If you want to become a fully-fledged electrician, you must spend at least 100 hours in a training center and four years at a university.
That’s how intense training can be to become a licensed electrician. However, learning the basics of home cables doesn’t have to be that long and dreadful.
If you’re a property owner doing simple electrical projects as part of your DIY renovations, it’s essential to understand the different types of cable wires in any property and their functions, including
- Installing new cables
- Identifying potential cable issues, e.g., finding where a specific wire belongs
- Cable repairs
Also, keep in mind that any modifications regarding your property’s electrical wiring must comply with the law. It includes the National Electrical Code and your local policies, depending on which state you live in.
Moreover, consider buying cable wires only at the electrical warehouse. You may find out here to know why. But before you learn the different types of cables, there are basic details you need to understand, such as color coding and labeling.
Cable-Sheath Color Coding
If you notice, you’ll see that the outer covering of the cables differs in color. Each color has a corresponding wire size and amperage (unit of the strength of the electric current in ampere). Do you know the color-coding of your electrical wiring?
- White – 14-gauge wire, 15 amp
- Yellow – 12-gauge wire, 20 amp
- Orange – 10-gauge wire, 30 amp
- Black – 6-gauge or 8-gauge wire, 45 to 60 amp
Sometimes, you’ll see some cables in gray color. These cables are called UF or underground feeders (more details can be found below). Since all UFs are gray, you need to check their label to determine their size and other important information.
Cables have labels stating the wire size, number of wires, insulation, the material used, and other ratings. These are often printed on the outer covering or sheath of the cable. You can also use it to identify the type of cable you need for your project.
Types Of Electrical Cables
There are numerous types of cable wires you can use for your properties. Let’s look more closely at the most common types you’ll most likely use in your home.
Non-Metallic Cable (NM)
Non-metallic cables were widely popular during the 60s and until now. It’s the standard electrical wiring used by most houses and commercial establishments, and you’ll often see them labeled as NM.
NM cables often have three or more conductors enveloped in sheath covering. A single NM cable includes a hot, neutral, and ground wire. Also, it’s often used in interior electrical wirings, such as switches, outlets, light fixtures, and appliances.
Also, you may have your NM cables installed in a plastic tubing called conduit to hide them, especially if they’re exposed.
Armored Cables (AC)
Since state policies are more austere than federal laws, some locations may prohibit the use of NM cables for safety purposes. So, instead of NM cables, they use armored cables (AC).
AC cables, also known as BX (product ‘B’-Experimental), were invented in the early 1900s, and they’re still being used today. They’re usually covered in a flexible metal sheath for added protection. Hence, the name ‘armored.’
Furthermore, AC cables are only permitted for residential and commercial properties three stories and below.
Underground Feeder Cables (UF)
UF cables are designed for extreme outdoor conditions. Unlike AC and NM cables, they can survive in wet areas and don’t need any floors, ceilings, or walls for extra protection.
Plus, it is why UF cables are always recommended for outdoor and underground projects. Also, they’re made from non-metallic wires that can be buried without any sheathing and may get wet without experiencing any problems.
Like NM cables, UF cables are composed of hot, ground, and neutral wires. However, its primary covering is made of solid plastic material, which is inflexible and can’t be rolled like standard wires.
Metal-Clad Cables (MC)
Just as the name suggests, Metal-Clad cables (MC) are enveloped in reliable, flexible metal sheaths usually made of aluminum. They’re often identified based on their wire gauging, including 10, 12, and 14 gauge.
In addition, MC cables are only metal boxes. You’ll most likely fail the electrical inspection if you try to use cable boxes made with plastic or fiberglass material. Make sure that the metal box has holes, and add a couple of screws to fasten it better onto your walls.
Furthermore, MC cables are usually used in unfinished areas where cables can get physically damaged. A good example would be an unfinished basement.
Low-voltage cables are often used in circuits with 50 to 1000 volts. These are perfect wiring solutions for areas of any home and commercial building that require less electricity to function well, such as telephone wires, doorbells, thermostats, and outdoor or garden lighting.
When it comes to LV cables, there are two types you can choose from alternating and direct current. Alternating current is often the safer solution for most businesses and households. On the other hand, direct current is better for smaller electrical projects.
In addition, when choosing an LV cable, it’s crucial to consider its insulation material. It includes XLPE (cross-linked polyethylene cable) and
PVC polyvinyl chloride.
XLPE is often the better choice since it offers a longer lifespan, is more eco-friendly because it has no chloride, and can tolerate higher temperatures than PVC.
Phone And Data Cables
Phone and data cables are used for landline telephone and internet connection coverage. These cables are also used for low-voltage wiring and may contain around six wires.
The most ordinary phone and data cable type belongs to category five or Cat 5. This type has eight wires divided into four pairs and enclosed in a flexible plastic sheath. Furthermore, it’s the most effective cable used for phone and data transmission.
If you’re doing a simple electrical project for your property investments, whether residential or commercial, it’s ideal to understand the different types of cabling you can use. Knowing these will allow you to perform what you need to be more accessible.
Aside from cable types, it’s also vital to understand how it’s labeled and color-coded. You may refer to the discussion above to help you with these concerns.
Other than that, it’d best to seek a professional licensed electrician for complex wiring concerns. They’ll help you comply with the law and pass electrical inspection without any problems.
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