Copper is without question the more widely used wire material in the wire and cable industry today. However, that wasn’t always the case. In the 1960’s and through most of the 1970’s aluminum was the go to cable. In the late 1970’s aluminum’s popularity tanked until it started picking up again in the 1990’s. If you are not sure which cable is best suited of your application, copper cable or aluminum cable, keep reading.
Aluminum Wire Advantages
Thanks to its natural light weight, aluminum is fairly flexible and easy to work with. Aluminum’s lightweight quality is very useful for long distance installations, making the job easier to handle. It also reduces corona (electric discharge associated with high power transmissions).
Another advantage of aluminum that cannot go unnoticed is cost. Aluminum is dramatically more affordable than copper.
Aluminum Wire Disadvantages
As in any trade, aluminum cable installations require knowledgeable professionals. If not installed properly, aluminum cables can raise the risk of fire. Aluminum is more susceptible to corrosion caused by water and certain metals. Therefore it required more maintenance than copper. Though, with proper installation and maintenance, the risks of fire and corrosion are minimized.
Copper Wire Advantages
Copper is one of the best electrical conductors of all metals. It is more stable and withstands higher temperatures than aluminum. Due to its tensile strength, copper has a long life span and needs little maintenance. Thanks to its high ductility, copper can be formed into fine wire.
Copper Wire Disadvantages
Copper is an expensive metal. When an installation requires extensive wiring, the cost may prove prohibiting. Additionally, copper is heavy. Its weight needs to be planed for in a wiring installations, and may bring about challenges.
So which should I use?
Deciding which type of cable to use is based on the nature of the job. Of course the budget will dictate much of the selection. Additionally, take a look at the length of your runs, weight restrictions, and adjacent metals to your runs. When all factors are known, it is easier to make the best choice of material.