10-2 Wire vs 12-2 Wire [What Is The Difference]

There are different gauges of wires in the market right now. The 10-2 wire and 12-2 wire are some of the most commonly used.

Depending on the type, some can carry more current than others, thus being used for appliances drawing more power.

We want to understand where the two can be used and which one would be better.

What is a 10-2 wire?

The number 10 represents the size of the wire measured as in AWG. As for the second number after -, it indicates the number of conductors. So, in our case, it means that the wire has two conductors.

The 10/2 wire now means that such a type of wire has 2 strands with a gauge of 10. In the case of two strands, one is for hot which is a wire insulated in black, a white insulated wire for neutral along with a ground wire which can be bare most of the time.

What is a 12/2 wire?

As we have seen from the 10-2 wire description above, you should not have difficulty understanding what 12-2 means.

For this scenario, you have 2 strands of 12 gauge wires along with a ground wire. There is black for hot, white for neutral, and the bare ground wire runs alongside the two insulated wires.

The Comparison

Starting with the 10-2 wire, it is able to carry an impressive 30A in terms of current. Because of such capacity, expect the wire to be used mostly for electrical water heaters and baseboard heaters.

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The 10-2 wire can mostly work for heaters with a capacity of up to 5,500 watts. Expect to find it commonly used for wiring the heaters in a house.

As for the 12-2 wire, it has a capacity of 20A. This is not as huge as the 10-2 wire. For this reason, this wire is best suited for lighting and outlet circuits. It can still work for refrigerator powering.

Lower capacity does not mean you cannot use the 12-2 wire for heaters, however, it can be the smaller heater circuits. The maximum it can take is 3,700 watts of power.

12-2 wires would also be ideal for those who want to wire receptacles or outlets in various rooms. Rather than spending more on the 10-2 wire, simply go for the 12-2 as it will do a good job or manage the power demands of the appliances.

From the description above, you can see that each of the wires will have different applications. It is now up to you to pick the correct one for the job.

The 10-2 will be ideal if you plan on installing heaters. As for general lighting and wiring outlets, the 12-2 will do a good job.

Here is a video on more gauges of wires that we use more often for various applications

YouTube video

Why Should You Choose the Right Wire Gauge?

Having the proper wire gauge will always get the job done correctly. That is why you should consider the gauge.

The wrong gauge can easily damage the wires if the current is too much for the wire to handle.

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Other than the 10-2 and 12-2 wires, you will likely come across other gauge sizes too. They include 14, 8, 6, and 2 gauge wires.

A fun fact is that as the gauge number gets smaller, the wire size increases.

Potential fire hazards

Using the wrong gauge of wire in the mentioned applications above can easily turn into a fire breakout point. This is when you have exceeded the amount of current or voltage ideal for that particular wire.

So, always go through the wire gauge table to understand where best to use the wire. In some cases, you can smell wires burning due to high currents.

Avoid damage to appliances.

The inaccurate wire gauges can also lead to potential damage of the electronics and appliances connected to the circuit.

A good example is when you have an amplifier connected to a circuit with an inadequate current flow. This means the amplifier does not receive the correct voltage too.

So, expect the overall sound output of the system to be low quality.

It does not hurt to consult with your electrician for more information on picking the right wire gauge for the job.

Here is a video on choosing the right cable size

YouTube video


Can you use 12-2 wires for heater circuits?

It is possible to use it for heater circuits, but it is for small heaters. Anything above 3700 watts should run on a 10-2 wire circuit.

What size of wire do you need?

It all depends on the application. If you need to pass a lot of current, invest in a wire that can handle all that electricity. Any shop selling electrical wires will help you see which wires to use.

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Does the wire color matter in the 10-2 and 12-2 wires?

Yes. The good thing is that they are not too many to confuse you. The options are black for hot wire, white for neutral wire, and a bare wire for ground. So, make sure they are always wired correctly.

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