Choosing the right cables for an electrical installation, whether indoor or outdoor, is very important to ensure proper functioning of electrical equipment and appliances, but above all to guarantee the safety of the installations in your home. We explain what types of cables there are, what are their differences and what you should take into account when choosing them.
Types of electrical cables: what cables make up an electrical installation?
Our electrical system allows electricity to travel through three active conductors or phases, which are the black, gray and brown cables, and a neutral conductor, the blue cable. To distinguish between them, a color code is used by the plastic coating of different color. This helps in installation, provides the system with greater security and allows them to be easily recognized when making connections.
- It is brown, black or gray in color. It is the cable that conducts electricity from the utility box to the electrical appliance.
- Blue in color, it is the one in charge of returning the electrical current to the system.
- Earth wire (TT). They are green and yellow. Obligatory in all installations, they derive the electricity to the ground spike of the house. In this way they protect people from receiving an electric shock, as well as from possible damage to equipment in the event of a breakdown or failure.
Depending on whether the installation is single-phase or three-phase, different cables can be used. Thus, in single-phase, the cables that can be used are:
- Bipolar (two conductors): blue (neutral) and brown (one phase).
- Three- pole (three conductors): blue (neutral), brown (one phase) and yellow-green (earth wire).
On the other hand, to power a three-phase installation we have several options:
- Three- pole (three conductors): gray, brown and black (all three phases).
- Tetrapolar (four conductors): gray, brown and black (all three phases) and blue (neutral) or yellow-green (ground).
- Pentapolar(five conductors): gray, brown and black (all three phases), yellow-green (ground) and blue (neutral).
The diameter of electrical cables, essential in the choice
The diameter of the cables, also called section or gauge, is generally copper and in this measure. the insulating coating layer is not taken into account. The section determines the electrical current load -in amperes- that the cable is capable of supporting, for this reason it is important to take into account what we are going to connect to choose the right cable and prevent it from overheating. In this list you can see the most common sections according to the electrical appliance to which it is going to power:
- 5 mm²: allow a maximum intensity of 10 amps (A) and allow a maximum power of up to 2,300 watts to circulate. They are used for wiring lighting, such as table lamps, light bulbs or fans.
- 5 mm²: allow a maximum intensity of between 16 and 20 A and allow a maximum power of up to 3,680 watts to be circulated. They are used to wire outlets in the house and can be used for floor lamps, power tools and small appliances (such as a toaster).
- 4 mm²: allow a maximum intensity of between 20 and 25 A and allow a maximum power of up to 4,600 watts to circulate. They are the ones used to plug in electrical appliances such as the washing machine or dishwasher, which require a higher power.
- 6 mm²: allow a maximum intensity between 25 and 32 A and allow a maximum power of 5,750 watts to circulate. In this type of electrical circuits electrical appliances such as the ceramic hob and the oven are plugged in.
- 10 mm²: allow a maximum intensity between 42 and 50 A and allow a maximum power of 7,360 watts to circulate. They are the ones used for the general wiring of the house, although it will depend on the power you have contracted.
Do I choose a rigid or flexible cable?
The stiffness or flexibility of the cable will depend on the number of copper wires it is made of. The single strand is stiffer than the multi strand. In practice, the flexible cable is more manageable and facilitates work, especially in installations embedded in the wall and covered by corrugated pipe and, especially, if there are elbows or bends.
How to choose cable for outdoor installations
For outdoor installations, the important thing is that the cable jacket and the protection tube ensure protection to withstand humidity, inclement weather, the attack of rodents, etc. They differ from indoor cables in that they can remain outdoors without additional protection. Depending on the use that you are going to give it to the electrical installation, you will need one or the other cable. A) Yes:
- For outdoor lighting installations, choose cables that allow a maximum power of up to 2300 W, with a diameter or section of 1.5 mm².
- For outdoor plug installations, select a cable that allows a maximum power of up to 4600 W, with a diameter of 2.5 mm².
- For high consumption outdoor installations, choose them that allow a maximum power of 7360 W, with a diameter of 6 mm².
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