Copper Wiring & Cabling: The Safety and Science Behind the Codes
12 May 2016
Building safety month, founded by the International Code Council, provides the industry with a unique opportunity to reassess why codes and standards are so important, and how we can all contribute to a safer building design. Properly designed electrical systems including wire and cabling can vastly contribute to the safety (or reduce potential hazards) of a building. Years of reliable performance have made copper wiring the industry standard. Copper complies with every code, ordinance, and regulation for electrical conductors throughout the United States. Copper’s superior performance in all types of installations has earned it global acceptance as the long-established standard for building wire conductors.
What makes copper so trusted as a conductor? The answer lies in the science. As an electrical conductor for building wire systems, copper is the most efficient, strongest, and most reliable metal available today. And because of this, during their lifecycle copper electric systems can be the most economical conductor money can buy. With its exceptional current-carrying capacity, copper is more efficient than any other electrical conductor. Annealed copper is the international standard to which all other electrical conductors are compared.
In 1913, the International Electro-Technical Commission set the conductivity of copper at 100 percent in their International Annealed Copper Standard (IACS). This means that copper provides more current-carrying capacity for a given diameter of wire than any other engineering metal. Today, copper conductors used in building wire actually have a conductivity rating of 100 percent or better, based on the IACS scale. Copper building wire requires less insulation and smaller conduits than aluminum because aluminum, with its lower conductivity, must be larger in diameter than copper to carry the same current.
Another advantage is that copper oxide also conducts electricity. So, connections and terminations will not overheat and do not require the use of oxide-inhibiting compounds. In addition, copper also provides superior thermal conductivity (60 percent better than aluminum), which saves energy and accelerates heat dissipation. This property is also especially helpful at terminations and connections.
Our most important buildings around the globe trust copper for their electrical wiring and cabling systems, from schools and hospitals to government buildings and residential homes. Whatever the reason, be it the science or the building codes, building and construction professionals should continue to choose copper to ensure the safety of electrical systems.