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Author Topic: Type W versus Welder cable for distro  (Read 3061 times)

Neil Sakaitis

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Type W versus Welder cable for distro
« on: October 05, 2015, 05:22:34 pm »

Couple of points to make about this question/post.

1) I have read up on both Type W and Welder cable, and their properties. Both cables seem similar in spec (voltage, material, etc)
2) I have a 16 circuit breaker distro that was designed for me to work on single phase 220v.
3) This is used once a year for a huge outdoor Halloween Haunt (pro)

I simply route the cabling from my garage across my basement to my electrical panel, and tap the distro onto a 125A breaker. Nobody is walking in my basement during the show, electrical cable run is safe.

Having said all that, I have an electrician in the family that had ordered me some #2 wire 10 years ago to use with cams to my distro. I hate using the hard copper wire, not easy to work with, since he is an electrician, he ordered what he typically uses in his daily work.

I was looking for the soft copper flexible wire. So now 10 years later, after struggling with this thick wire in the panel, I decided to move to soft stranded copper. I noticed there are 3 options to go with, all work, with various associated costs.

1) Welder cable - by far the more affordable solution with similar specs as the other 2
2) Type W cable - standard all-around cable
3) Type SC cable - entertainment industry standard, overkill for what I need it for

I went ahead and ordered Welder cable, and was assured by my electrician family member that Welder and Type W will have similar properties and will fit the bill as an electrical feeder to my temporary distro in the garage.

Your thoughts around this ?? Without getting into specifics about my particular setup, is there any arguements why NOT to use Welder cable as a feeder distro cable, assuming this cable will not see grease, water, walked or driven across, etc.... You can also safely assume that the ampacity was calculated to get the right wire guage for the job.

Thanks
Neil
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Doug Fowler

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Re: Type W versus Welder cable for distro
« Reply #1 on: October 05, 2015, 05:27:01 pm »

Read the rules,fix your display name.

Thank you for your cooperation. 
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Alex Donkle

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Re: Type W versus Welder cable for distro
« Reply #2 on: October 06, 2015, 04:45:53 am »

Welding cable has been banned from the use you're describing since the 1980's. The insulation rating of the wire is based on a duty cycle under 100% (which is fine for welders, however not for supplying power to equipment).

Google "1984 Olympics Welding Cable" and you'll find many articles discussing this issue and it's history.

Also, aside from being dangerous keep in mind that if there was ever an accident related to the electrical power, the insurance company could likely cite the unsafe cable type being used as a reason to deny a claim.
« Last Edit: October 06, 2015, 04:51:58 am by Alex Donkle »
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Stephen Swaffer

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Re: Type W versus Welder cable for distro
« Reply #3 on: October 06, 2015, 06:48:14 am »

Aside from the thought that if you have been doing this every year for 10 years and intend to keep doing so, it would seem to me a better investment would be some conduit and a little time, then you could just switch it on, I think you will find the fine stranding that makes the wire easier to handle more of a pain to install than the stranding on THHN.  I have worked with both quite a bit and I wouldn't want to try and get all the strands into a breaker in a tight panel.
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Tim McCulloch

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Re: Type W versus Welder cable for distro
« Reply #4 on: October 06, 2015, 11:36:19 am »

There are significant differences between SC and Welding cable, to start with welding cable has a different outer jacket (SC is double-jacketed, among other things) composition that makes it suitable for extra-hard service.  Welding cable is not rated for extra-hard service, and that is a requirement of the National Electrical Code.

The 2 primary relevant Articles in the Code are 520 and 525.  You can look them up at your local public library or do a search for "codes on line" to find the NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) site that allows free access.

For use exclusively indoors our work comes under Article 520; if any portion of our work is outdoors then 525 applies to those materials and methods used outside.  Pay attention for the words "feeders" and "portable switchboards."  Article 640 provides some minor exemptions from  Chapters 2, 3 & 4 and certain applications of our work may apply to other "occupancies" within other parts of the Code.

In a realistic sense you could probably do whatever the heck you want and if there is no fire or dying people nobody will know.  If there's a problem, though, you're on the hook for the personal liability of disregarding the Code and not appropriately using Listed materials and Code-required methods. Codes exist because doing stuff contrary to them has caused loss of life and significant property damage in the past and insurers and local/state governments have a problem with those things.

To recap: Welding cable is NEVER suitable for use as feeder.  Never.  No matter what you might personally think of its suitability...  At the performing arts center and the arenas I work in as an entertainment electrician we are not allowed to tap power with welding cable nor are we allowed to energize any production company feeders that use welding cable in whole or part.
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Neil Sakaitis

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Re: Type W versus Welder cable for distro
« Reply #5 on: October 06, 2015, 03:14:54 pm »

Thanks to everyone for their feedback !!! In order to better sleep at night, I cancelled my welder cable order and asked for SC cable instead. Since the welder cable was already cut to length X 4, I will have to pay a $150 re-stocking fee, but at least I am not on the hook for the entire bill. So expensive lesson to me (I seem to have a lot of those). The small good news is that I only needed a #4 and the supplier had none left, so am getting a #2 for the same price. So at least my re-stocking money is getting me a bigger wire (even though I won't need it or use it). My show typically pulls about 70-80 amps, and my feeder cables connect to a 125A breaker.

Even though this will only be used for about 8 hours across 2 nights for a Pro Halloween Haunt at home (I use a lot of concert type gear and special effects), I still want to be sure that I am not worried that my cables are frying down in my carpeted basement leading to the electrical panel. So SC cable it is !!!

Now, another question for you experienced guys in the business. When adding Cams to a soft SC (or W) cable, you have to wrap a copper foil around the cable first, then slip on the cam and tighten the lug. My guess is that the copper foil keeps the strands together when tightening the lug and distributes the connection evenly.

Would you recommend doing the same thing on the breaker side, meaning wrapping the wire in the copper foil first, and then inserting the copper foil end into the breaker??? My worry is that if pulled, the wire might pull out from the copper foil rolled around it. I am guessing this is why there is a retainer wire used with the cams, to prevent this from happening.

To play it safe (and to code), will connect the SC cable straight into the breaker, and hope the connection is solid enough. Obviously, as someone mentioned on here, it is easier to get a tighter breaker connection with THHN compared to SC or W, so will try it out. But thought I would ask about the copper foil method used with cams, to see if that would fly on the panel side as well.

Thanks

« Last Edit: October 06, 2015, 03:17:46 pm by Neil Sakaitis »
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Tim McCulloch

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Re: Type W versus Welder cable for distro
« Reply #6 on: October 06, 2015, 03:59:04 pm »

Thanks to everyone for their feedback !!! In order to better sleep at night, I cancelled my welder cable order and asked for SC cable instead. Since the welder cable was already cut to length X 4, I will have to pay a $150 re-stocking fee, but at least I am not on the hook for the entire bill. So expensive lesson to me (I seem to have a lot of those). The small good news is that I only needed a #4 and the supplier had none left, so am getting a #2 for the same price. So at least my re-stocking money is getting me a bigger wire (even though I won't need it or use it). My show typically pulls about 70-80 amps, and my feeder cables connect to a 125A breaker.

Even though this will only be used for about 8 hours across 2 nights for a Pro Halloween Haunt at home (I use a lot of concert type gear and special effects), I still want to be sure that I am not worried that my cables are frying down in my carpeted basement leading to the electrical panel. So SC cable it is !!!

Now, another question for you experienced guys in the business. When adding Cams to a soft SC (or W) cable, you have to wrap a copper foil around the cable first, then slip on the cam and tighten the lug. My guess is that the copper foil keeps the strands together when tightening the lug and distributes the connection evenly.

Would you recommend doing the same thing on the breaker side, meaning wrapping the wire in the copper foil first, and then inserting the copper foil end into the breaker??? My worry is that if pulled, the wire might pull out from the copper foil rolled around it. I am guessing this is why there is a retainer wire used with the cams, to prevent this from happening.

To play it safe (and to code), will connect the SC cable straight into the breaker, and hope the connection is solid enough. Obviously, as someone mentioned on here, it is easier to get a tighter breaker connection with THHN compared to SC or W, so will try it out. But thought I would ask about the copper foil method used with cams, to see if that would fly on the panel side as well.

Thanks

I will defer to the commercial electricians that post here if I'm wrong, but I believe a copper foil wrap is NOT used on circuit breakers terminations.
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"Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven's sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possible can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something."  - Kurt Vonnegut

David Haulman

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Re: Type W versus Welder cable for distro
« Reply #7 on: October 07, 2015, 04:14:58 pm »

Thanks to everyone for their feedback !!! In order to better sleep at night, I cancelled my welder cable order and asked for SC cable instead. Since the welder cable was already cut to length X 4, I will have to pay a $150 re-stocking fee, but at least I am not on the hook for the entire bill. So expensive lesson to me (I seem to have a lot of those). The small good news is that I only needed a #4 and the supplier had none left, so am getting a #2 for the same price. So at least my re-stocking money is getting me a bigger wire (even though I won't need it or use it). My show typically pulls about 70-80 amps, and my feeder cables connect to a 125A breaker.
 
PLEASE do not use the copper wrap on the wire for the breaker connection. The breaker should have plenty of room for bare wire termination to feed your cams.
Even though this will only be used for about 8 hours across 2 nights for a Pro Halloween Haunt at home (I use a lot of concert type gear and special effects), I still want to be sure that I am not worried that my cables are frying down in my carpeted basement leading to the electrical panel. So SC cable it is !!!

Now, another question for you experienced guys in the business. When adding Cams to a soft SC (or W) cable, you have to wrap a copper foil around the cable first, then slip on the cam and tighten the lug. My guess is that the copper foil keeps the strands together when tightening the lug and distributes the connection evenly.

Would you recommend doing the same thing on the breaker side, meaning wrapping the wire in the copper foil first, and then inserting the copper foil end into the breaker??? My worry is that if pulled, the wire might pull out from the copper foil rolled around it. I am guessing this is why there is a retainer wire used with the cams, to prevent this from happening.

To play it safe (and to code), will connect the SC cable straight into the breaker, and hope the connection is solid enough. Obviously, as someone mentioned on here, it is easier to get a tighter breaker connection with THHN compared to SC or W, so will try it out. But thought I would ask about the copper foil method used with cams, to see if that would fly on the panel side as well.

Thanks
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Re: Type W versus Welder cable for distro
« Reply #7 on: October 07, 2015, 04:14:58 pm »


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