12/2 Wire vs. 12/2/2 Wire [How Best Are They Used]

Each time you want to do wiring, you should expect to find several options for types of wires. They will largely differ based on the size.

The size of the wires is measured in terms of gauge, and the unit is AWG. Thus, you should learn more about the gauge of the wire before buying for a certain application.

This guide looks at two closely related wires that might confuse you. However, once presented to you physically, that is when you will see the differences.

Starting with the 12/2 wire, we can say that such a wire is 12 gauge with two conductors running along with a bare ground wire.

You will likely come across two main options for conductors in the 12/2 wire. The two include black for hot wire and white for neutral.

What about the 12/2/2 wires? How are they different?

In the case of 12/2/2, the wires will still be 12 gauge, with the difference being that it has four conductors. The four conductors include two hot wires and two neutral wires. Of course, they will also have a bare ground wire along with the conductors.

With 4 conductors, it means that the 12/2/2 wire can have a different use compared to the 12/2. At times the applications can still overlap.


The 12/2 wire is quite common and would have many applications.

This type of wire can carry a current of up to 20A. This is not bad for a wire that would mostly be used for lighting circuits.

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Because of its rating, it can still be essential for outlet circuits and a refrigerator too.

Some people might use the 12/2 wire for heater circuits. It can be possible, but the heater rating should not exceed 3700 watts. Anything larger then opt for the 10-2 wire.

The 12/2/2 wire, on the other hand, is designed to be used for specific applications. You may not get it being used that often.

Expect it to be more expensive than the common 12/2.

The cable is mostly reserved for applications that require 3-way or 4-way connections. A good example is bathroom and ceiling fans, which also feature lights. So, they would need separate circuits to operate independently.

The 12/2/2 is also used in GFCI and the AFCI circuits. That is not all, as you can still find the cable being used in other specific applications.

Here is a video of how 12/2 wire compares with other gauges of wire

YouTube video

What are Romex Cables

The 12/2 and 12/2/2 are part of the Romex cables, and you will find this name even printed on the packaging and cable itself. However, someone might ask what it is all about.

Romex is a trade name for the electrical cables used for residential wiring. The main characteristic compared to the other types as categorized by the National Electrical Code is that such cables have non-metallic sheathing.

These cables will mainly have two or more conductors that are insulated in different colors. The main colors are black and white. This is for hot and neutral, respectively. You will get the ground wire bare most of the time.

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If a ground wire is insulated, then it will be green.

The insulation is non-conducting, moisture resistant, and flame resistant too. The result is that they can work well in damp environments such as the basement.

Regulations for Romex Conductors

Some of the regulations that apply to using the Romex conductors, such as 12/2 and 12/2/2 include.

  • The cables should always be protected. Have them secured and further contained in junction boxes, fixtures, and device boxes.
  • You should not use devices that might damage the cables. This includes bent nails, overdriven staples, and more.
  • You should not have sagging Romex conductors. Ensure they are secured at an interval of 4 ½ feet. Sagging exposes them to potential damage easily.
  • These cables are designed for permanent wiring in the houses and not as a substitute for extension cords or appliance wiring.

Here is a video giving more details on the Romex cables

YouTube video


How many conductors for 12/2 wire?

This 12 gauge wire will have two conductors running along with a bare ground wire. The hot wire will be insulated in black and white for neutral.

What material will be used in Romex cables?

Copper is the most common material used to make the Romex cables. This is because copper is a very good conductor of electricity.

Where best can you use the 12/2/2 Romex wire?

This type of cable works best for residential wiring for outlets, switches, and other types of loads. Other applications include wiring two separate circuits.

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