Electrical Cable Definition

An electrical cable (also known as a power cable) is a cable used to carry electrical power.


Electrical cables consist of at least two conductors and typically have an outer covering or sheath. For cables carrying higher voltages, the conductors within the cable may themselves be encased in a protective shield.


Electrical cables are made from a variety of materials. Insulation and sheathing for many cables consist of synthetic polymer. Conductors are made of metal wiring, most commonly copper.


NM (non-metallic sheathed) cables are the most common types of cables found in homes and are characterized by polymer sheathing. NM cables come in a range of sizes. "Armored cable" consists of an aluminum sheath that encases the conductors. TECK cable, used in many industrial electrical applications, consists of an added layer of sheathing.


Electrical cable sizes are expressed by gauge (a smaller number indicates a larger size), and the most common gauge for electrical cabling used in residential buildings is 12-2. Many large household appliances use electrical cables in the 6 to 8 gauge range.

Fun Fact

The first practical use of an "insulated conductor" transmitting electricity is believed to have occurred in 1812, when it was used to detonate a mine under the Neva River in St. Petersburg, Russia.