14 2 Vs 12 2 Wire What’s The Difference

What’s the difference between 14 2 Vs 12 2 wire? Well, the digits 14 and 12 refer to the difference in the wire’s gauge.

A wire gauge is a measure of diameter. A smaller wire generates more resistive heat than a larger wire due to its smaller cross-sectional area. Therefore, a thicker wire can withstand more electrical current without getting too hot.

A 12-gauge wire made from copper is standard, and it is 2.05 mm thick. On the other hand, the 14-gauge wire, also made from copper, is only 1.63 mm in comparison.

Oftentimes it can be confusing to choose between a 14 2 Vs 12 2 wire when deciding which wire to use for lighting and electrical outlets. Below you’ll find a detailed breakdown of their functions, the differences between the two, and when to use them. 

What’s the Difference Between 12 2 and 14 2 Wire?

The primary differences between a 12 2 wire and a 14 2 wire is purely the thickness or gaugse of the wire itself. However, the true question is what is the difference between the application or uses of 14 2 Vs 12 2 wire. So I will cover that next in some detail.

What is 12 2 Wire?

The 12 2 wire is slightly more expensive, less flexible, but the safer choice between the two. The label on 12 2 wire refers to a 12-gauge, two insulated wires which carry currents in addition to bare ground. 12 2 wire traditionally features a white, black, and bare ground wire. There are some instances where the white wire is red instead for 220V circuits without neutral. When this wire is red, usually that sheath is red as well.

14 2 Vs 12 2 Wire
12 2 Wire

You can use a 12-gauge wire up to 70 feet on a circuit that has 15 amps. That distance decreases when you run a 12-gauge wire on a 20-amp circuit. Moreover, the thickness of a 12 (AWG) wire happens to be 26 percent thicker than the 14 (AWG) wire.

The rule of thumb is that the thinner the wire, the greater the number of wires you can combine. In situations where you need a larger power supply, we recommend a 12 2 electrical wire over a 14 2 electrical wire to improve the power transmission.

Furthermore, based on the temperature rating, 12-gauge wire can operate a maximum of 30 amps when placed in special conditions. Amp allowances for gauge copper wire and 12-gauge aluminum wire are all determined and governed by temperature ratings.

What is 14 2 Wire?

A 14-2 wire only carries up to 15 amps and has two wires. The 14-2 electrical wire is for lights and any other electrical devices or equipment. However, the load cannot be more than 80 percent of the current capacity, which equals about 1500 watts.

Moreover, 14 2 is also a jacketed cable with three 14-gauge electrical wires. The first is the black “hot” wire. The second is the white “hot” wire, and the third is the green or bare copper ground wire. This 14 2 wire comes in spools, and it is also a very common gauge to use for residential purposes. 

As mentioned previously, a 14 2 wire is safe for use on circuits with an amperage of no more than 15 amps. It is not only dangerous, but it’s illegal to use 14 2 wires on a 20-amp circuit. The correct wire gauge is integral to safe wiring.

The NEC or National Electrical Code doesn’t limit the length of wire that you can run. However, according to the NEC, it’s generally safe and OK to use a larger size electrical wire. You may require a larger wire size for longer wiring runs. Generally, you want a three percent or less voltage drop across the wire from the source to the point of use.

 For example, when dealing with a 120-volt circuit, you can run up to 50 feet of a 14-gauge cable on 15 amps without exceeding the three percent voltage drop.

When to Use 14 2 or 12 2 Wire

You should always position your outlets and lights on different outlets when you’re wiring your home. This way, even if the circuit fails, the lights won’t go out. You can typically control the circuit by using a 15-amp breaker as long as there aren’t too many lights connected. 

When to Use 12 2 Wire

You use a 12-gauge wire in the bathroom, kitchen, outdoor receptacles, and even 120-volt air conditioners that can support 20 amps. If the outlet has a rating of 20 amps, like most GFCI outlets, go with the 12 2 wire, even if the appliance itself only has a rating of 15 amps. 

Can I Use 12 Gauge wire for lighting?

Most commonly, you find a 12-gauge wire for lighting circuits and the refrigerator. They are suitable options for any type of lighting (including outdoors) with a maximum of 30 volts. 

You can also use 12-gauge wires for outdoor spotlights, path lights, electric window candles, garden accent lights, or even deck lights. For those with an outdoor pool, you might think about installing underwater lights to enhance the ambiance, which uses a 12-gauge wire. 

When to Use 14 2 Wire

The specificities of a 14 2 wire are fairly straightforward because they can only endure 15 amps, and you cannot use them in place of a 12 2 wire. You’ll usually find 14 2 wires for power light fixtures running on low amps. When wiring lights, many electricians will select the 14 2 because it’s cheaper than a 12-gauge wire. 

Remember, if the circuit is 20 amps, the 14 2 wire will be insufficient. If you try to force the issue, it will make the wires overheat. The breaker might flip to prohibit the system from overheating, which will only kill the circuit power. 

Can I Use 14 Gauge Wire for Outlets?

If you’re installing electrical wiring in your home, you can power a total of eight receptacles with a 14-2 copper wire. A receptacle is where you plug the appliance in. Many outlets have the standard two receptacles, but some have four. Use the 14-gauge wire with four two-receptacle outlets on a 15-amp circuit. 

Wire Gauge Amperage Rating Table

Here is a table from the National Electrical Code: (Allowable Ampacities)

National Electrical Code Allowable Ampacities
National Electrical Code (Allowable Ampacities)

14 2 Vs 12 2 Wire Conclusion

A good rule of thumb is to remember that you max out at 15 amps with a 14 2 wire. With a 12 2, it’s the safer choice because it can handle a heavier load, and you can use it anywhere you’d use a 14 2. 

The biggest differences between a 14 2 Vs 12 2 wire are the diameter and the capacity. The 12 2 is thicker and has a lower resistance. 

Never exceed the maximum number of amps for a 14 2 wire, as you risk injury to yourself and your home. Before attempting to do the electrical wiring throughout your home, be sure that you understand the basics of wiring and how to do it correctly.