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What I learned about Copper, Tinned, and Aluminum Wire...

Posted by Joshua Trujillo on

Before I jump into a project I like to make sure I have all the necessary information. Research, I am a researcher. When it came to my current project. I came across several forums that dealt with wire. Not the process of wiring, but the wire itself. This got me thinking, and side tracked. How complicated is wire?

Copper or Tinned

Whether you know it or not copper wire runs your life. The coffee maker you use in the morning. The car you drive. The home you sleep in. Even the city you live in.

Is all wire the same? The simple answer is no. They are not all the same. Different industries have different requirements for the wire used. Thickness, strength, insulation, and jacketing are common variables. I understood those concepts and so did most people on the discussion boards. What they didn't understand was quite simple; copper, tinned, and aluminum.

Copper

Let's face it, there is a reason most systems use copper. It has great conductivity only surpassed by Silver. Versatile, strong, and machinable; it is ideal for electrical work. It even has an inherent resistance to corrosion in most environments.

So what are its shortcomings? Copper does not handle exact amounts of small charges well. Corrosion in rugged environments diminishes performance. Why? At higher temperatures the corrosion resistance of copper suffers. This lead to the tinning of copper.

Tinned

Not only does tinning boost copper's properties. Tinned wire lasts longer in operating temperatures of over 100 degrees Celsius! It is that simple. A 12 gauge tinned copper wire will last up to 10 times long than a comparable 12 gauge bare wire.

Tinned copper makes soldering connections easier. Tin being one of the primary components of solder. The tinning itself boosts coppers conductivity and makes it more resistant to breakage.

In many forums, people that had a difficult time telling Tinned and Aluminum apart. We should address this. Tinned has a copper center and aluminum does not. It seems you can't talk about wire without someone bringing up Aluminum. So let's talk about it.

Aluminum

The boogie man of the industry. Aluminum to some this is the most controversial of all three. Carson Dunlop has a great article dispelling many of the myths of Aluminum wiring. Some key points of the article.

The idea that Aluminum wire was recalled and is not permitted in homes. FALSE

Not as good at copper. FALSE

Softness, Creeping, or Rusting were all connection issues. Read the article for solutions.

I hope this helps clear up some of the miss information. In my case, I am going with tinned. I understand that although it is more expensive than copper. It has the properties I need for this project. It's effectiveness in high humidity areas, increased performance, dramatic durability are key points. Plus, it will pay for itself in less maintenance and worry free activities.

Resource Links:

http://www.arcorelectronics.com/resources/why-use-...

http://www.carsondunlop.com/home-inspector-trainin...

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