts when exposed to extreme heat. 
  • Metal: It has several types, and each has its degree of thickness, conductivity, and level of protection.
  • Non-Metallic: This type has a lot of features such as snap locks and corrugated tubing. 

Typically, the type of material to be used should depend on your wiring needs. 

3. Flame Retardant

In layman’s terms, flame retardants are particular chemicals that make products like cables have better resistance against fire and extreme heat. Cables with flame-retarding properties are less combustible compared to the other types. This way, they’re generally safer to use than the others.

To find which has flame-resistant properties, you may read the cable’s reviews and product details. You may also ask seasoned electricians how particular cables fare in extreme heat. Do they melt easily? Do they snap whenever too much current flows through them? Above all, you may try to pick what does lit up immediately when it caught fire.

4. Current Capacity

Often, cables are exposed to extreme heat. In addition, high voltage of fluctuating electric current may damage a cable. If you want a line that’d have an extended lifespan and top-notch quality, you may consider how it handles strong current. 

Even though there’s a maximum voltage capacity in every cable type, the ability of a cable to handle more than what’s expected sets it apart from other cable types. To choose what could resist high voltage and heat, you may look into cable materials with protective covering inside and outside.

Wrapping Up

Buying electrical cables could be challenging if you have limited knowledge about the products. The good thing is you could research the qualities of an exceptional electrical line. You may look into what makes a high-quality wire by referring to the insights in this article.

In addition, you could ask for tips coming from seasoned electricians or practicing DIYers. You may ask your friends and colleagues who recently purchased electrical cables. You may check which among the products they’re contented with. Collectively, the good points you’ve gathered about the wires will help you determine the cable appropriate for your home writing system.

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