12/2 vs 14/2 Wire (What’s the Difference?)

12/2 vs 14/2 Wire

Seeing as electricity is in almost every tool, gadget, or even vehicle we use on a daily basis, it is not only a good idea to familiarize yourself with how to work with it but it can also help you to save some money on labor costs. Though this raises the question of which gauge of wire is the best for your project. Here, in this feature, we will provide that answer for you.

12/2 vs 14/2 Wire (The Difference Between the Two)

When debating which wire is better than the other, it is important to identify the difference between the two, which in this case, is the circuit power that each wire can handle.

With more people establishing their own Airbnb and with the quarantine of 2020, more people have also started to work on their own projects instead of hiring someone to complete the project.

However, this also means that you need to know what wire is best for what and how to safely work with electric-based projects.

Of course, you can get these wires in rolls at a hardware store, such as Ace, Lowes, Home Depot, or your local hardware store.

These rolls of 12/2 (view on Amazon) or 14/2 wire (view on Amazon) can be purchased at the length of 25 feet or 50 feet. The 25-foot roll is better suited for smaller projects, such as something like an outside patio lighting project. Whereas the 50-foot roll is, of course, more wire for longer and larger projects such as if you are wiring a household.

The difference between a 12/2 gauge wire and a 14/2 gauge wire is not only the thickness of the wire but also how much power each gauge of wire can handle to support.

This means we are now talking about amperage, the 12/2 gauge wire has two conductors and within the sheathing of the wire, typically and technically there will be three wires.

One wire is the white wire, the second a black wire, and along with a completely copper ground wire. So, the white wire and the black wire are the two current-carrying conductors. This means that the white is the “hot” wire (also commonly known as the neutral wire) and the black wire, which is also a “hot” wire.

Lastly, there is the completely copper ground wire, which serves to channel any excess power and then redirect it deep down into the ground, where it can be safely discharged.

While the ground is not always legally required for an electric project, it serves a very important role. This role is to offer a different path for the electrical circuit to pass into the ground, whereas previously stated, it can be safely discharged without harming anyone.

This function is very helpful in the event of a short circuit since if you were working on live wires and there is no ground wire, you would run the risk of completing the ground path of the electricity; which of course, can result in electrical shock or even electrocution.

12/2-Gauge Wire is More Versatile

Now, it should be stated that a ground wire not always necessary since if you were to power an appliance for example, without a ground wire connected, you would likely not even notice a difference in the power.

This is because the ground wire is not part of the conducting path, the ground wire only provides a divergent path for the circuit. You will also notice that the 12/2 wire has a larger diameter than the 2.5 mm 14/2 wire.

With this information in mind, you can imagine how the 12/2 gauge wire is much more versatile. While the 14/2 gauge wire may be more affordable, it can only handle working with a 15-amp circuit.

The 14/2 gauge is also not as durable as the 12/2 gauge wire. With this in mind, the 12/2-gauge wire is far more suitable for outdoor use since it is much more durable than the 14/2-gauge wiring.

So, if you are looking to put up some elegant lighting underneath a pergola for your Airbnb, you will want to go with the 14/2 gauge. Whereas, if you want to distribute the power around the house, you should certainly go with the 12/2-gauge wire.

Watts The Difference?

So, we know that there is a difference in size between the two sets of wires, but you may not be aware that there is also a difference in how much current (power) each wire can handle.

With this in mind, it mainly comes down to the circuit breaker with which you are working with since it is essentially the main source of power. Now, the 14/2-gauge wire is not all too different in the sense that it typically has within the plastic sheath a live wire, a neutral wire, and a ground.

However, the 14/2-gauge wire is only rated to channel 15 amps of electrical power, and the 12/2-gauge wire can handle running on 20 amps from the circuit breaker.

When Should You Use 14/2?

If you are not well versed in amps, watts, or electricity as a whole, you can still figure this out. So, if you are looking to power items such as power tools, lights, and even an outlet; you can use a 14/2-gauge wire to power them with no shorts or issues.

This means that the 14/2-gauge wire can run off of a 120-volt circuit, which is approximately 1,800 watts. Whereas the 12/2-gauge wire can run safely on 20 amps of power 120-volt circuit, which approximates to 2,400 watts.

The 14/2 electrical wire is not a good option for high-amperage circuits, so if your circuit breaker is running at 20 amps (2,400 Watts), you should not use a 14/2-gauge electrical wire. However, if the circuit breaker is running at 15 amps (1,800 Watts), you can certainly use a 14/2-gauge electrical wire.

This wire is perfect for lights like a strand of X-mas lights as these lights run at a low wattage. You can also use the 14/2 electrical wire for outlets that are running on a maximum of 15 amps, and they can also be used on most built-in light fixtures.

When Should You Use 12/2?

Now that we know the wattage for each wire, you can go from there. So, the 12/2-gauge wire can handle running a dedicated circuit, which is items such as your microwave, dishwasher, or even your refrigerator.

This is because the 12/2-gauge electrical wire is able to handle running on a 20-amp circuit breaker. This also means that you can even use the 12/2-gauge electrical wire for powering lower-wattage things that require 15-amps or lower.

So while you can enjoy powering high-voltage things such as a freezer, microwave, or fridge; you will also have no problem powering anything that is lower than that amp output.

You can even power small heaters with a 12/2-gauge electrical wire, which is saying something since sure, it is a small heater; however, most heaters require a large amount of energy. Also, you can use the 12/2-gauge electrical wire for things such as wiring outlets, which is because it can handle a high voltage such as a 20-amp circuit breaker.

Is 14/2 Better Than 12/2?

It is very difficult to say which gauge of electrical wire is “better” instead, it becomes more of a question of what gauge is best for the project you are working on.

So if you are putting up some small lights outside, the 14/2-gauge electrical wire will do the job; however, the 14/2 electrical wire will likely not last as long as the 12/2-gauge electrical wire would, which is mainly due to the 12/2 electrical wire being more durable and thicker.

So, whereas the 14/2-gauge electrical wire could handle powering the small outside lights, the 12/2-gauge electrical wire would handle weather, frost, and even sun bleaching better than the 14/2 electrical wire would.

Is 12/2 Better Than 14/2

As previously stated, it really is hard to say what the “better” wire is, when it is more about which wire is better for the particular job you are working on.

Remember, that the 12/2-gauge electrical wire is a thicker wire than the 14/2 electrical wire, so not only can the 12/2 electrical wire handle a higher wattage it can also handle more weathering such as water damage, debris, and frost.

This is what makes it ideal for outdoor use, since it will still last even if you roll it out on the ground and run it up poles, trees, ect.

Not only can it handle more than a 14/2 electrical wire but it is also more versatile as it can handle powering lower voltage gadgets and higher voltage items.

If you have enough plugs for it, you could even power a microwave and simultaneously use a plug-in power tool and the 12/2 electrical wire would likely handle it just fine, without shorts.

So, if you are looking to do a lot with not many electrical wires, the 12/2-gauge electrical wire is the wire you want to use.

It is really easy to get confused when you are working with electricity; however, do not be intimidated since all of it can be learned by anyone.

It can also be a little sketchy to work with electrical wires but so long as you practice proper precautions and research what you are working with, you will have no issues.

There are a lot of electrical wires available on the market and hopefully, with this helpful feature, you will be able to make an educated decision on what wire to use for each project.

It is also quite easy to get overwhelmed when you are trying to figure out which wire to use for your project, but if you know what you are looking for it can genuinely ease your mind.

Also, once you have learned how to work with electricity and wiring, you will not forget it and the next thing you know it will be second nature to you.


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