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Understanding AWG – Did You Know #5

AWG… you hear this word a lot in our industry but
Did You Know?

Conductive AWG

AWG stands for American Wire Gauge, an index system widely used in North America that specifies the diameter, electrical resistance, and measurement of electrical wires.

Is it ‘Gauge’ or ‘AWG’?

They’re actually are the same – in writing it’s known as AWG and verbally it’s called gauge.

Developed in the United States, AWG is also called Brown & Sharpe Wire Gauge and has been used since the mid-1800s to indicate a wire’s current carrying ratings. AWG measurements are based on the wire conductor alone without the insulation.

AWG sizing is may not be intuitive to understand at first. The bigger the AWG size (number), the smaller the conductor is. For example, a 22 AWG wire is smaller and thinner than an 18 AWG wire.

Gauge Measurement

Image: Acklands Grainger

AWG size corresponds to the electrical resistance of the wire. Thicker wires have less resistance because there are more electrons running along it and can carry more current through a longer distance. AWG sizes range from 0000 or 4/0 (thickest) to 40 (thinnest).

The term ‘gauge’ references wires that are up to 1 AWG. The term ‘aught’ refers to wires that are 1/0 AWG or larger, with the “/0” part being called aught. For example, 1/0 AWG (0) is called “one aught” and 2/0 AWG (00) is called “two aught.”

How Does This Affect Stranded Conductors?

For stranded conductors, gauge sizes are usually higher due to smaller individual wire conductor diameters which make cable more flexible during applications. Stranded conductors have larger diameters compared to solid conductors of the same gauge because of the inevitable small gap between each strand.

What Are Some Other Wire Measurement Systems?

Aside from AWG, there is also SWG and BWG, which have different numbering systems. SWG (Standard Wire Gauge) is a British wire measurement system also known as British Wire Gauge or Imperial Wire Gauge. Neither AWG nor SWG are based on the metric system. BWG (Birmingham Wire Gauge) is an old British wire measurement system that was once widely used throughout the world and is the predecessor of SWG.

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