In today’s world, we use electricity to light up our world! And although almost all appliances in our houses are connected through electrical wires, most of us know very little about them. So what are electrical wires made of?
When it comes to electrical wiring, the most commonly used material is copper. While many metals are excellent conductors of electricity, copper has extremely low electrical resistance, in addition to being malleable and fairly resistant to the elements.
Whether you’re curious about how electrical wires work or you want to know more about them, this article will contain answers to some of the most popular questions regarding electrical wires!
What Are Electrical Wires Made out of?
In general, wires are usually made from metals. There are plenty of metals that are used in the production of wires, including iron, steel, aluminum, zinc, gold, silver, platinum, brass, and bronze.
However, the most commonly used material in the vast majority of electrical wires nowadays is copper.
The main reason metals are used in wires is because they have a relatively high conductivity as well as a high melting point.
In other words, when electricity passes through them, they remain solid at regular room temperature.
Despite that, the choice of the material used to make electrical wires mainly depends on the project it is used in, as different materials have specific advantages that may make them a more suitable choice than others.
In addition to the conducting material in the middle, electrical wires also used a variety of materials for the purpose of insulation and leakage prevention, including rubber, thermoplastic foam, plastic, and more.
Why Is Electrical Wiring Usually Made from Copper?
As previously mentioned, when it comes to conventional electricity in cities and households, the vast majority of electrical wires are made from copper.
The main reason why copper is so popular in the manufacture of wires is that it provides the most advantages while having very few drawbacks. Let’s have a quick look at them:
1. Copper Has Low Electrical Resistance
For starters, you should understand that when electricity flows through a wire, it’s usually met with a negative force that tries to prevent it from flowing.
This force is known as “electrical resistance”, and different metals have different rates of resistance.
As a general rule, the higher your electric resistance, the less electricity is going to flow at a certain time.
When it comes to materials, copper is among the metals that have a very low electrical resistance at room temperature.
This means that copper can handle high voltage electricity and allow electricity to pass freely from the power source to appliances.
2. Copper Has a Relatively High Melting Point
Additionally, metals with high electric resistance tend to overheat quickly when they’re subjected to high electric voltage, which leads them to melt or cause electrical shorts that damage the appliances.
For example, aluminum and lead have melting points of around 621 and 1,221 degrees F. On the other hand, copper’s melting point is around 2,000 degrees F.
Combined with its low electrical resistance, this allows copper to resist melting at extremely high voltages.
3. Copper is Readily Available and Relatively Affordable
Although copper isn’t particularly cheap, it’s still far more cost-effective than buying much cheaper metals that end up wearing quickly or rusting inside the cable.
Additionally, copper is much more affordable than gold and silver while having a relatively higher melting point.
4. Copper Has a Decent Resistance to Corrosion
While not the best among metals, the rate at which copper wires corrode is excellent for its job. As a matter of fact, with decent insulation, you should expect copper wires to last for several decades without any noticeable effects on their conduction quality.
This means that, with proper insulation, copper wires can power up a device or a property for a lifetime without ever needing to replace them.
What is the Difference Between Wires and Cables?
Although we use wires and cables interchangeably, they’re not particularly the same thing. An electric wire is any conductor that is composed of a single line of an insulted electric conductor.
On the other hand, an electric cable is usually a similar-looking conductor but it is composed of a bundle of insulating wires that are wrapped together.
Keep in mind that multiple uninsulated wires that are twisted together in bundles are still considered as a single wire no matter how thick they get.
What Do the Different Colors on Electric Wires Mean?
Another thing that many people wonder about regarding electric wires is their colors. However, the colors of electrical wires are not just random.
Instead, they usually indicate specific roles. For example, wires that are insulated with black insulation indicate a hotwire for outlets while white wires indicate a neutral wire or a lead in switch loops.
Green wires also indicate ground wires, which is a safe route for electric currents during electric shorts.
Lastly, blue and yellow wires are usually live wires that are pulled through a conduit, especially in room lights
Why Are Some Electric Wirings Twisted inside the Cable?
If you’ve even looked in the insides of an electric cable, you may find some insulated wires that are twisting like a braid inside the primary casing.
The mean reason behind this design is that it helps in reducing the electromagnetic interference (cable noise) produced by the flow of electrons in the cable.
This improves the quality of waves functions of wires, such as latency, which is why it’s common in telecommunication wires, such as telephone and ethernet cables.
There you have it! A brief guide that walks you through some of the most curious questions regarding electric wires and how they work.
In the end, always remember that dealing with electrical wiring is a serious business that comes with a lot of dangers and electrocution hazards, so you always need to know what you’re doing or leave the job to a certified professional.