Five Types of Cable or Wire You’ll Find in Your Home

The average home has a lot of different wires running through it to make modern life possible. From powering lights to connecting us to the world, each of these wires has a different purpose and is specifically designed to do a unique job. Here are five of these unique types of wires you might find in your home and what their job might be.

Romex® Cable

Romex® is a brand name that has become ubiquitous to describe a specific type of cable that includes multiple conductors and a ground wire all within one consistent shielding. This type of wiring is used for virtually everything when it comes to your indoor applications, including wiring light fixtures to switches, installing outlets, and even putting in appliances or ceiling fans. However, the type of cable you will use will vary based on your application.

Romex® cable is typically described with a fraction that indicates both the size of the internal wire conductors and the number of conductors there are. For example, a length of 14/2 Romex® will contain two 14-gauge conductors that are individually shielded (one hot, one neutral) as well as an unshielded ground wire. 12/3 Romex® will contain three conductors (two hots, one neutral, and one unshielded ground), all of which are 12 gauge in size. A larger wire is used for higher-current applications, and different numbers of conductors are required for different applications, such as wiring in switches. Another example you might find in your home is a 220-volt cable that typically consists of three conductors of 10-gauge wire as well as a ground wire.

CAT3, CAT5, or CAT6 Cable

These three types of wire are all different types of wire designed for telecommunications and carrying data. Each of these wires actually contains several different wires all braided together, some of which carry voltage while others carry different data signals. Just by looking at them, most people wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between the three, but Category 3, Category 5, and Category 6 wires all have different limitations on how much data they can carry and the speed at which they can carry it.

Both of these types of wires can come in a variety of colors, however, they are typically blue, black, white, or gray. Likewise, they are quite a bit different from other types of wires in that they are generally round in shape as opposed to Romex® or other multi-strand wires that are oval or even flat-shaped. They also have a much different-looking plug that most people know of as either a data port or a phone jack (for those of us who are old enough to remember when that’s what they were for).

Thermostat Wire

A thermostat wire is the wire used to connect your thermostat to your HVAC system. There are different types of thermostat wire, as different HVAC systems have different wire requirements in order to connect up to a thermostat control. The most common type of thermostat wire will generally carry at least five conductors, though there are types of this wire that may carry six or more as well. You won’t see a ton of this wire around your home, however, it is an extremely integral and important part of your home, as it allows you to enjoy your HVAC system seamlessly. Likewise, you may need to have this wire replaced or have an additional wire run with it if your HVAC system was not installed with a common wire, a wire (usually colored white) that carries a constant stream of electrical power to your thermostat and allows it to run independent of a battery.

Underground Feeder Wire

Have you ever wanted to install a fountain in your backyard? A fountain requires an electric pump in order to push water upward and out from the nozzle or spout, and that pump needs to be powered. This is typically done with a special kind of multi-conductor wire that is specifically for use in underground runs. Known as underground feeder wire, this type of wire is similar to Romex®, only it carries the designation of UF-B on it. This indicates that the shielding on the outside is suitable for outdoor use.

Speaker Wire

Speaker wire is probably the simplest-looking type of wire on this list in that it really doesn’t look like all that much. Traditionally, speaker wire is typically shielded with clear plastic that shows the stranded copper wire inside, and this wire typically features two different strand groups attached together by their shielding that is bonded together on one side. In fact, this wire might look like it’s perfect for creating a simple circuit for use in things like security systems, fire alarms, or doorbells. However, you should never use speaker wire for these purposes because speaker wire is typically a stranded cable. Stranded cables are cheaper to produce due to their requiring less raw material, but they are not capable of carrying the higher amount of current needed in other applications.

Speaker wire also does play a crucial role—in addition to passing a variable amount of voltage and current out to your speakers to allow them to operate, speaker wires also pass an analog signal out to the speaker, causing it to actuate in an extremely precise manner. This precise actuating causes specific changes in air pressure, resulting in waves that our brain interprets as sound. That means that yes, that music you’re hearing was literally an electrical current traveling along a wire at one point.

Have a problem with a wire in your home? Call Lightning Bug Electric at (404) 471-3847 and we’ll get to the bottom of it, no matter what type of wire it might be!