In new construction and older home renovation, installing an electrical system with adequate sized wiring is a must. However, you can increase the energy efficiency of your home by asking your electrician to use a larger gauge wire than the minimum recommended size.
Upsize the wires in your home for additional benefits of safety, flexibility, and expandability. Here’s what you need to know about home wiring and wire sizes.
Electrons Move Slowly Through Wire
Wire conducts electricity as electrons make their way through the metal material that makes up the wire. The electrons are not efficient racers through the wire, but bounce around as they make their way to your outlets and appliances. Individual electrons only move around 1.2 inches per minute in a standard 10 amp, 12-gauge copper wire.
Electrons take longer to move through smaller wire than through larger diameter wire. Think of the larger wiring as a superhighway and the smaller wiring as a two-lane road. The larger diameter of the bigger wire offers more area for electrons to move through the circuit.
For this reason, smaller gauge wire is rated for lower amperage (electric current) limits than larger gauge wire. The smallest size of common household wire can carry 15 amps of current. The largest common type of wire (generally only used for electrical service panels) can carry a maximum current of 95 amps.
Too-Small Wire Can Get Hot
If you have an outlet in your home wired with 15 amp wire, and you plug in a 20-amp appliance, you’re asking your wiring to deliver more current than its capacity rating. Your circuit breaker should trip and stop the flow of electricity through the circuit. The breaker disrupts electrical flow to protect the affected wire.
Why does the wire need to be protected? When you overload a wire by plugging in an appliance that needs more current than the wire’s rating, the wiring gets very hot. Overheated wires can melt their protective insulation. Exposed wires are a shock hazard to people who accidentally make contact with the wires.
If exposed wiring is located near flammable materials, the wires are an extreme fire hazard. Attic insulation and other flammable materials behind walls can ignite from the high heat of exposed electrical wires. If your circuit breaker doesn’t work properly, you could cause a house fire by overloading your home’s wiring.
Add a higher capacity circuit breaker or disable the breaker to allow an over-rated appliance to work, but you also increase the risk of burning down your house. The new circuit won’t save your residence from the consequences of overloading your too-small wiring.
Larger Diameter Wires Stay Cooler
Even when your wiring is properly rated for the amperage you demand, smaller wires get hotter than larger diameter wires when both carry the same current load. The smaller wire loses more electricity to the heat loss than the larger capacity wire.
For example, 100 feet of 12 gauge wire delivering 15 amps of current loses 77 watts of energy. A 10 gauge wire of the same length only loses 48 watts of energy when delivering the same load of current. Over time, larger electrical wire lowers your overall energy costs because less energy is being lost in your electrical system.
Depending on the size of your electrical system, you could recoup the cost of the larger wire in two to three years because of the power savings. Remember that most labor costs will be the same whether you use standard or upsized wiring. Most of your investment for larger sized wiring is for the wire itself.
Bigger Wires Offer Additional Benefits
Using larger gauge AWG wire offers you more flexibility in how your electrical system is laid out. Your electrician can add more outlets when your wiring has increased current potential. Larger wiring can sometimes be installed in risky areas where small wiring is not recommended.
If you decide to upgrade your home’s wiring in the future, you may not need to install larger wires when you already have higher rated wiring in your home. If you plan to add outlets or other upgrades to a room later, installing increased-capacity wiring now will save you the headache of having walls ripped out to upsize the wires in the future.
Larger wire is also insurance against voltage drops that lower the performance of your electrical devices and appliances. For example, inadequate wiring causes lights to dim when a refrigerator’s compressor starts. Voltage drops are frustrating and can damage motors and other electrical devices over time.
If your fuses blow often or your toaster’s too slow, your wiring is not delivering the current you need. Increase your home’s safety, energy efficiency, and future electrical expandability by hiring an electrician to install larger wiring for you.
Schedule an upgrade of your electrical wiring in Chicago, Illinois by contacting A to Z Electric Co. today. Our rewiring upgrades increase your quality of life and the safety of your residence.