You may have noticed that speaker wire looks eerily similar to electrical wire. Therefore, can you use speaker wire to power electrical equipment, devices, and appliances? Also, how much power can they handle? Specifically, can they handle 12v power?
You can definitely use speaker wire for 12v power. The only factor to consider is the wire gauge. Various gauges will allow for higher or lower amperage, which, when multiplied with volts (in our case 12v), will give you the electrical load (watts) that the electrical device or appliance should be.
If you want to know if the reels of speaker wire you have stacked up in the garage can be substituted for electrical wire, then this article is going to make you smile.
We will take a look at speaker wire in detail, going over wire gauge and how it relates to amperage. Then we’ll combine it all, helping you to figure out if 12v can be run through speaker wire and what else you can use it for.
Can I use speaker wire for 12v power?
The short answer is yes, and the long answer is that it will depend on a few factors. In the early days, at the invent of home audio equipment, standard electrical wire (that would connect up your lamp) was used to connect up your speakers to your amplifier.
Table lamps, ceiling fixtures, and the sort are all line voltage. Electrical devices that have a transmitter will have low voltage (120 volts is converted to 12v); thus, you can essentially use “speaker wire” to run 12v power.
However, you need to understand that speaker wire and electrical wire, in general, come in various gauges, and some speaker wire is restricted to low-power low-amperage scenarios.
Is speaker wire different from electrical wire?
Speaker wire and electrical wire are pretty much the same things being made up of the same wire and insulation materials.
The only noticeable difference is that speaker wire will have transparent insulation while electrical wire will come in various colors (suited for remembering what wire is what). This also means that they can therefore be used mutually across various scenarios.
Considering wire gauge
A wire’s diameter is what we determine a wire’s gauge to be. The wire gauge will decide the amount of electrical current that the wire can safely carry. Wire gauge will also factor in electrical resistance and the weight of the wire. Wire sizes are determined by the American Wire Gauge system (AWG).
One thing to note is that the higher the wire gauge, the thinner the wire, and the thicker the wire, the lower the gauge.
Speaker wire is typically between 12 to 16 gauges which makes it relatively thin. So 16 gauge speaker wire will be used in most audio applications other than when the wire has to carry over a longer distance, then you would opt for 12 or 14 gauge.
I have written an additional article on this subject. You can find it here.
How much power through speaker wire?
Depending on the gauge of wire (in our case, speaker wire), it will handle a specific amount of power measured in watts. Watts are determined by amperage times voltage.
Watts = amerage x voltage
To make things easy to understand, think of a garden hose. The volume of water that flows through the hose is the amperage. The pressure of the water is the voltage.
Then we have the electrical load. The electrical load is the amount of wattage that will be consumed by the electrical devices you have plugged in and switched on.
Now the amount of power (electricity) that can safely travel through a circuit will be determined by the size of the wire (the wire gauge).
Thicker wires will be able to pass more amperage (current) safely than thinner wires without overheating.
|16 gauge||13 amps|
|14 gauge||15 amps|
|12 gauge||20 amps|
|10 gauge||30 amps|
|8 gauge||40 amps|
|6 gauge||50 amps|
Above is the amount that a typical electrical wire can handle, and as we know, speaker wire is, in fact, identical to electrical wire. Hence we can view the chart to see what type of amperage speaker wire that is between 12 gauge and 16 gauge can handle.
You are probably still wondering, well, can 12v power be run through speaker wire, and this is where we come to answer that question fully.
Your speaker wire will be able to run a 12v electrical current depending on the wire gauge. However, it will only be able to run electrical devices and appliances that equate to the appropriate watts when using our equation.
For example, if you have 16 gauge speaker wire and have 12 volts running through it, you will be able to run an electrical device that draws 156 watts of power.
Watts = amperage x volts
Looking at our equation, we can see that we have our volts (12), and we only need to figure out the amperage the speaker wire can handle based on its gauge (we use our chart for this).
16 gauge wire can handle 13 amps thus;
Watts = 13 x 12
Watts = 156
It is important to remember that electrical devices are measure in watts and will have them stated on the box or on the device itself. Therefore, it should be easy to determine if your speaker wire will be able to handle the electrical load based on the watts of the device, your 12v source, and your speaker wire gauge.
Check out this useful YouTube video on this subject.
What electrical devices can be connected with speaker wire?
As we now know, you can run 12v power through your speaker wire and the only factor to consider is the gauge of the speaker wire. The wire gauge will allow for a certain amount of electrical load to be carried across it based on the wattage of the electrical device.
We touched early on in this article about line voltage and low voltage. Line voltage is the standard voltage (120 volts) that is found in outlets and junction boxes, while low voltage has a transformer that lowers the voltage to 12 or 24 volts.
Thus, you can use speaker wire in low voltage applications around your house to provide power to devices and appliances such as thermostats, hard-wired smart-home devices, doorbells, garage door openers, home security sensors, and landscape lighting.
Always remember to take into consideration that the outlets in your house, if you live in the States, will be 120 volts, and in Europe, it is either 220 or 240 volts.
If you plan on using speaker wire to connect to a plug and then the wall socket directly, you will need to calculate the gauge of wire you will need in relation to the watts of the device; otherwise, the wire will overheat, can melt, and in some cases may even start a fire.
We discovered that speaker wire back in the day was actually lamp wire that people took and used for speakers. In fact, nowadays, there is still no difference between speaker wire and electrical wire.
This gave us some indication that speaker wire is able to carry current but to what degree? We considered speaker wire trying to handle a 12v current and found out that essentially it could handle a 12v current, but we also needed to consider a speaker wires gauge (the thickness of the wire).
The thickness of the wire (gauge) would allow the wire to carry a specific amount of amperage, and different thicknesses meant various amperage handling capabilities.
- Thin speaker wire can handle about 13 amps, while thick speaker wire can handle approximately 20 amps. Combined with our 12v power, we were able to deduce how many watts could be drawn (the electrical load).
Hence, pretty much any speaker wire can handle 12v power. The only factor to consider is that the wattage it will produce will change, and you will have to match that wattage with the electrical device you wish to use, with that speaker wire.