What gauge wire for LED lights: understanding crucial aspects

What gauge wire for LED lights? In choosing the correct wire gauge for LED, ensuring optimal performance and safety is paramount.

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Factors influencing the choice

Several critical factors dictate the choice, influencing their performance and safety.

Wire size and wire ampacity

The wire size and wire ampacity play a pivotal role in determining the suitable gauge for an LED strip.

As electricity travels through a wire, it encounters resistance, which increases with the length of the wire.

Large wires lead to more resistance, causing a phenomenon known as voltage drop.

It can diminish the voltage reaching the LED light at the end of the circuit, potentially resulting in reduced brightness and compromised performance.

Therefore, considering the wire size that needs to be covered is essential for selecting an adequate gauge that minimizes VD and ensures a consistent power supply to the LED strip.

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Voltage rating and wattage requirements of the LEDs

LEDs come in various wattages and draw different amounts of current.

Higher-powered LED light requires more electrical current to operate efficiently.

Using a wire gauge that cannot handle the required current may lead to overheating or even failure of the wiring system.

Therefore, matching the wire gauge to the specific current and wattage requirements of the LED light is crucial for optimal performance and safety.

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Environmental conditions and wire insulation

Environmental factors, such as moisture, temperature variations, exposure to chemicals, or physical abrasion, can significantly impact the longevity and safety of the wire used for LED.

Selecting wire insulation designed to withstand the specific environmental conditions where the LEDs will be installed is crucial.

Before installation, always turn off the circuit breaker.

The right wire insulation ensures the durability, reliability, and safety of the LED system in various environmental settings.

Making a proper choice

To ensure optimal performance, selecting the right wire gauge for LEDs involves careful consideration of various factors.

Calculating VD and wire resistance

To select the right wire gauge for LEDs, understanding how to calculate voltage drop and wire resistance is essential.

Using formulas and tools available helps in choosing a gauge that minimizes resistance over the distance of the installation, ensuring optimal performance of the LEDs.

The formula used to determine voltage drop (VD) in a wire is: VD = I × R


  • I is the Current flowing through the wire (in amperes).
  • R denotes the Resistance of the wire (in ohms).

The resistance of the wire can be calculated using the formula: R = ρ * L / A


  • R stands for the Resistance of the wire (in ohms).
  • ρ symbolizes the Resistivity of the wire material (in ohm-meters).
  • L represents the Length of the wire (in meters).
  • A represents the Cross-sectional area of the wire (in square meters).

The cross-sectional area (A) of the wire can be calculated using the formula: A = π * (d / 2)^2


  • A denotes the Cross-sectional area of the wire (in square meters).
  • d represents the Diameter of the wire (in meters).

American wire gauge chart or tables

These resources provide guidelines and recommended gauges corresponding to specific current loads and distances, aiding in the selection of the appropriate wire size for the LED setup.

American wire gauge (AWG) chart:

  • AWG 20: Diameter – 0.032 inches, Max Current – 5.0 A
  • AWG 18: Diameter – 0.040 inches, Max Current – 7.0 A
  • AWG 16: Diameter – 0.051 inches, Max Current – 10.0 A
  • AWG 14: Diameter – 0.064 inches, Max Current – 15.0 A
  • AWG 12: Diameter – 0.081 inches, Max Current – 20.0 A
  • AWG 10: Diameter – 0.102 inches, Max Current – 30.0 A
  • AWG 8: Diameter – 0.128 inches, Max Current – 40.0 A
  • AWG 6: Diameter – 0.162 inches, Max Current – 55.0 A

VD reference:

  • For instance, AWG 20 wires might reach a 2% VD at approximately 125 feet, a 3% drop at 83 feet, and a 5% drop at 50 feet.
  • AWG 18 wires could experience a 2% VD at around 200 feet, a 3% drop at 133 feet, and a 5% drop at 80 feet.
  • Similar estimations for other variants guide the maximum wire lengths to achieve specific percentage voltage drops over the wire run.
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Considerations for various applications

Different applications necessitate specific considerations when choosing the gauge.

Don’t forget to switch off the circuit breaker before installation.

Factors such as environmental conditions, temperature variations, exposure to moisture, and the potential for physical wear and tear vary across applications.

Indoor lighting:

  • Dimming capability: consider compatibility with dimmer switches for adjustable indoor lighting ambiance.
  • Color rendering index (CRI): ensure high CRI for accurate color representation in indoor spaces like homes or offices.
  • Fixture design: opt for sleek and aesthetically pleasing fixtures suitable for indoor decor.

Outdoor lighting:

  • Waterproofing: choose LEDs with IP65 or higher ratings and plastic insulation for protection against water and weather elements.
  • Durability: prioritize durable plastic insulation materials of a plastic insulating jacket to withstand outdoor conditions like rain, UV exposure, and temperature variations.
  • Motion sensors: consider integrating motion sensors for security or energy-saving purposes in outdoor lighting setups.

Automotive lighting:

  • Heat resistance: select LEDs capable of withstanding high temperatures within automotive environments.
  • Vibration resistance: opt for LEDs designed to endure vehicle vibrations without compromising functionality.
  • Compliance with regulations: ensure LED lighting adheres to automotive industry standards and regulations for safety and performance.

Specialty applications:

  • Heat-resistant LEDs: for applications near heat sources or high-temperature environments such as ovens or industrial settings.
  • UV-resistant LEDs: choose UV-resistant LEDs for outdoor applications exposed to direct sunlight to prevent degradation.
  • Hazardous locations: use LEDs designed for hazardous locations, meeting safety requirements for places with combustible gases, vapors, or dust.

Architectural or decorative lighting:

  • Flexibility: consider flexible LED strips or tapes for intricate designs or curvilinear applications with remote control options for a light switch.
  • Color options: opt for RGB (Red, Green, Blue) LEDs for customizable lighting hues in architectural designs.
  • Uniform illumination: ensure even and uniform light distribution for consistent illumination in decorative lighting setups.

Task lighting:

  • Adjustable fixtures: consider adjustable fixtures or spotlights to focus light on specific tasks or areas.
  • Brightness levels: choose LEDs with variable brightness settings to cater to different task requirements.
  • Glare reduction: use diffusers or fixtures that minimize glare for comfortable task lighting, especially in work environments.
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Recommended options for different setups

Selecting the proper gauge varies depending on the LED light setup.

Low-voltage lighting strips and small wire

For a low-voltage system and smaller cable (sheathed wire bundles), where the current requirements are typically lower:

  • Recommended wire gauge: AWG 20 or AWG 18
  • Reasoning: these thinner wire gauges offer ample conductivity for low-voltage and small wire setups without experiencing excessive voltage drop over shorter distances. They’re suitable for small wire applications where space is limited and flexibility in wire routing is essential.

High-power LED arrays or large wires

High-power LED arrays or installations covering longer wire runs generally demand thicker wire gauges:

  • Recommended wire gauge: AWG 14 or AWG 12
  • Reasoning: thicker wire gauges like AWG 14 or 12 accommodate higher current requirements, minimizing voltage drop concerns over extended distances. They’re well-suited for applications where higher power demands or longer wire runs are necessary, ensuring efficient power delivery and reduced loss of voltage along the wire length.


Selecting the correct wire gauge tailored to specific LED lighting needs ensures optimal performance, longevity, and safety of the lighting system.


Is 14 gauge wire good for LED lights?

Yes, 14 gauge wire is suitable for high-power LED arrays or longer wire runs.

Can I use 20 gauge wire for LED lights?

Yes, 20 gauge wire is appropriate for low-voltage strips and small installations.

What gauge wire for LED can lights?

For LED can lights, consider using 14 or 12 gauge wire based on power requirements and wire length.

What size wire for 12V LED lights?

Wire sizes like 18 or 20 gauge are typically suitable for 12V LEDs, depending on the current demands and installation distance.

What is a solid core wire?

A solid core wire refers to an electrical wire constructed with a single solid conductor, typically copper. In solid core wires, the conducting material is a single strand without any individual strands or bundles within the solid core wire. Solid core wires are often stiffer and less flexible compared to a stranded wire.

What color cover means ground wire?

In wire color coding, there is a ground wire inside if it is yellow/green or has a yellow cover. Black wire color coding means live or hot wire. White – neutral wire (but even neutral wire can pass electricity!).

What is a stranded wire?

A stranded wire is an electrical wire constructed by twisting or weaving together multiple smaller strands of metal.