ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Wire and Cable Buying Guide

Updated on April 8, 2013

Cable and wire make up the primary delivery system for the electricity that runs through homes and buildings. While the terms are occasionally used interchangeably, wire is a single electrical conductor, while cable is a group of wires (or conductors) within an encasement of sheathing. From the fuse box to the building’s electrical outlets, it’s important to choose the right cable and wire to ensure that electricity is safely running through a home or business. Learn the basics about multiple types of wire and cable.

About Wire

Wire is different than cable, making up a single conductor rather than a series of conductors grouped together. Currently, copper is the most common type of conductor used in home wiring projects due to its affordability and its minimum resistance. Wire is grouped according to gauge number. Gauge numbers range from 0000 to No. 40 with the smaller the gauge number, the thicker the wire. Gauges between 10 and 20 are the most common for household projects.

Larger wires carry a larger amount of current. It’s important to select larger wire when in need of excessive current use, as forcing too much current through a smaller wire can cause the wire to overheat, resulting in a tripped breaker. To prevent electrical shocks, it’s crucial that wire is grounded to create a path of least resistance. Grounding wires can be found with both two and three-conductor cables.

About Cable

Cables consist of groups of two or more strands of wire or conductors. Generally, each cable has a “hot” line used to carry the current, a “neutral” line used to finish the loop, and a third grounding wire. Cable is classified according to its gauge, size and the number of wires it contains. To determine which type of cable you’re dealing with, look for a series of letters followed by a number, a dash, and a second number. This number and letter combination indicate the cord, wire and insulation.

There are several primary types of cable used in homes and buildings. A two-conductor cable contains one white and one black wire. The white is always neutral and the black is “hot” and must be fused. A three-conductor cable contains both a white and black wire, in addition to a red wire which is also considered “hot”. Other options include a BX cable which is an armored cable and a Romex cable that includes two-to-three wires.

Safety Tips

When dealing with any type of wire or cable, it’s vital to follow all recommendations set forth by the manufacturer, especially those for outdoor use. Worn or damaged cables should be replaced to prevent electrical shocks or fires. It’s important to know the length of cord you need, as well as the electrical load it carries. Cords should be kept out of the reach of children and in high-traffic areas where individuals may trip over them. Cords should also never be covered with furniture, carpet or appliances. To ensure a proper connection, a cord should be permanently bonded to a plug without wiring exposed.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)