12/2 Vs. 16/2 Wire Comparison

12/2 Vs. 16/2 Wire

Each time you want to install cables in the house, you have to consider the condition and type of wire. As much as they might seem similar, they have different sizes and applications.

The wires are classified based on size, which is measured in gauges. That is why you can come across 12-gauge, 16-gauge, 10-gauge, and so much more.

With that in mind, we need to understand the differences between 12/2 and 16/2 wires.

The 12/2 wire might be the most common you come across in the case of residential wiring. It is common as it serves the purpose of wiring the whole house with a few exceptions, such as water heaters.

The 12/2 wire is a 12-gauge wire with two conductors. These conductors will be white for neutral and black for hot. As for amp capacity, we find that this wire can manage 20A.

The 16/2 wire is slightly different in the sense of amp capacity. It can only handle up to 13 A. So, it might not have the best capacity, but there will be several areas where it can be used too.

Here is an up-close video on the use of 16/2 wire

As for the color codes of the wires in a 16/2 wire, you shall find them being the same as the 12/2. They will also be two conductors only because of the number that comes as the sign “/” in the naming of the wire.

Potential Applications

The 12/2 wire has the most applications with its impressive current rating of 20A. You can expect it to be used mostly for wiring outlets and lighting circuits.

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You could still use the same wire for heaters too. However, the capacity might be a bit limited in such an application to 3700 watts.

Looking at the 16/2 wire, we find it mostly designed for low-power applications. Expect to find it used for lighting, signaling, communication, intercoms, and nurse call installations.

So long as the appliance does not need more than 13A to operate, it would be a nice use of this wire type.

The 16/2 wire is also common in extension cords and automobiles. Those wires you see powering the headlights, ignition coil, and alternators are mostly 16/2 wires.

Here is a video of using 16/2 wire for landscaping.

If you can do your research well, then you can use the two wires correctly.

Can Aluminum Be Used For 12/2 And 16/2 Wires?

You may have noticed that whether it is 12/2 or 16/2 wires, they will be mostly made of copper. It is for a good reason.

Aluminum is not used for current transmission mostly because it can build an oxide layer on the surface whenever electricity passes through it.

It will then result in a resistor rather than a conductor.

Also, you might need a thicker wire to transmit the same amount of electricity. That might not be effective for most applications.

That is where copper comes in. It will remain to do a good job of transmitting power with fewer losses and resistivity.


Can use 16/2 wire lead to voltage drop?

It may depend on the application. An example is if you are running a speaker wire. Then, it will take up to 48 feet of a 16-gauge wire to result in a voltage drop.

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Can you use 16/2 in place of 12/2 wire?

For some applications, such as lighting, yes, but for others, not so much. The 16/2 wire will not be as great for wiring outlets as the 12/2 wire. So, use the 12/2 wire to be on the safe side.

What are the color sheathings meanings in different cables?

White color insulation means neutral, black means live wire, and the ground is often bare or might have green insulation. You can still come across red insulation, which also means hot wire.