12/2 vs 14/2 Wire – What’s The Difference?

12/2 wire is thicker than 14/2 gauge wire. Thicker wire is better for higher amperage circuits. 12/2 wire is used for all types of electronics except lights (which run on 14/2 wire). 14/2 gauge wire is cheaper since it’s also thinner.

According to regulation in most areas 14/2 wire is subject to 200 amp limitations. A light fixture with more than 4 lights of 50amps isn’t allowed on this wire. These circuits are permitted with 15 amp breakers.

14/2 wire can only be used on 120V circuits (not allowed on 240V circuits).

20amp circuits are used in most walls for wall plugs and they required 12/2 wire. Demanding circuits such as those in the kitchen or the living room are typically made with this wire. All 12/2 wire circuits are protected by 20amp breakers.

Have you ever wondered what’s the difference between 12/2 wire and 14/2 wire?

What can 12/2 wire be used for?

12/2 wire uses 12 gauge wire. This thicker wire can be used for higher amp appliances such as

  • Kitchen appliances
  • Living room electronics

What can 14/2 wire be used for?

14/2 wire can be used for home circuits and light commercial use. It’s highly popular for light sources and some electricians combine it with 12/2 wire in new homes to save money on the project.

14/2 wire should normally be limited up to 80% of its capacity. This should equate to 1400-1600W. You should not try and save money by buying this wire just because it’s cheaper.

What’s the difference between a 12/2 wire and a 14/2 wire?

The size of the wire is the main difference between 12/2 and 14/2 wire. 12/2 is thicker and able to carry a higher amp. It’s recommended to carry up to 20 amp while thinner 14/2 wire is made to carry up to 15amp.

What does ‘2’ stand for in 12/2 and 14/2 wire?

‘2’ stands for the number of cables in a wire. There are 2 cables in 12/2 and 2 cables in 14/2 wire. If there would be 3 cables in these wires one of them would be the ground wire.

Can I combine 12/2 and 14/2 wires on the same circuit?

While you can technically combine 12/2 wire with 14/2 wire this can confuse the circuit. Future work on the circuit can become problematic and it’s best to label the wires and the breakers accordingly if you decide to go down this route.

A few main characteristics of 12/2 and 14/2 wire

12/2 wire is the main type of wire you can install in a house for most types of residences. It has a few main characteristics as follows.

  • Better at conducting electricity

12/2 wire is better at conducting electricity than 14/2 wire as explained above. This makes it more efficient and one of the top wires for a new home circuit.

  • Almost no current loss to the fixtures

There might be some loss between the service panel and the lights, TV, or fridge in your home with a 14/2 wire. This isn’t the case with 12/2 wire.

  • 12/2 wire needs larger junction boxes

Since it’s thicker, 12/2 wire also requires larger junction boxes. You might also need more junction boxes as local regulation limits the number of 12/2 wires you can use per junction box.

  • 14/2 wire is cheaper

14/2 wire is cheaper and easier to work with. You can find it at good prices and it’s also softer, particularly around corners. At the same time, you should not be aiming to save money on electric circuits in your home renovation or home build.


Can I use 14/2 wire for the LED lightroom?

Yes, you can put LED lights on 14/2 wire. Wattage or the amps the wire can handle are impacted by the number of lights you plan to connect. A typical 100W light occupies 0.11 amps (out of a total of 15amps the wire can take).

Can I use 12/3 wire for outlets?

12/3 wire are allowed for outlets. They need to be connected to the ground. If you plan to only use 2 of the 3 wires 12/3 comes with you can put the ground behind the outlet out of the way.

How many amps can 12/2 wire carry?

12/2 wire can carry 20 amps with breakers

How many amps can 14/2 wire carry?

14/2 wire can carry up to 20amps with a breaker.

How far can you run a 12/2 wire on a 20amp breaker?

A standard circuit of 12/2 wire is generally limited to 70 feet in length. You can add 1-2 lights on the circuit and 4-5 outlets. However, these outlets should not be used for large equipment or heavy electric machinery.