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Insulated Wire: Everything Traditional Buyer Guides Will Not Tell You For Free

May 26, 2022

Insulation is a critical component in electrical safety. Therefore, the chance that you need an insulated wire for your wiring application is pretty high. Can you visualize the consequences of handling an exposed wire connected to the primary power grid? Without insulation, countless reports of deadly accidents involving electrocution will have been the order of the day. Unfortunately, most people face significant challenges when shopping for this type of electrical wire because it comes in different variations.

Let us assume you want to buy from an insulated wire home depot or order from a cable manufacturer. How exactly do you figure out the right option for your specific application? Usually, you would determine your voltage needs and the cable length, and you are good to go. When dealing with an insulated cable, the decision-making process is more complex. This is because there are different types of insulation, each equipped for specific applications. The most common insulation materials include;

  • Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)
  • Silicone
  • Rubber
  • Cross-linked Polyethylene (XLPE)

In this publication, we will cover some essential information that will help you make the right choice. In essence, we will look at everything you ought to know concerning electrical wires with insulation. Failing to mention that this is the kind of information you usually have to pay for would be unfair. So, please sit back and read with the knowledge that you just saved some of your hard-earned money.


1. What Is Insulated Wire?

Insulation is generally defined as a conductive layer surrounding and offering adequate protection to a cable’s internal components. Thus, in layman’s terms, any wire that contains any form of protection is an insulated wire. Insulation is a crucial safety feature for any electrical cable, considering that exposure to different elements can be hazardous. For instance, water triggers a corrosive effect when it comes in contact with an electrical wire. Corrosion of a wire raises its resistance and, subsequently, a heat build-up in the system that might cause a fire.

Generally, there are different options depending on the type of conductors and the insulation materials. When dealing with conductor types, these wires can be categorized into copper insulated wire and aluminum insulated wire. Copper is often the best option because it is a better conductor of electricity compared to aluminium.

Regardless of the conductor type, the color of the insulation material communicates the specific intended application of the wire. Typically, red represents the positive wire. Black represents the negative wire, and green and yellow colors represent an insulated ground wire. It will help if you grasp these color codes before you attempt to perform any installation by yourself.

You also need to consider the type of insulation when choosing an ideal cable for your application. There are several aspects that we take into consideration when selecting insulation material for specific electrical wires. Some of these aspects include the material’s electric, mechanical, chemical and thermal properties. The most common types of insulated wires categorized according to their insulation materials include;

I. Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) Insulated Wire

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As the name suggests, this type of wire consists of PVC insulation. It is popular in a plethora of applications because it can hold up under various conditions. Polyvinyl Chloride is less costly than other materials, is easy to use, and has several valuable properties. Some of the most notable properties include;

  • It is flame, moisture, and abrasion-resistant
  • It can withstand exposure to oil and several other chemicals, including acids and alkalis
  • It has excellent dielectric strength, which implies that it can withstand an incredible amount of electrical field intensity without damage
  • It is non-toxic and odorless, making it the ideal option for the food and medical industries

It would be best to note that PVC insulated cable voltage rating is the most crucial thing you ought to consider. Can the wire withstand the electric current you intend to run through it? Its size largely determines a wire’s current carrying capacity. For example, a 16 gauge solid copper core insulated wire can safely transmit 19 amperes at around 800 Celsius. The same cannot be said about other sizes. So, it would be best to consider the wire size when selecting the ideal option for you.