Knowing which wire size to pick is important, so you can use the right size for your equipment that requires electricity. In case this is your first time reading about gauge wire, we are covering some of the basic things to know about it. Dividing the article into sections should make it easier for you to jump into the part you would like to read. All the sections have a heading, so you can quickly search the topic you would like to know about using your browser’s search function.
For those that already know what a gauge wire is, and the importance of finding the right size depending on what it is going to be used for, we’ll just right into it and share a wire ampacity rating chart where you can figure out yourself what it is that you need. Simply scroll down a little bit. Also, this article was made due to the increasing popularity of our original article that focused on 30 amp wire sizes. Whether you’re doing gasless MIG welding, welding aluminum or anything else, choosing the right wire is crucial.
Table of content
- Wire ampacity rating chart
- 60 amp
- 70 amp
- 80 amp
- 100 amp
- 125 amp
- 150 amp
- 200 amp
- 300 amp
- 400 amp
- What is a gauge wire?
- Choosing the right size
- What happens when you choose the wrong size
- But if you find yourself having the incorrect size, here are the things that might happen.
- Standard wire gauge chart
- Can a size 8 or 10 gauge wire handle 60 amp?
- What size wire do I need for a 70 amp circuit?
- What size wire do I need for 100 amp service?
- What size of the copper wire is good for 150 amps?
Wire ampacity rating chart
If you are unsure of which type of material you are dealing with, or you don’t know the right temperature, we always suggest erring on the side of caution, why the column to the right shows you the lowest number in the different columns. It’s always better to choose a bigger wire if you are unsure about any of the conditions that could influence the performance.
As you can see for 60 amp, you will really want a 6 gauge wire size, and if you’re more cautious, a 4 gauge. That is, of course, assuming the right conditions such as temperature.
For 70 amp, the right wire size is either a gauge 3 aluminum or a gauge 4 copper, assuming there aren’t other factors impacting the performance.
If you’re working with 80 amp electricity, you need a gauge 4 copper wire, whereas it would need to be a size 2 if you are going for aluminum instead.
For 100 amp, you are looking to either get a gauge 1 wire size made of aluminum, whereas a gauge 3 can do it when made of copper.
To be on the safe side, you will want to make sure you’re either using a gauge 1 copper wire or a 2/0 aluminum wire.
For 150 amp, as per the chart below, you’re looking at a 3/0 wire gauge made of aluminum, whereas a 1/0 is the smallest size you can go with when looking at copper.
200 amp requires a wire size 250 made of aluminum or a 3/0 size when made of copper.
For 300 amp service, you will want copper wire of size 500 kcmil to be able to handle the load.
400 amp service requires an aluminum wire size of 1000 kcmil, whereas a 600 kcmil copper size can handle that amount of power.
The appropriate wire size for 600 amp service is at least a size 1500 kcmil assuming a temperature of 167°F of the conductor.
|Wire Gauge Size||167°F||194°F||140°F||167°F||194°F||The smallest of all numbers|
What is a gauge wire?
The gauge wire is the size of the wire diameter, basically. Its size determines how much electrical current it can safely carry. If you have ever been to the electrical section of a hardware store, you will notice wires come in several sizes.
Instead of referring to it using its actual thickness, people would refer to it using its gauge size, 6 gauge wire, 4 gauge wire, three gauge size, two gauge wire, one gauge wire, 1/0 gauge wire, 2/0 gauge wire, 3/0 gauge wire, and 750 gauge wire.
The gauge size is inversely proportional to the diameter, which means the higher the size, the smaller the diameter. If the size is not in the wire itself or is unclear, you can use a thickness gauge to determine it. Getting the right diameter is important because it determines the maximum current it can safely handle. Using an incorrect wire could lead to serious problems in the long run. So before deciding which gauge size to buy, first check how much electrical current the wire will handle by identifying the devices you plan to use.
The United States, along with 65 other countries, use the American wire gauge as the unit of measure. Other countries use the Imperial Standard Wire Gauge, which was defined by the British Board of Trade.
Choosing the right size
A wire usually burns if you use the incorrect size. It is advisable to know the correct wire size to prevent this from happening. The bad thing is that most people are not aware that size makes a difference. People often make the connections themselves without consulting or calling a licensed electrician. It could lead to serious issues when done incorrectly.
When the setup involves the circuit breaker, you should take extra precautions. Installing the right components will greatly prevent common issues from happening. In most cases, issues arise because of an incorrect wire gauge. The gauge and breaker need to be compatible with each other.
If you have a 60 amp circuit breaker for your water heater, clothes dryer, or air conditioner that you have no idea which wire gauge size you need, read through the next section as we guide you in understanding the basics.
What happens when you choose the wrong size
It is a common misconception for people to think that as long as the ends of the wire fit a connector, there will be no issues. It is not the case for circuit breakers. People who are unaware of their importance often use too small gauge wires to connect their circuit breakers. Smaller wire gauges are cheaper than the bigger ones, which is why people who are unaware often go for the cheaper one, thinking it is not going to make any difference. Sadly, it is only going to cost them more in the long run.
Using a larger wire for your circuit breaker is often the best way to go. The only negative effect this has is on your budget, which will cost you more upfront. When picking a larger one, you end up spending more than what you may need. However, it is not going to cause any damage to your circuit breaker. Instead, it can better handle the electrical current flowing through it.
But if you find yourself having the incorrect size, here are the things that might happen.
A drop in performance
If you connected appliances to a circuit breaker using a gauge wire that is too small, achieving peak efficiency may be impossible. The appliances can only receive a part of the energy it requires to operate at peak performance. In effect, your appliances will be unlikely to achieve their optimal performance.
For example, you have a 15 amp circuit breaker, which you need to use for light fixtures at home. Using a service wire that is less than the recommended 14-gauge could lead to performance issues. For electric furnaces, you need at least a 4-gauge wire.
Whether you are doing welding in order to combine metal with those precision joints, or you’re powering a metal lathe, make sure to see what the requirement are for that piece of equipment, as you might simply be using the wrong wire size, why you’re not getting the performance you were looking for.
It can start a fire
A burning wire that leads to starting a fire is the worst case. Although modern circuit breakers have their safety measures, it may not be enough if the load is too much.
For example, a common safety measure for modern circuit breakers is the trip mechanism. When the circuit breaker experiences an overload, it will trip to cut the current from passing through, preventing any damage from happening. However, having a trip mechanism does not prevent a fire from happening.
Wires that have melted
A small wire can handle less current, which makes them more resistant to the flow of energy. However, if the wire gauge is way smaller for your circuit breaker, the current flowing through the wire is more than what it can handle. Due to high resistance, heat generates and will eventually lead to the wire melting.
Damage to the equipment
Aside from performance drop issues and the possibility of starting a fire, using a smaller wire gauge may damage your equipment in the long run. When the supply of power is not stable, it may bust your equipment.
Standard wire gauge chart
Before proceeding with this section, you should know that it is important to have a licensed electrician handle any electrical work. However, it helps to know some of the basic electrical things, such as the right wire gauge. The gauge size chart electricians use as their reference will differ depending on the region.
Using a standard wire gauge instrument is a quick and easy way to know the wire’s size. We use the American Wire Gauge system, commonly referred to as AWG, in the United States to determine it. The AWG defines the diameter of solid round wires, which is otherwise known as the wire gauge. The amperage capacity, commonly known as the ampacity, is the highest current a wire gauge can handle.
When referring to the table below, note that the AWG value is opposite to the wire’s diameter. A higher AWG refers to a smaller wire size, which means an 8-gauge wire can support a higher amperage capacity than a 10-gauge wire. The chart below defines the wire’s diameter in inches and millimeters. Whether you are looking for 60, 70, 100, 150, 200, or 400 amp wire sizes, the chart should help determine which one to choose.
From the table, the gauge with the largest wire diameter is the 0000-gauge, while the smallest is the 40-gauge. A 0000-gauge wire lets more energy flow through it at any given time than the smaller ones will.
Can a size 8 or 10 gauge wire handle 60 amp?
Let’s say you have an 8-gauge wire and a 10-gauge wire lying around at home, and you want to know if you can use these with a 60 amps circuit breaker. Let’s take each gauge wire one at a time.
For the 8-gauge wire, it cannot handle a 60 amp circuit breaker.
For the 10-gauge wire, it cannot handle a 60 amp circuit breaker as well.
What size wire do I need for a 70 amp circuit?
The size wire depends on whether it is aluminum or copper and the ambient temperature.
For a 70 amps circuit breaker, you can use a 4-gauge copper wire at an ambient temperature of 140°F.
What size wire do I need for 100 amp service?
As mentioned in the previous question, the size wire compatible with a 100 amps circuit breaker depends on the wire’s material and the ambient temperature.
For a 100 amps circuit breaker, you can use a 3-gauge copper wire at an ambient temperature of 167°F, a 2-gauge aluminum wire at an ambient temperature of 194°F, or a 1-gauge aluminum wire at an ambient temperature of
What size of the copper wire is good for 150 amps?
Suppose you have a 150 amps circuit breaker at home, and you would like to make use of it. A 150 amps circuit breaker requires a much thicker wire than a 125 amps breaker.
In this case, you will need a 1/0-gauge copper wire at an ambient temperature of 167°F or a 2/0-gauge aluminum wire at an ambient temperature of 194°F.