Did you know that not all copper wire is identical? While they all might have the same golden hue, they don’t all contain the same ingredients, and they all serve different purposes. Especially when it comes to electrical wiring.
Some copper wire types are better for voltage, and others are great for protection against corrosion. It can also depend on what is receiving the electrical current as some are great for certain types of equipment, and some are better used elsewhere.
Before you start connecting circuits, you should know what you’re using and if the copper wire benefits meet your needs. This guide will outline the most common types and make sure that you don’t receive any shocks while you’re working.
Common Copper Wire Types
Thanks to new electrical products coming out regularly, copper wire is sourced at top dollar. Even copper wire scrap is a valuable commodity as the material is able to be reused and reformed in multiple ways.
Whether it’s from the shops or the scrapyard, you need to know how to identify the different wire types. Once you know that, then you’ll learn how best to use it.
Beryllium Copper Wire
This material is extremely flexible and can get shaped into springs, complex shapes, and other intricate forms. Besides being able to bend every which way, it’s also corrosion-resistant. This makes it perfect for machining, forming, and other metalwork.
Copper Alloy Wire
This type of wire comes standard or customized with an alloy. Depending on your copper wire uses will determine the tensile strength, size, and the temperature it reaches while working.
You can choose from Bronze, Zirconium, Brass, Titanium, Beryllium, and other common metal types. This will alter the need for insulation as well as the durability, solderability, and strength of the copper wire.
Copper Clad Aluminum Wire
Copper Clad Aluminum Wire is often less expensive than purer options, but it does have greater conductivity and is stronger. It can come in different diameters, jacket thicknesses, and insulation and features an aluminum core, which is responsible for the conductivity and the lightweight. However, the best feature is that it is fire, oil, and ozone resistant.
Oxygen-Free Highly Conductive Copper Wire
Shortened to OFHC, this wire is a highly refined material. It’s constructed under strict, controlled conditions that allow the oxygen level to reach 0.001% or below.
The wires are used in applications that require high durability and accuracy due to its capability in relation to conductivity, recrystallization, temperature, and workability. Decisions are often shortlisted to OFHC and Copper Clad Aluminum Wire. To further understand their differences, you can read more now here.
Nickel-Plated Copper Wire
You might not find a lot of copper-nickel or Nickel-Plated Copper Wire at your local hardware store. That’s because it’s often in large supply for aerospace, medical, nuclear, defense, and petrochemical projects. Smaller quantities are sometimes made available, but they’re often reserved for these bigger and more expensive ventures.
Titanium Clad Copper Wire
This type of wiring is ideal for forming, shaping, and welding for capping or joining. It’s more commonly used in locations such as power generation, chemical processing, water treatment, and desalination. This because it provides a high level of corrosion protection and can manage the high current requirements needed for these environments.
Understanding the Copper Wire Colors
You can get an understanding of the copper wire’s purpose just by looking at the color of its coating. Knowing the differences can help you identify what are safe and which ones carry an electrical current.
A white wire is often neutral but can carry a current in certain circumstances. If it does, it may also contain a black or red mark to let users know that it’s a hot wire.
If the wire is green or naked, then this indicates it’s a ground wire. This is a reference point and measures the voltages.
Black wires carry electrical currents. They are regularly used for outlets and switches.
A red wire also indicates that electrical currents will run through it. You might notice these on smoke detectors hardwired into ceilings and switch legs.
Blue or yellow wire is often pulled out through a conduit. This also indicates a wire that carries an electrical current.
Understanding Copper Wire Labelling
You’ll notice some symbols that indicate further information about how it’s used, the material, and the maximum voltage rating and gauge along the sides of the coating. Deciphering this will help you further understand how to use the copper wiring.
The lettering refers to the qualities of the wire. It may have multiple and can refer to:
- Thermoplastic insulation = T
- Heat resistance = H
- Rating for wet locations = W
- Nylon coating to avoid damage from gasoline or oil = N
- Synthetic polymer and flame resistant = X
- High heat resistance = HH
The maximum voltage rating indicates how much the wire can handle. It’s recommended that you don’t go above 80% of the full amount.
The gauge refers to the wiring sizing, which is standardized by the American Wire system. It’s commonly 10, 12, or 14. Often the higher the gauge, the smaller the diameter of the wire.
Do You Need to Know More About What’s Inside Your Tech?
There are several copper wire types to choose from, but it’s important to understand what’s underneath the coating and what they’re capable of. Choosing the right one can mean the difference between an application running smoothly or sparks flying everywhere.
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