It’s not a surprise that many people are familiar with wires, and how to deal with them. Walking along the electrical aisle of a store is no easy job, especially if you’re faced with many cables and not knowing they’re for. Wires may look the same, but they serve a different purpose. Choosing the wrong kind of wire can be dangerous, and may be the source of electrical fires.
Determining the Electrical Wire You Need
Electrical stores are lined up with different wires to choose from, and they come in different colors and shapes. These wires have its purpose, and it depends on where you’re going to use it and how much energy you need. Cables play a vital role in transmitting electricity to your appliances and devices, and can also be your worst nightmare if things don’t go your way.
Knowing what type you need is essential to your choice because your decision can potentially avert a fire. Choosing the right wires can be easy especially if you know its ampacity, watt limits. If you’re unable to figure things out by yourself, have a professional look at where you’ll be using the wires and the power demand it needs.
In choosing your wire, you need to determine the following:
4 Key Properties of Electrical Wire
- Ampacity – Ampacity is the measure of electric current which your electrical wiring can safely run. In selecting the ampacity, be mindful that it’s able to match the size of your circuit.
- Maximum wattage – almost all appliances come with information on its maximum load it can make rum. The wattage of your device should never go beyond its maximum wattage, or you might end up short-circuiting your board. One of the common mistakes people do is overloading their circuits, by plugging their appliances through an extension cord which cannot take the load — overloading your circuits results to electrical fires, and damage to your devices. If you can’t avoid plugging your devices in one extension cord, there are dedicated extension cords which can handle a lot of machines at a time.
- Usage – determine whether you’ll be installing the wires indoors or outdoors. Not all wires can be used both indoors and outdoors, and indoor wires are more sensitive than outdoor ones. Outdoor wires take into consideration insulation, as well as weather changes.
- Wire gauge – this is the term used to determine the size of your wire. Not only does it involve wire size, but it also determines the amount of electric current which can safely pass through the wires.
Choosing the Correct Wire Size
Whenever you or someone is installing a new circuit, the essential step is always to determine whether the newly installed wires are proper for the ampacity of your channel. Wires need to be more significant if the ampacity rating is high, to avoid wires from melting and cause a fire because of the excess heat. You need to choose the right electrical wiring to help power your appliances, among other things. Choosing the right size is essential in powering your devices, and operating them safely. Circuit size is usually determined by the following:
- Circuit load
- Number of outlets
- Length of the circuit
In your own homes, you can already identify the different types of wire you need. Remember that each wire has a specific use, for it to carry the load. You can choose from wires like copper or aluminum, and some are even meant for indoor and outdoor use.
Understanding the Wire Color System
Besides choosing the size of your wires, your next decision is to select a variety of colors. Wires can come in shades of either black, white, copper, among others, and they have their purpose. Knowing what they’re for will keep your home safe, and your electric system to work correctly. Here’s a guide to help you in finding the right wire color.
Electrical Wire Coloring: What to Expect
- Black, Red, or White Wires with Black or Red Tape –this is common for many circuits at home and is meant for hot wires. Hot wires mean it carries power from a source panel to your outlets or its destination.
- Bare Copper or Green Wires – these colors are commonly used for grounding, which is a process for providing a safe path for electricity to travel. The wires are connected to devices, and currents would pass underground.
- White or Gray Wires – these colors mean the wires are neutral. Be careful though, that it isn’t wrapped with any electrical tape. If it is, then it might indicate that the wires are being used as a hot wire. Neutral means that that wires are non-electrified, but it may also be carrying some current.
- Blue and Yellow Wires – often, these wires are used as hot wires.
Tips for Electric Wiring at Home
If you’re planning on doing a DIY project involving wires at home, learning the basics and where to start is necessary. We’ve already covered some of the essential above, but here’s a summary of what you need to know for your wiring project at home.
5 Tips for DIY Projects
- Know Your Wire Size – knowing the wire size is critical for any installation. You need to consider the diameter of the conductor, its current capacity, and the ampere it can safely handle. In choosing your wires, remember to consider its gauge, capacity, and its use. It is failing to check these increases the chances of short circuits and fires from happening.
- Use Non-Metallic Sheathed Cable – this is probably one of the most common wires you might see, which is composed of small wires wrapped in a plastic jacket. The cables usually used for interior circuits like your outlets and switches.
- Be Familiar with Color Coding – color coding is needed in both the outer cover of your wires, as well as the individual wires inside it. Knowing what the color stands for can help you understand what it’s used for, and it also serves as a guide to identifying the size of the wires inside and its ampacity.
- Reading Wiring Labels – wires come with labels, which are usually found in the outer sheathing. It often provides information about the wire and its insulation, the size, materials, and how many wires it has inside.
- Stripping your Wires – stripping wires require removing the insulation which covers your wires. It’s crucial that in stripping your wires, you don’t damage the metal.
Choosing Indoor and Outdoor Wires
Wires are all different, most especially if you’re planning on using them indoors or outdoors. There are dedicated wires for each setting, and you should never interchange its use, or you’ll be exposed to various hazards. In choosing wires for your outdoor or indoor needs, keep in mind the following:
- Amperage – indoor wires don’t require more amperage compared to outdoor wire. The reason is that most outdoor appliances requires more amperes and a strong and stable source of electricity.
- Gauge – this refers to the size and diameter of the wires inside the chords, and there’s a difference between indoor and outdoor wires. The outdoors requires a longer wire length, which means that it requires more current to run. This being the case, outdoor wire usually has a larger gauge. Outdoor wires may be used indoors, but it isn’t always advisable. Indoor wires, on the other hand, is designed for house use only, and can’t withstand outdoor conditions like its temperature. Make sure not to use indoor wires outside, to prevent electrical fires from happening.
- Insulation – outdoor wires are exposed to varying temperature changes and moisture. Thus they are made with better insulation. Its materials make sure that it can prevent sun and chemical damage. On the other hand, indoor wires aren’t meant for the outdoors as the heat may break its protective layers.
- Plug Type – most outdoor areas have three-pronged plugs, while indoor areas only have two. The difference serves a purpose, as three-pronged plugs lessen the likelihood of electrical fires and shocks from happening.
Once you’ve mastered how to identify wires and distinguish them for their intended purpose, it’s safe to say that you may be able to push through with your wiring DIY project. Be mindful, however, that there are a lot of factors to consider to make sure you don’t run into any dangerous situation. Preventing the same from happening is simple, by always consulting a trusted person who can assist you with understanding wires.