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14-2 Vs. 12-2 Wire (In-Depth Comparison)

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Last updated on August 14th, 2022 at 01:25 pm

A beautiful home or office space is a combination of various appliances. These beautiful appliances have different functions and electrical demands; hence the wiring is different.

Two popular wire in the discussion surrounding household appliances is 14-gauge wire and 12-gauge.

The differences between these two types of wire go beyond their naming system. They have varying current capabilities, uses, and so on.

It is necessary to understand the difference between these two wires. How do they compare?

The amp circuit gauge is the significant difference between these two gauge wires. The difference in electrical flow also determines the type of appliances that require using these two different wires. For example, the 12-2 gauge wire amp is higher than the 14-2 gauge wire amp.

What is an Electrical Wire Gauge?

14-2 Vs. 12-2 Wire

Electrical wire gauge is the general name for all the types of wire and cable that runs the electrical system in the home and office spaces. The 14-gauge wire and 12-gauge wire are one of them.

However, there are more than two types. 

There are various wires in various household appliances. The wire gauge measures the maximum current that can pass through each wire type.

The number indicates the size of the cables. However, it is interesting to note that the numbers are inverse to the maximum current and size. 

The lower the wire gauge number, the higher the electrical capacity of the wire. 

The size also determines the wires’ resistance and their conducting abilities. While there are several types of wire gauges, a few are common in household units.

Here is a list of wire gauges that you find at home.

  • The 4-gauge wire for powerful electric heaters that use up to 60 amps
  • The 6-gauge wire is for appliances ranging between 50-60 amps. These appliances include cooktops.
  • Electric water heaters running on 30 amps use the 10-gauge wire. This list also contains electric cloth dryers. 
  • The 12-gauge wires are for 12-volt air conditioners and kitchen connections using the 20 amps current. 
  • Lamps and major lighting circuits use the 14-gauge wire to support the 15 amps demand. 
  • The 16-gauge wire use 13 amps appliances that include extension cords and cables. 

These are the typical type of electrical wire gauges standard in residential households and small office spaces. 

What are the 14-2 and the 12-2 Gauge Wire or Cable?

There is a general name for the wire gauge for each capacity. However, there is always a number as the suffix to specify the number of wires you have in the cable.

That shows the difference between wires and cables. 

A wire is the piece of an electrical conductor. At the same time, a cable is the combination of such wires in an enclosed setting.

Therefore, when you have a number as the suffix of the wire gauge amp number, it describes a cable rather than a wire. 

#1. The 14-2 Gauge Cable

This cable has two 14 gauge wires in the coat. This counting does not include the ground wire. Hence you have the three wires in the cable when you include the ground wire.

Do not confuse this with the system’s 14-3 gauge cable with four wires. 

In the 14-2, there are two gauge copper wires coated in the insulator. The color of the insulator is usually white and black.

#2. The 12-2 Gauge Cable

This cable is similar to the 14-2 cable in the arrangement. It also has two conducting wires and a ground wire. The ground wire usually has a distinct color which is typically yellow.

The conducting wire retains the black and white color. 

The 12 gauge wire also has other types of cable combinations. A common example is the 12-3 gauge cable. 

What is the Difference Between a 14-2 and a 12-2 Gauge Wire?

Various household electrical appliances have varying electrical demands. As such, they use different wires depending on the wire gauge amp.

This difference is one primary attribute that sets the two-wire apart. But the difference is in more than just the electrical use; the cost and durability are other factors. 

Here are some major differences between the two gauge wires. 

#1. Appropriate Use

The 14-2 wire:

Southwire 28827421 25' 14/2 with ground Romex brand SIMpull residential indoor electrical wire type NM-B, White

The 14-2 wire has a current capacity of 15 amps. The cable powers the light equipment on the 15 amp circuits.

These are the type of lights that require low amperage. This list includes small color bulbs and indoor lamps. 

The 14-2 wire also functions for light switches. Sometimes, the 14-2 gauge wire also power outlets.

As the power demand of appliances connected to the outlets does not exceed 15-amps, the wire continues to function optimally.  

The 12-2 Wire:

Woods 28828223 28828228 12/2 NMB W/G 100' Wire, 100 ft, Yellow, 100 ft

This wire has a maximum electrical current of 20 amps. It is effectively more powerful than the 14-2 wire.

Appliances that use this type of wire include outdoor outlets for outdoor equipment. This list includes more powerful lightning equipment. 

Most kitchen appliances also use 20 amps; the outlets usually have a 12-2 wire connection. Some households use the 12-2 wire for all their outlets or receptacles. 

Another popular 12-2 wire use is for a 120-volt air conditioning system.

This type of air conditioner function optimally on a 20 amps supply. For the more powerful 220-volt air conditioner, it is better to use the 10-gauge wire that is more powerful and suitable. 

#2. Voltage Drop

Voltage drop occurs when there is a difference between the voltage at the one end of a cable and the other. As long the same current pass through a wire, it continues to face resistance. 

The increase in resistance reduces voltage. Different wire types have different resistance, hence, varying voltage. Voltage drops mean the appliances at the receiving end do not run on sufficient supply.

The voltage drop calculator helps to determine the efficiency of a wire type. 

#1. For 14-2 gauge wire:

The maximum passing current is 15 amps. The longer the length of the copper wire, the higher its resistance.

If there is no significant load, a 14-2 wire can run on a 120-volt supply for 15 meters before having a substantial voltage drop. 

For 240 volts, the wire will run for more than 30 meters before the voltage drop. 

#2. For 12-2 gauge wire:

This 20 amps wire is better at withstanding resistance than the 14-2 wire. The conducting power is greater; hence, it has a longer length before voltage drop.

On a 120-volt supply, the 12-2 wire can run for more than 18 meters before voltage drop, 3 meters more than 14-2 wire.

For a 240-volt supply, the length of the wire before a significant voltage drop increases to more than 36 meters. 

#3. Durability

Passing current through the wire and its work against resistance leads to voltage drop. This process also generates heat within the system.

The heat due to the force through the wire is one of the things that determines the product’s durability. 

The 12-2 wire is more durable than the 14-2 wire because it is better at withstanding the current movement’s heat. The thickness of the 12-2 wire also contributes to its durability. 

These are the significant differences between the 12-2 wire gauge amp and the 14-2 wire gauge amp. You should also note that the 12-2 wire is the most expensive.


The 14-2 wire does have its uses and specialty. This statement is also true for the 12-2 wire. The 12-2 wire is more robust and has more current carrying capacity than the other.

The circuit breaker box indicates the amps demand of each circuit. You can use it to determine which wire is appropriate for each outlet or appliance.

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