Cable Choice 2


Let us quickly clear a well known confusion of using wire and cable interchangeably: when you are referring to a single conductor whether coated or not, it is called WIRE. It is still also called wire if the conductor is more than one, but without insulation.


Once you have more than one conductor together and insulated (covered) for example, with PVC, then it is called CABLE.


Some of us who may have built a house before may have heard statements like “1mm” or “2.5mm” wire and so on from our local electricians. What they are actually saying for the 2 examples mentioned above are: 1mm2 (1 millimeter squared) and 2.5mm2 wire, which actually describes the cross-sectional area of the wire.



Cross-Sectional Area of Conductor

As seen above, we are concerned about how “thick” a wire is because, the current carrying capacity of a copper cable (and indeed all materials) is directly proportional to its cross-sectional area. In simple language, the thicker the wire the higher the current it can carry conveniently without endangering the life of the user.


The mm2 is the metric form of specifying cables, as commonly used in commonwealth; indeed there are others like AWG-American Wire Gauge, SWG- Imperial Standard Wire Gauge and so on. There are methods to convert from one form to the other, which is outside our scope. We shall continue with metric for this write-up.


The common types of copper wires available in Nigeria are noted in sizes as follows:

0.8 mm2 single core or stranded

1 mm2 single core or stranded

1.5 mm2 single core or stranded

2.5 mm2 single core or stranded

4 mm2 single core or stranded

6 mm2 single core or stranded

10 mm2 single core or stranded


And so on


For cables we have:

1.5 mm2 two (or 3, 4) core or stranded

2.5 mm2 two (or 3, 4) core or stranded

4 mm2 two (or 3, 4) core or stranded


And so on.


A number of factors, such as voltage drops, length, operating temperatures, fittings and appliances to be used, types of electrifications, whether conduit, halve conduit or surface and so on affects the choice of wires/cables recommended by the Engineer/Technician for a particular building under consideration.


There is however a general rule of the thumb that to get the current carrying capacity of a cable, you can just multiply the cross-sectional area by 4 for copper wire.


But to help readers get informed, I have used available catalogue from different sources, to form the table below, which is adequate to serve as a guide for all wires and cables, required for all equipment and appliances used in domestic buildings:



Cross-Sectional Area (mm2)

Current Carrying Capacity (Amps)





Lightning points




Lightning points, Ceiling fans and so on




Sockets for main house appliances such as TVs, stereo, fridges, freezers and so on




Small (1Airconditioners, small cookers, water heaters e.t.c




Water heaters/Cookers




DOMESTIC Central air conditioners & Electric Cooker




If you use a lower rated wire or cable for appliances that consumes higher current, the copper will heat up, burn the PVC (insulator), which may lead to bridging of the wires and eventually fire.


This is the major cause of house fire/burning related to electricity.



We shall explore the types of wires and cables in the Nigerian market and learn how to identify fake and unsuitable cables for our use. We shall expose original “Nigerian Cables”


©Tunde Y. Salihu, 2017



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