What Is The Difference Between a Wire and a Cable?

December 20, 2021
What Is The Difference Between A Wire and A Cable?

Differences Between a Wire and a Cable

The ability to clearly understand and explain the differences can facilitate the planning of electrical work. Understanding the differences between a cable and a wire involves introductory electrical engineering knowledge. There are fundamental differences between wires, conductors, and cables that determine when and how these are used. Knowing the difference between cable and wire can be critical in selecting the appropriate electrical or electronic system components.

Cable, unlike wire, has found broader application in certain conditions. Ground wires can provide a low resistance path from an electrical appliance to the earth, protecting the user from electric shock. A cable consists of two or more wires or conductors wrapped together in a sheath. A cable is two or more wires that run together or are twisted.

A wire is a solid wire that can be single core (solid) or multi-strand (stranded). A cable is two or more insulated wires running together. The main difference is that a wire is a single conductor, while a cable is a group of conductors cabled together under a common jacket. The wire can be a thicker strand for solid wires or thinner strands (filaments) for stranded wire. The conductor can be a single strand if several strands are not isolated.

In simple terms, a wire is a single strand or group of strands of a conductive metal such as copper or aluminum. A cable consists of two or more insulated wires wrapped in a sheath. However, cables and wires are sometimes used in a broad sense interchangeably.

A rope is a group of un-insulated strands wound together. A wire rope is technically a set of strands wound around a core, which is why the terms wire and wire rope are used interchangeably. Although "wire" and "cable" are often used synonymously, a wire is a single electrical conductor, and a cable is a plurality of conductors or a set of insulated wires.

Like wires, cables are used to carry electronic signals, voltage, and power. Other types are two-core cable, three-core cable, speaker cable, fire alarm cable, thermostat cable, plenum cable, riser cable, extension cable, portable cable, coax cable, control cable, and instrumentation cable. Ropes are usually more prominent, and wires are more diminutive.

For example, a four-conductor cable has four wires inside each with seven wires. You cannot have a cable without conductors, and conductors are single strands that can be stranded or solid. A cable consists of two or more insulated conductive wires covered with an outer layer of metal interlock armor, PVC, or rubber.

Besides transmitting power or data information, wire and cable are also used to make electrical and electronic components like circuit boards, electrical appliances, control panels, instrumentation panels, and control modules.

Wires are classified by their electrical capacity and their insulation type. These can be broken down by voltage, temperature, flexibility, and chemical resistance.

Cables are used in many industrial applications that require high performance and extra protection. And wires are used more often and have a broader scope in the electrical industry.

The main advantage of using wires is that they can be cheaper than cables excluding labor. However, installing cables saves on installation costs due to having fewer pulls. Because cables have an extra jacket over the conductors through which current flows, it becomes clear that they are safer at higher currents and voltages due to the additional protection.

Cables can reach hundreds of kilovolts and must be adequately chosen according to each installation requirement. The most common wire and cable for residential electrical wiring are 110 to 220 volts. Industrial applications vary in voltage but most commonly range from 300, 600, and 1000 Volts.

Below are some examples of wires and cables used by electricians.

Portable cord

Control and tray cable

Building wire

Mining cable

It is clearly defined that a wire does not have separate insulation for each conductor unit through which its current flows. A cable comprises multiple insulated wires with an overall sheath or jacket. 

At Ramcorp Wire & Cable, we take great pride in helping you. Thank you for reading, and please feel free to contact us to assist you with any questions or requests for quotes.