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temperature ratings 101

Temperature ratings are arguably some of the most important characteristics to consider when choosing wire and cable. Temperature ratings are included on product spec sheets, in cable ratings produced by organizations such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL) or CSA International, and are sometimes even stamped right on the cable jacket. The fact that temperature plays into all of these things should give you just a small idea of how important it is.

However, sometimes these ratings seem to be overlooked by those unfamiliar with different wire specifications. Let’s take a look at the basics of temperature ratings so you can take them into account during your next cable purchase.

What are Temperature Ratings?

Temperature ratings let the user know the usable temperature range of their wire and cable. There are several different types of temperature ratings, each of which gives the user a little more information about how their cable can be used effectively in various temperatures.

How do Temperature Ratings work?

Different temperature ratings include the maximum operating temperature, the minimum cold bend temperature, the minimum installation temperature, the minimum continuous flexing temperature, and the emergency overload and short circuit temperatures. As you can see, these temperature ratings are rather straightforward, but they are diverse and give the user a lot of valuable information. Just take a look at the temperature ratings and make sure that the temperature of your application doesn’t exceed those parameters.

How are Temperature Ratings measured?

These temperatures are usually marked in degrees Celsius (°C). The specific temperature ratings are determined through various laboratory tests developed by important organizations to the industry, including UL.

How do we account for temperature ratings when purchasing cable?

Look at the temperature ratings marked on the product spec sheet. They will let you know if the cable is designed to withstand the temperatures of your application. Double-check to make sure that your cable will not face any temperatures lower or higher than the marked temperature ratings allow. These temperature requirements may determine which materials will be used in the construction of your cable.

Why Should I Worry About Temperature Ratings?

If the cable has an inappropriate temperature rating, it is likely that the materials will not hold up. The cable could melt or burn and end up causing costly failures as well as a potentially dangerous safety situation.

One final thing to remember is to account for the entire range of temperatures your cable may face. It can be a wider range than you would expect. For example, cables used in the aerospace industry face very different temperatures when they are on the ground than when they are much higher in the atmosphere. Similarly, for the automotive industry, cables face many different temperatures when the hot engine is running in the summer than when they are parked outside in the winter. Accounting for the full range of temperatures is crucial to find a cable that will last.

Now that you know a little more about temperature ratings, you should be able to make more informed decisions for your next cable job.