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Current is a term used all the time in the wire and cable industry. However, if you are new to the business or a DIYer, you may not know what it means. Let's go through the basics.

What is Current?

Currents are composed of all of the electrons moving through a conductor.

How Does Current Work?

When voltage is applied to the cables, it pushes the electrons and creates a current. As the current increases, so does the number of electrons moving through the wire at any given time.

How is Current Measured?

Current is measured in amps, represented as “A.” Measurements of current may also be represented as “I” in mathematical equations used by engineers.

How Do We Account for Current When Purchasing Cable?

This is the rule: to carry more current, you must use a larger conductor. This means selecting a larger diameter or AWG when you are looking at spec sheets. In general, if you take the cross-sectional area of a conductor and double it, you also double the current carrying capacity of the cable. Make sure that the maximum carrying capacity of your cable meets or exceeds the amount of current the cable will need to carry.

Why Should I Worry About Current?

If you choose a cable with insufficient current carrying capacity, the conductor may overheat and damage the cable’s insulation or jacket, eventually causing the cable to fail. Failed cables cost time and money. Overall, you must consider current when making your purchases so that you know you have a cable that can handle your current carrying needs. Also note that, while conductor size is a major factor in a cable’s current carrying capacity, it can also be affected by other outside factors.

Reference ampacity tables to make sure you are getting an appropriate cable for your application.