A modern 120-volt electrical connection is composed of a hot, neutral and ground wire. The hot wire delivers the electricity to the appliance and the neutral provides the path through the transformer and back to the ground. Determining the required size of these wires is as simple as reading a chart.
An ampere (amps) is the amount of electrical charge passing through a point in a unit of time. The amp load on the wire is the most important number in determining the wire size. A typical household outlet is designed to carry 15 amps. Some residential circuits can carry as much as 40 amps, thus requiring a much larger wire.
Wire size is measured by its diameter. This diameter is expressed by its gauge (AWG). This measurement system interestingly works backwards. For example, a 10-AWG wire is larger and can carry more current than a 14-AWG wire.
Neutral Wire Size
The neutral wire is required to be the same size as the hot wire. The size of wire you will use in the circuit is determined by the amount of amps you would like it to carry. The amount of amps in the circuit are limited by a fuse or breaker. Typical residential copper wires sizes are: 14 AWG for 15 amps, 12 AWG for 20 amps, 10 AWG for 30 amps and 8 AWG for 40 amps.
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