When To Use 12/2 vs 14/2 Wire [Wire Gauge “AWG” Chart]

The 14/2 and 12/2 wires are quite common for residential wiring. However, people will often confuse the two unless they can find a clear guide to help them understand where to use them.

First, we have to learn more about what these cables are all about before looking into their applications.

The 14/2 cable means that it is a 14-gauge cable with two conductors. The conductors will be black and white, standing for hot and neutral wires, respectively.

American Wire Gauge “AWG” Chart – Wire Size & Ampacity Table

When To Use 12/2 Vs 14/2 Wire

That is not all, as the 14/2 cable will also have a bare ground wire. The ground wire is always key in ensuring the circuit is properly grounded.

As for 12/2, it also has two conductors and a bare ground conductor. The biggest difference is that this time around, it will be 12 gauge in size. Such a gauge means it can carry more current than the 14 gauge.

Because of the capacity, the 14/2 will be a great cable for lighting. We find that it cannot accommodate more than 15A. Not many lights will need more than 15A to work.

Comparing it to 12/2, we see that this one has more capacity at 20A. Because of this, it stands out as a better option for cases where the appliances would draw more power.

That is why 12/2 would be used for lighting circuits and outlets too.

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Below is a video comparing 14/2 vs. 12/2

YouTube video

Comparison: 12-gauge versus 14-gauge wires

The gauge simply means the measure of diameter. A larger diameter means it is less resistant to heat and can easily handle more current.

When reading the gauge chart or table, the larger the number, the smaller the diameter of the wires. As for our case now, the 14/2 wire will be smaller than the 12/2 wire, although it seems the 14-gauge is larger because of the number.

One of the places a person can use these two wires will be for outlets.

It is possible you might be unsure which one to use. In case of such a scenario, stick to using the 12-gauge. It will never disappoint you.

Any electrician will advise you to use the 12-gauge wire because of its capacity. The 12/2 will have a capacity of 20A, and the 14/2 will have a capacity of 15A.

As you can see, the 12/2 will make the outlets work better for different appliances.

Even if you have an appliance constantly drawing more current, it will not be an issue when you have the 12/2 installed for the outlets.

Below is a quick video on the use of 14/2 and 12/2 cables

YouTube video

How Many Outlets Would 14/2 Run?

As much as it is not always recommendable to use 14/2 for outlets, some people still use it. In that case, we might as well find out how many outlets are recommended for such a connection.

Eight outlets are recommended for a single circuit running 15A. So, take note of that to ensure you can have a working outlet still.

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You may, however, have to keep checking the rating of appliances to see if the circuit would actually support the current rating.


How best can you use the 14/2 wire?

The 14/2 wire is best suited for lighting circuits. This is where you get to use it for the lamps with a rating of below 15 A.

Can 12/2 wire be used for wiring outlets?

Yes. This type of wire is best suited for wiring outlets and small heaters. With a current rating of 20A, it can support many appliances today.

Which is the best wire for wiring house heaters?

Go for the 10/2 wires since they will have a capacity of 30A. This is enough even to wire baseboard heaters without a problem.

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