Welding is a profession in which safety is paramount. For the safest work conditions, you need the best tools, and that means you need a good Welding Cable. Low-quality or ill-fit cables for the job can lead not only to unsafe work conditions, but also to botched jobs that will impact your paycheck and your work week. Thankfully, getting the right cable isn’t too hard, as long as you keep a few key factors in mind when shopping for welding cable.
Determining the strength of the electrical current you’ll be using on a job site is a very important first step. Once you’ve got a range for the currents you will need, you can begin to shop for a welding cable based on its ampacity rating. Ampacity stands for “ampere capacity,” and the rating of various cables will narrow down your list of options considerably. This is probably the most vital of all of the factors to consider, since you absolutely cannot safely run higher currents through wires that aren’t built to handle it.
The grade of insulation of a cable is also a determining factor on which cable you choose. If your work environment is low-hazard, you might be fine with a more thinly insulated cable. However, if there is significant risk of moisture, chemicals, oils, or heat in your work environment, you will need to choose a cable with a strong insulation layer that is rated to be resistant to the hazards of your workplace. This is especially important when welding in marine and garage environments, where oil and moisture are commonplace. Both salt water and oil can erode standard grade insulation and lead to dangerous workplace conditions and tool failure.
You will no doubt need flexible cables if you are going to be working in tight spaces or at challenging angles. The downside of cable flexibility is that it is affected by both the insulation and the thickness of cable (which often determines ampacity). If you will be working in cramped spaces and have a need for flexibility of your cable, make sure you balance this carefully with your ampacity and insulation needs. Flexible, insulated cable does exist, but it might come with a higher price tag, so make sure you prepare for that possibility.
Length of cable is another factor that plays against other important factors. The longer a cable is, the more resistance it will have. Therefore, longer cables have functionally lower ampacity. Don’t underestimate this factor; while it might be unnoticeable when switching between cable lengths of a few feet, it can have major effects over greater distances. Large projects using central generators that will be far from the site of the actual welding will especially need to be careful with such things.
5. Strand Count
You might have come across this factor while researching cable flexibility, but it deserves its own section for a couple of reasons. Strand count refers to the number of individual copper strands that make up the interior of the cable. This is very different from gauge, which we will explore below. Strand count has a very high effect on the flexibility of a cable, and if you are in need of particularly flexible cables with high ampacity ratings, you will most certainly want to search for high strand count cables. A word of warning, however: high strand count will increase the cost of a cable significantly, as the manufacture of high strand count cables is more complicated than lower strand counts.
The gauge of a wire is the most impactful factor on a cable’s ampacity. Because of this fact, though, it means you’re least likely to encounter gauge when shopping for ampacity because the ampacity rating will factor in gauge as a part of the score. That said, there are still times in which knowing the gauge is incredibly important. Certain tools will have demand for specific gauges, and if your welding torch is limited to certain gauge types, you’ll need to factor that in. Gauge can also be important if you are ordering cables directly from the warehouse, where ampacity ratings might not be as easily checked. Knowing the gauge of the cable, the length you’ll need, and the insulation types will let you decide for yourself which cable is right for the job.
With these factors in mind, you’re ready to buy your welding cable. It’s quite possible that, after going through this list, you’ve determined a need for multiple types of cable. It is not a bad thing to need multiple types. In fact, it is often advisable to keep various types on hand, that way you are ready to complete the job safely and well!
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