arcing electricity between a cut insulated copper wire

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We make choosing the right gauge of wire easy!!

This site is purely informational. We aim to create a place where people can find out what wire they need and how to use it. Please consult a qualified electrician before installing wire. Please email comments or suggestions to admin@gaugewire.com

 

braided and stranded copper wire showing the small caps that lead to the current rising to the outer surface

How to Choose the Right Gauge of Wire

We are here to help you find the right gauge of wire!

The Basics

The larger the wire the lower the gauge number.  The range is from 0000 (the largest) to 40 (the smallest).  It seems counterintuitive; at first.  Usually the largest number of something is the biggest.  With wire, the gauge refers to how many times the wire is pulled through a die.  The more times it is pulled, the wire will get smaller and the number of times being pulled through is larger.  For every six gauge increases, you can roughly expect the wire diameter to double.
These rules primarily relate to electrically conductive wire.  Steel wire used in cabling and jewelry is rated differently.
Most wire is made of copper.  When you look at electrical data, most of the time the assumption is that you will be using copper wire.  Aluminum wire is mostly out of date and used on older homes.  It is a good conductor, but has a lower ampacity (melting point), expands and contracts more, and also corrodes creating further voltage resistance.  The main idea is that aluminum wiring isn’t considered as safe as copper wiring.  If possible, choose copper. 

AWG

The organization that came up with the wire gauge system is known as American Wire Gauge (AWG), also known as the “Brown and Sharpe” wire gauge system.  It’s a standard used in the United States and other countries to denote the diameter of nonferrous electrically conducting wire.  Here is a link to a sizing chart for AWG wire. http://www.powerstream.com/Wire_Size.htm

Amps

The #1 way to see what gauge of wire you need is to check the amount of amps being drawn on the wire.  Most residential homes are on a circuit or loop.  The power drawn from the breaker is usually 15 or 20 amps.  That means that if you draw more power than the circuit was designed for, the breaker will blow to protect the wire from melting down.  We call the wire melting point the ampacity of the wire.
You should only use 80% of the wire capacity.  This is because there are many uncontrollable variables like the length of the wire, solidness of connections, temperature, etc.  In any case, for safety, the standard practice is to use 80% of the wire capacity.   
In this example, you would look need to look at the ampacity chart to see the   volts that will be drawn, the amps, and the wire gauge.  You can see from the chart that the amount of voltage greatly affects the amperage.  A 220 volt circuit will run about half the amps of a 110 volt circuit. 



Gauge 110 Volts 220 Volts 12 Volts
22 5A 2.5A 5A
20 7.5A 3.75A 8A
18 10A 5A 10A
16 13A 6.5A 20A
14 17A 8.5A 40A
12 23A 11.5A 60A
10 33A 16.5A 100A
8 46A 23A 150A
6 60A 30A NA
4 80A 40A NA
2 100A 50A NA
1 125A 62.5A NA
0 150A 75A NA

Amp Equation

The mathematical way to figure it out is to use the formula Watts/Voltage (220 or 110) = Amps.  For example, a 2000 watt draw of power divided by 220 (volts) = 9 amps.  In the same example, you can divide by 110 and get the amps for 110 voltage (2000/110) = 18 amps. 
To get the watts, look at the ratings on the appliance you are going to use.  If you will use several at the same time, add up all the watts of each appliance.  Typically, we will use 220 volts for high watt appliances and 110 volts for most everything else.  Using the above equation you can solve for watts, if necessary.  However, 99% of the time the information is provided for you.

Will you Save Money Using 220?

A lot of people think that the lower the amps used the less your electrical bill will be.  They erroneously think that they will save money by using 220 over 110.  We simply need to go to the basic electrical calculation: watts=voltage * amps to see the results.

For example, 30 amps * 120 volts = 3600 watts or 15 amps * 240 volts = 3600 watts.  You can see that the watts used is the same in either case.  The purpose of using 220 is for extra power you may need to run a high energy appliance.  It will not save you money.  When you are running 220, you are simply hooking up two 110 volt wires to a 220 volt or double pole circuit.  

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

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