Brief Guide to Aluminum and Copper Wire

Because copper and aluminum wire have several different properties, there are different scenarios and purposes for each. This article will offer insight on which types of projects require the use of wiring – and which type of conductor is appropriate.

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Copper wire (left) compared to aluminum wire (right)

Copper Wire Applications and Considerations

For building wire, copper is often preferred over aluminum wire. Copper conductors are often used in power distribution and power generation as well. Other than silver, copper is the most common conductive metal there is.

Copper is more often used in the manufacturing of wire than aluminum, and most cables are made of copper. This type of wire is usually relied on for power transmission, and copper is resistant to corrosion. It can also withstand load surges better than aluminum wiring.

Copper wire is a strong electrical conductor and is very stable over time. It won’t need to be replaced often, and thus has a long life. Like aluminum, it can be used in commercial or industrial buildings. Copper is heavier than aluminum wiring, and can be the most economical of all conductors as well.

For electrical contractors, copper is the wire of choice for most jobs. The electrical contractor prefers copper for several reasons – for one, copper will not creep. Creeping is the deformation of metal conductors that results from subjection to stress or a pulling force, which can lead to termination issues, such as a screw squeezing and deforming the conductor causing a loose connection or other problems.

Another note of copper is that it is easy to work with. Copper is the preferred wire by electricians, as it strips and bends easily – all without nicking or breaking. Copper wire is approved by electrical codes nationwide.

Copper wiring installation is easy and well-known by electrical contractors. For this reason, it means that a contractor’s electricians won’t have to take time out for any special instructions or qualifications for installing a non-copper wiring.

Copper wiring can best handle overloads – and overloads will not loosen copper joints.  Though copper has been a popular choice for conducting electricity, aluminum, too, has some advantages that make it attractive for specific applications.

Aluminum Wire Applications and Considerations

Like Copper wiring, aluminum has many applications – however, it also has several differences to that of copper. Electrical utilities use aluminum wiring for overhead transmission lines. Aluminum has become more popular for use in commercial facilities – locations that take advantage of aluminum wiring include high rise buildings, stadiums, shopping malls, commercial buildings, wastewater treatment plants and manufacturing facilities.

Aluminum wiring is popular within the construction industry. Contractors have them installed in several places – including service entrance conductors, large conductors as well as power distribution conductors.

Aluminum wiring, when properly installed, is just as safe as copper. Aluminum wiring provides many advantages – it’s low cost, lightweight and is easy to use.

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Stadiums are one example where aluminum wiring is used

Aluminum is easy to work with and can be installed quickly and effectively in many locations. In industrial settings or anywhere that weight is a concern, aluminum wiring will offer a big reduction in weight compared to copper wiring.

It is important that a licensed electrician who understands the concerns of aluminum wiring also handles the installation process. With the correct application, aluminum wiring can provide reliable power while simultaneously offering cost reduction.

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The appropriate wiring to use for any project depends on several factors, including its application as well as budget, code compliance and safety requirements. Whichever you choose, Steiner has the inventory to get your job completed! If you would like to know more about all of the wire options and services available at Steiner, please call us at 1-800-STEINER (783-4637) or stop by any of our nine convenient locations to learn more.

Basics of Wire – Copper and Aluminum Alloy

Because electricity is an important aspect of our everyday lives, the conductors that are used to carry the energy in places like our homes and businesses need to be in top condition. It’s important to note the different types of conductors, and what each does best; for this reason, we will explore and compare each option available.

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Copper Electrical Wire

Most homes, offices, factories and machines depend on good copper wire for transferring electricity. There are many reasons for this – it is a good conductor, it is easy to mold and bend, it isn’t hard to find, and the price is ideal for many applications.

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Copper wiring allows for less insulation and narrower conduits than that of aluminum. Why is this? Aluminum has lower conductivity and needs to be larger in diameter than that of copper in order to carry the same amount of current. Because of this, more copper conductors can fit into a given conduit when compared to that of aluminum. Copper also conducts electricity more efficiently so the connections and terminations of the copper wire do not overheat as easily as aluminum.

Copper can be soldered easily and it is easier for most conductors to be used to transmit power loads because it has one of the highest electrical conductivity rates among metals. Smaller conductors are easier to transport and install, which can translate to reduced overall wiring costs. Copper also doesn’t experience the same expansion and contraction to that of aluminum, making it more stable of a material.

However, copper is less abundant and heavier than aluminum, these drawbacks can make the wire purchase more expensive and installation process more difficult.

Aluminum Electrical Wire

Aluminum wire is lighter and easier to work with, making it easier to shape and bend than copper, and often making the job less rigorous. It can reduce corona, which is an electrical discharge associated with high power transmissions. Due to the abundance of aluminum its biggest draw is its affordability; drastically reducing the overall conductor costs for a given project.

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On the other hand, it is a less conductive metal than copper, so an aluminum wire that is meant to carry the same amount of electricity as a copper wire needs to be bigger in diameter, and thus require a wider conduit in many cases – adding to the overall project cost.

If not installed correctly, aluminum wiring can raise the risk of hazardous and potentially life threatening conditions. Aluminum wire expands when it gets warmer, and when it cools it contracts. Loose or improperly terminated connections can result in serious injury or death. As with all types of wire and electrical installations, follow your local electrical code and contact your inspector with any questions.

The appropriate wiring to use for any project depends on several factors, including application for use as well as budget. Whichever you choose, Steiner has the inventory to get your job completed! If you would like to know more about all of the wire options and services available at Steiner, please call us at 1-800-STEINER (783-4637) or stop by any of our nine convenient locations to learn more.

Ordinary Copper Wire Doing Extraordinary Things!

Recent research published in Advanced Materials and Nature magazines shows a breakthrough in the usage of copper wire and how it can store energy. The research could mean even smaller electronics and clothes that act as batteries!

A nanotech scientist believes by using a thin sheath that surrounds lightweight electrical copper wire, he can store energy. We already know that all metals, including copper, form crystals that have free floating electrons that can move between associated atoms. That’s why electrical charges can come from one end of a wire to the other – basically electrons are shoving each other out of the way for the charge to move. Copper does this extremely well. But, now, the same wire that transmits electricity can also store extra energy.

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