NEETS Module 4—Introduction to Electrical Conductors, Wiring Techniques, and Schematic Reading
Pages i  ix, 11 to 110,
111 to 120, 121 to 128,
21 to 210, 211 to 220,
221 to 230, 231 to 240,
241 to 253, 31 to 310,
311 to 320, 321 to 324, 41
to 410, 411 to 418, Index
CHAPTER 1
ELECTRICAL CONDUCTORS
LEARNING OBJECTIVES
Learning objectives are stated at the beginning of each chapter. These learning objectives serve as a
preview of the information you are expected to learn in the chapter. The comprehensive check questions are based
on the objectives. By successfully completing the OCCECC, you indicate that you have met the objectives and have
learned the information. The learning objectives are listed below. Upon completing this chapter, you
should be able to: 1. Recall the definitions of unit size, milfoot, square mil, and circular mil and
the mathematical equations and calculations for each. 2. Define specific resistance and recall the
three factors used to calculate it in ohms. 3. Describe the proper use of the American Wire Gauge when
making wire measurements. 4. Recall the factors required in selecting proper size wire. 5.
State the advantages and disadvantages of copper or aluminum as conductors. 6. Define insulation
resistance and dielectric strength including how the dielectric strength of an insulator is determined.
7. Identify the safety precautions to be taken when working with insulating materials. 8. Recall the
most common insulators used for extremely high voltages. 9. State the type of conductor protection
normally used for shipboard wiring. 10. Recall the design and use of coaxial cable.
ELECTRICAL CONDUCTORS
In the previous modules of this training series, you have learned about various circuit components.
These components provide the majority of the operating characteristics of any electrical circuit. They are
useless, however, if they are not connected together. Conductors are the means used to tie these components
together.
Many factors determine the type of electrical conductor used to connect components. Some of these factors are the
physical size of the conductor, its composition, and its electrical characteristics. Other factors that can
determine the choice of a conductor are the weight, the cost, and the environment where the conductor will be
used.
CONDUCTOR SIZES
To compare the resistance and size of one conductor with that of another, we need to establish a
standard or unit size. A convenient unit of measurement of the diameter of a conductor is the mil (0.001, or
onethousandth of an inch). A convenient unit of conductor length is the foot. The standard unit of size in most
cases is the MILFOOT. A wire will have a unit size if it has a diameter of 1 mil and a length of 1 foot.
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SQUARE MIL The square mil is a unit of measurement used to determine the
crosssectional area of a square or rectangular conductor (views A and B of figure 11). A square mil is defined
as the area of a square, the sides of which are each 1 mil. To obtain the crosssectional area of a square
conductor, multiply the dimension of any side of the square by itself. For example, assume that you have a square
conductor with a side dimension of 3 mils. Multiply 3 mils by itself (3 mils x 3 mils). This gives you a
crosssectional area of 9 square mils.
Figure 11.—Crosssectional areas of conductors.
Q1. State the reason for the establishment of a "unit size" for conductors.
Q2. Calculate the diameter in MILS of a conductor that has a diameter of 0.375 inch.
Q3. Define a milfoot.
To determine the crosssectional area of a rectangular conductor, multiply the
length times the width of the end face of the conductor (side is expressed in mils). For example, assume that one
side of the rectangular crosssectional area is 6 mils and the other side is 3 mils. Multiply 6 mils x 3 mils,
which equals 18 square mils. Here is another example. Assume that a conductor is 3/8 inch thick and 4 inches wide.
The 3/8 inch can be expressed in decimal form as 0.375 inch. Since 1 mil equals 0.001 inch, the thickness of the
conductor will be 0.001 x 0.375, or 375 mils. Since the width is 4 inches and there are 1,000 mils per inch, the
width will be 4 x 1,000, or 4,000 mils. To determine the crosssectional area, multiply the length by the width;
or 375 mils x 4,000 mils. The area will be 1,500,000 square mils. Q4. Define a square mil as it relates
to a square conductor.
CIRCULAR MIL The circular mil is the standard unit of
measurement of a round wire crosssectional area (view C of figure 11). This unit of measurement is found in
American and English wire tables. The diameter of a round conductor (wire) used to conduct electricity may be only
a fraction of an inch. Therefore, it is convenient to express this diameter in mils to avoid using decimals. For
example, the diameter of a wire is expressed as 25 mils instead of 0.025 inch. A circular mil is the area of a
circle having a diameter of 1 mil, as shown in view B of figure 12. The area in circular mils of a round
conductor is obtained by squaring the diameter, measured in mils. Thus, a wire having a diameter of 25 mils has an
area of 25^{2}, or 625 circular mils. To determine the number of square mils in the same conductor, apply
the conventional formula for determining the area of a circle (A = πr^{2}).
In this formula, A (area) is the unknown and is equal to the crosssectional area in square mils, p is the
constant 3.14, and r is the radius of the circle, or half the diameter (D). Through substitution, A = 3.14, and
(12.5)^{2}; therefore, 3.14 x 156.25 = 490.625
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square mils. The crosssectional area of the wire has 625 circular mils but only 490.625 square mils.
Therefore, a circular mil represents a smaller unit of area than the square mil.
Figure 12.—A comparison of circular and square mils.
If a wire has a crosssectional diameter of 1 mil, by definition, the circular mil area (CMA) is A =
D^{2}, or A = 1^{2}, or A = 1 circular mil. To determine the square mil area of the same wire,
apply the formula A = πr^{2}; therefore, A = 3.14 x (.5)^{2}
(.5 representing half the diameter). When A = 3.14 x .25, A = .7854 square mil. From this, it can be concluded
that 1 circular mil is equal to. 7854 square mil. This becomes important when square (view A of figure 12) and
round (view B) conductors are compared as in view C of figure 12. When the square mil area is given,
divide the area by 0.7854 to determine the circular mil area, or CMA. When the CMA is given, multiply the area by
0.7854 to determine the square mil area. For example, Problem: A 12gauge wire has a diameter of 80.81
mils. What is (1) its area in circular mils and (2) its area in square mils?
Solution
(1) A = D^{2} = 80.81^{2} = 6,530 circular mils
(2) A = 0.7854 x 6,530 = 5,128.7 square mils
Problem: A rectangular conductor is 1.5 inches wide and 0.25 inch thick. What is (1) its area in square
mils and (2) in circular mils? What size of round conductor is necessary to carry the same current as the
rectangular bar?
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Solution
(1) 1.5 inches = 1.5 inches x 1,000 mils per inch = 1,500 mils
0.25 inch = 0.25 inch x 1,000 mils per inch = 250 mils
A = 1,500 x 250 = 375,000 square mils
(2) To carry the same current, the crosssectional area of the round conductor must be equal.
There are more circular mils than square mils in this area. Therefore:
A wire in its usual form is a single slender rod or filament of drawn metal. In large sizes, wire
becomes difficult to handle. To increase its flexibility, it is stranded. Strands are usually single wires twisted
together in sufficient numbers to make up the necessary crosssectional area of the cable. The total area of
stranded wire in circular mils is determined by multiplying the area in circular mils of one strand by the number
of strands in the cable. Q5. Define a circular mil. Q6. What is the circular mil area of a
19strand conductor if each strand is 0.004 inch? CIRCULARMILFOOT
A circularmilfoot (figure 13) is a unit of volume. It is a unit conductor 1 foot in length and has a
crosssectional area of 1 circular mil. Because it is a unit conductor, the circularmilfoot is useful in making
comparisons between wires consisting of different metals. For example, a basis of comparison of the RESISTIVITY
(to be discussed shortly) of various substances may be made by determining the resistance of a circularmilfoot
of each of the substances.
Figure 13.—Circularmilfoot.
In working with square or rectangular conductors, such as ammeter shunts and bus bars, you may sometimes
find it more convenient to use a different unit volume. A bus bar is a heavy copper strap or bar used to connect
several circuits together. Bus bars are used when a large current capacity is required. Unit volume may be
measured as the centimeter cube. Specific resistance, therefore, becomes the resistance
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offered by a cubeshaped conductor 1centimeter in length and 1 square centimeter in crosssectional
area. The unit of volume to be used is given in tables of specific resistances.
SPECIFIC RESISTANCE OR RESISTIVITY
Specific resistance, or resistivity, is the resistance in ohms offered by a unit volume (the
circularmil foot or the centimeter cube) of a substance to the flow of electric current. Resistivity is the
reciprocal of conductivity. A substance that has a high resistivity will have a low conductivity, and vice versa.
Thus, the specific resistance of a substance is the resistance of a unit volume of that substance. Many
tables of specific resistance are based on the resistance in ohms of a volume of a substance 1 foot in length and
1 circular mil in crosssectional area. The temperature at which the resistance measurement is made is also
specified. If you know the kind of metal a conductor is made of, you can obtain the specific resistance of the
metal from a table. The specific resistances of some common substances are given in table 11.
Table 11.—Specific Resistances of Common Substances
The resistance of a conductor of a uniform cross section varies directly as the product of the length
and the specific resistance of the conductor, and inversely as the crosssectional area of the conductor.
Therefore, you can calculate the resistance of a conductor if you know the length, crosssectional area, and
specific resistance of the substance. Expressed as an equation, the "R" (resistance in ohms) of a conductor is
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Where:
ρ = (Greek rho) the specific resistance in ohms per circularmilfoot
(refer to table 11)
L = length in feet
A = the crosssectional area in circular mils
Problem: What is the resistance of 1,000 feet of copper wire having a crosssectional area of
10,400 circular mils (No. 10 wire) at a temperature of 20º C? Solution:
The specific resistance of
copper (table 11) is 10.37 ohms. Substituting the known values in the preceding equation, the resistance, R,
is determined as
Given: ρ = 10.37 ohms
L = 1,000 ft
A = 10,400 circular mils
Solution:
= 1 ohm (approximately)
If R, ρ, and A are known, the length (L) can be determined by a simple mathematical transposition. This
has many valuable applications. For example, when locating a ground in a telephone line, you will use special test
equipment. This equipment operates on the principle that the resistance of a line varies directly with its length.
Thus, the distance between the test point and a fault can be computed accurately. Q7. Define specific
resistance. Q8. List the three factors used to calculate resistance of a particular conductor in ohms.
WIRE SIZES The most common method for measuring wire size in the Navy is by
using the American Wire Gauge (AWG). An exception is aircraft wiring, which varies slightly in size and
flexibility from AWG standards. For information concerning aircraft wire sizes, refer to the proper publications
for specific aircraft. Only AWG wire sizes are used in the following discussion.
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Wire is manufactured in sizes numbered according to the AWG tables. The various wires (solid or
stranded) and the material they are made from (copper, aluminum, and so forth) are published by the National
Bureau of Standards. An AWG table for copper wire is shown at table 12. The wire diameters become smaller as the
gauge numbers become larger. Numbers are rounded off for convenience but are accurate for practical application.
The largest wire size shown in the table is 0000 (read "4 naught"), and the smallest is number 40. Larger and
smaller sizes are manufactured, but are not commonly used by the Navy. AWG tables show the diameter in mils,
circular mil area, and area in square inches of AWG wire sizes. They also show the resistance (ohms) per thousand
feet and per mile of wire sizes at specific temperatures. The last column shows the weight of the wire per
thousand feet. An example of the use of table 12 is as follows.
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Table 12.—Standard Solid Copper (American Wire Gauge)
Problem: You are required to run 2,000 feet of AWG 20 solid copper wire for a new piece of equipment.
The temperature where the wire is to be run is 25º C (77º F). How much resistance will the wire offer to current
flow?
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Solution: Under the gauge number column, find size AWG 20. Now read across the columns until you reach
the "ohms per 1,000 feet for 25º C (77º F)" column. You will find that the wire will offer 10.4 ohms of resistance
to current flow. Since we are using 2,000 feet of wire, multiply by 2. 10.4 ohms x 2 = 20.8
ohms An American Standard Wire Gauge (figure 14) is used to measure wires ranging in size from number 0
to number 36. To use this gauge, insert the wire to be measured into the smallest slot that will just accommodate
the bare wire. The gauge number on that slot indicates the wire size. The front part of the slot has parallel
sides, and this is where the wire measurement is taken. It should not be confused with the larger semicircular
opening at the rear of the slot. The rear opening simply permits the free movement of the wire all the way through
the slot.
Figure 14.—Wire gauge.
Q9. Using table 12, determine the resistance of 1,500 feet of AWG 20 wire at 25º C. Q10.
When using an American Standard Wire Gauge to determine the size of a wire, where should you place the wire in the
gauge to get the correct measurement? STRANDED WIRES AND CABLES A
wire is a single slender rod or filament of drawn metal. This definition restricts the term to what would
ordinarily be understood as "solid wire." The word "slender" is used because the length of a wire is usually large
when compared to its diameter. If a wire is covered with insulation, it is an insulated wire. Although the term
"wire" properly refers to the metal, it also includes the insulation.
A conductor is a wire suitable for carrying an electric current.
A stranded conductor is a conductor composed of a group of wires or of any
combination of groups of wires. The wires in a stranded conductor are usually twisted together and not insulated
from each other.
A cable is either a stranded conductor (singleconductor cable) or a
combination of conductors insulated from one another (multipleconductor cable). The term "cable" is a general one
and usually applies only to the larger sizes of conductors. A small cable is more often called a stranded wire or
cord (such as that used for an iron or a lamp cord). Cables may be bare or insulated. Insulated cables may be
sheathed (covered) with lead, or protective armor. Figure 15 shows different types of wire and cable used in the
Navy.
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Figure 15.—Conductors.
Conductors are stranded mainly to increase their flexibility. The wire strands in cables are arranged in
the following order: The first layer of strands around the center conductor is made up of six conductors.
The second layer is made up of 12 additional conductors. The third layer is made up of 18 additional conductors,
and so on. Thus, standard cables are composed of 7, 19, and 37 strands, in continuing fixed increments. The
overall flexibility can be increased by further stranding of the individual strands. Figure 16 shows a
typical cross section of a 37strand cable. It also shows how the total circularmil crosssectional area of a
stranded cable is determined.
Figure 16.—Stranded conductor.
110
Introduction to Matter, Energy, and Direct Current, Introduction
to Alternating Current and Transformers, Introduction to Circuit Protection,
Control, and Measurement, Introduction to Electrical Conductors, Wiring Techniques,
and Schematic Reading, Introduction to Generators and Motors,
Introduction to Electronic Emission, Tubes, and Power Supplies,
Introduction to SolidState Devices and Power Supplies,
Introduction to Amplifiers, Introduction to
WaveGeneration and WaveShaping Circuits, Introduction to Wave Propagation, Transmission
Lines, and Antennas, Microwave Principles,
Modulation Principles, Introduction to Number Systems and Logic Circuits, Introduction
to Microelectronics, Principles of Synchros, Servos, and Gyros,
Introduction to Test Equipment, RadioFrequency
Communications Principles, Radar Principles, The Technician's Handbook,
Master Glossary, Test Methods and Practices, Introduction to Digital Computers,
Magnetic Recording, Introduction to Fiber Optics
