There are several key aspects of wire & cable that make the difference between an AV system that performs to spec vs. one that doesn’t (or worse yet, leaves you vulnerable to fire damage). Here’s what you need to know:
The Cable Jacket and Fire Safety
The jacket is made of plastic compounds intended to protect the conductors, make wire-pulling easy, and meet safety standards. The most important wire & cable spec is the flame-rating, for which standards have been set. Manufacturers must observe them because should a fire occur, once it reaches a cable located in a wall or ceiling, the cable may act as an accelerant and a pathway for the fire to move faster through the structure. A properly flame-tested cable will minimize flame travel on the cable.
So how do you know if a cable meets flame-testing?
Easy, look for safety certifications such as UL-listed. Certified cables from a globally recognized agency such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL) will be designated on the jacket with markings and ratings. Additionally, on the bulk wire carton, the UL logo will be supported by a holographic sticker. You can check to see if a product is UL-certified at the UL Website.
If you notice a UL logo printed on a box that is NOT accompanied by the holographic sticker, you should NOT trust the cable as safe.
Download the Free CCCA Cable Check Mobile App
The Communications Cable and Connectivity Association (CCCA) -- an industry watchdog and standards group -- has developed a free downloadable app for iOS or Android devices that also allows you to check a cable’s UL file number. It also explains in detail how to spot fraudulent UL labels. Here is an overview of the App
Copper and Conductors: Two Key Performance Factors
Copper is the other primary material used in cables.
It plays a key role in determining quality and performance. The smaller the cable gauge number (for example 14AWG over 16AWG), the larger the conductors, therefore performance is improved especially over distance and in support of Ohm’s Law.
Another critical spec is the size of the conductors. For example, in CAT5E cable, there are eight conductors twisted in four pairs. In order to properly meet spec, each conductor must be of a minimum diameter of .51mm. If they are not of this size, the cable will not perform as expected. Unfortunately, it is common for manufacturers looking to cut corners to “copper shave” which in turn reduces the size of the conductors by 20% or more. This saves a lot of money in manufacturing, and is not visible to the naked eye, but will always become a problem for cable performance.
How Can You Find Out About Copper and Conductors?
Check the manufacturer’s spec sheets to see if they discuss construction and specifications of their cables. If they do and they educate about proper copper specs, that’s a good sign. If they do not, that’s a bad sign.
Whether you are visiting our website (www.icecable.com), looking at our brochures, or talking with us - safety, performance and premium is always part of our company’s narrative.
As always, feel free to email me questions about wire & cable at firstname.lastname@example.org
In 2004 Brian Rizzo founded ICE Cable Systems, based in Los Angeles, California where he lives today, operating as the company’s CEO.
Brian is passionate about the importance of premium and safety-certified wire & cable and travels the world visiting with dealers and distributors to spread this message.
Brian holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Telecommunications from the University of Florida. He also speaks Chinese, which greatly benefits his time spent in Asia working with manufacturing facilities.
In his off-time, Brian enjoys rebuilding loudspeakers, playing tennis, bicycling and lifting weights.