This article will provide factual information about using speaker wires to deliver electrical power.
Electrical power is usually delivered through wires with a conductor inside, and a speaker wire is the same. So, if you think a speaker wire can also be used to deliver electrical power, you would be right, but there are some things you have to consider.
In general, you can use a speaker wire for power if you need to provide up to 12v, but it depends on the wire’s gauge. Thicker or thinner wire will allow greater or lesser current, respectively. If, for example, it is 14-gauge, it should not be used for more than 12 amps, and in this case, the appliance should not require more power than around 144 watts. Using it beyond this capacity could create a fire hazard.
Continue reading to learn more.
As the name suggests, speaker wires are designed to connect audio equipment, such as amplifiers, to speakers.
A speaker wire has two cores, as do two-core electrical wires. Also, like normal electrical wires, they are designed thick enough to handle the heat from power losses, but they carry current at much lower current and voltage values. For this reason, they don’t normally have much insulation. (1)
How Different are Speaker Wires?
Now that you know speaker wires are not very different from ordinary electrical wires used to deliver electricity, you might wonder how different they are.
The two types of wire are more or less the same. Both types have electrical conducting running through them and are wrapped in insulation. But there are some differences.
Speaker wire is typically thinner than electrical wire and has thinner or transparent insulation.
In short, speakers and normal electrical wires are essentially the same, so both can deliver electrical power.
Current, Voltage, and Power
Although you can use speaker wire for electrical power, there are certain considerations:
The wire’s thickness will determine how much current it can handle.
Generally, the thicker the wire, the greater the current that can pass through it, and vice versa. As long as the wire gauge is adequate for the current to flow through it without causing it to overheat and burn, you can use any electrically conductive wire.
Speaker wire may only be suitable to handle up to 12v, but that, too, depends on how thick it is.
|Warning!||It would be best if you did not use the speaker wire for the primary connection (120/240V). The speaker wire is usually too thin for this purpose. If you take the risk, the speaker wire will easily overheat and burn, which could create a fire.|
The best wires used for more than just speakers are wires with copper inside. This is due to their low resistance and good electrical conductance.
The formula determines the wattage or power that the speaker wire can handle:
power = current x voltage
The amount of power that a speaker wire can deliver thus depends on current and voltage. I mentioned above that a higher current (and thus power at the same voltage) requires a thicker/lower gauge wire. So a lower gauge wire (which will be thicker) is less susceptible to overheating and can, therefore, be used for greater electrical power.
How Much Power Can You Use Speaker Wire for?
We will need to do some calculations to know exactly how much power speaker wire can be used.
This is important if you want to use speaker wires for operating electrical appliances, to avoid the risk of high current and overheating. Firstly, let’s see how much current different gauge wires can handle.
As you can see, a typical 15 amp circuit, as used for lighting, requires a minimum 14-gauge wire. Using the formula given earlier (power = current x voltage), we can determine how much power a speaker wire can handle to carry current up to 12 amps. I specified 12 amps (not 15) because we should normally use no more than 80% of a wire’s amperage capacity.
Power = 12 amps x 12 volts = 144 watts
The calculation shows that for 12 volts and 12 amps, the wire can be used for up to 144 watts of power as long as the wire is at least 14 gauge.
Therefore, to know if the speaker wire can be used for a particular 12v device or appliance, check its power rating. As long as the wire is 14 gauge and the appliance consumes no more than 144 watts, it can be used safely.
What Types of Appliances Can You Use Speaker Wire for?
Having read this far, you already know that the type of appliance you can use a speaker wire for is typically low-voltage.
When I considered other essential things (current and wattage), I showed, as an example, that for a maximum of 12 amps, use 14 gauge wire, and ensure the appliance’s power rating is no more than 144 watts. With this in mind, you can usually use speaker wire for the following types of devices and appliances:
- Garage door opener
- Home security sensor
- Landscape Lighting
- Low-voltage/LED lighting
Why Use Speaker Wire for Running an Appliance?
I will now consider why you should even use speaker wire for running an appliance or device other than a speaker.
In other words, let’s consider its benefits and drawbacks. This section assumes you know the voltage, current, and power limitations already explained earlier.
Benefits of Using Speaker Wire
Speaker wires, typically thinner than normal electrical wires, are comparatively cheaper and more flexible.
So if cost is an issue, or you need greater flexibility to wire around objects and other obstacles, then you can use speaker wire.
Also, compared to normal electrical wires, speaker wires are typically less brittle and thus less susceptible to getting damaged.
Another benefit, because speaker wire would typically be used for low voltage/current devices, is that it can be expected to be safer. In other words, the risk of getting an electric shock is relatively smaller. That said, you should still handle the current-carrying speaker wire cautiously.
Drawbacks of Using Speaker Wire
The drawback of using speaker wire is that it is more limited than normal electrical wire.
Electrical wires are designed to support higher voltages and currents to deliver more watts, whereas speaker wires are made particularly for delivering sound signals. Speaker wires cannot be used for such high voltages and currents. As mentioned earlier, you risk burning the wire and causing a fire if you do that.
You will not be able to use speaker wires for any heavy-duty appliances. If you consider using speaker wires for devices and appliances requiring normal electrical wiring, forget about it.
With speaker wires, you are limited to low voltage and low current devices and applications requiring no more than 144 watts.
Take a look at some of our related articles below.
- How to connect speaker wire to wall plate
- What gauge speaker wire for subwoofer
- How to splice speaker wire
(1) Raven Biederman & Penny Pattison. Basic live sound reinforcement: A practical guide for starting live audio, p. 204. Taylor & Francis. 2013.
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