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Why Use Tinned Copper Wire?

If you’re in the market for copper wire, you’ve probably noticed a lot of ads or shops carrying tinned copper wire. So what exactly is the benefit of tinned wire as opposed to bare copper cable or nickel plated wire? To best understand that, let’s consider the properties of your regular bare 12 gauge copper wires.

Bare Copper Wires vs. Tinned Wires

Copper itself is a great metal choice when it comes to electrical engineering. Everything from your car to your house, even city lights finds its current running through a copper wire or cable. Copper has a great conductivity (second only to silver,) a durable tensile strength and is easy to machine into wire and other specialty wire and cables. For these reasons, copper finds itself being used to create many alloys that are used for electrical work or for machining such as brassnickel, silver or bronze.

However, even with the fairly high resistance to corrosion that copper has, wet environments or other places with high humidity find things like 12 gauge bare copper wire corroding and losing performance. So items such as solar panels or marine motors can quickly find their bare copper wires sporting some damage.

That’s where tinned wire comes into play. Tin plating helps to make a sort of specialty wire & cable. Where many plated wires, such as gold or nickel plated wires can be more for cosmetic purposes such as in jewelry wire wrapping, tin is a much more practical choice.

Benefits of tinned wire

Tin is a useful plating for copper because it not only helps to boost copper’s properties, it also helps the wire to last much longer than it would normally. In fact, a 12 gauge tin coated copper wire can last up to ten times longer than a similar 12 gauge bare copper wire.

As tin resists corrosion and doesn’t oxidize the plating helps to protect the copper underneath. This wards off additional wear and tear that would detract years off the life of a bare copper cable. This is especially so in instances where the operating temperatures of the wire exceed 100 degrees Celsius. At higher temperatures, the corrosion resistance of copper declines, making a tin coating valuable for protecting the wire in this state. It is also highly desirable for any marine electronics, and tinned copper is infamous for its uses in marine technologies.

Tinned wires are also desirable for soldering as they make connections and soldering an easy task given tin is a primary component in solder. Tin also helps to strengthen the copper wire underneath, making it more resilient to breakage or lost connections while also boosting coppers conductivity.

So while tinned copper wire is more expensive than bare copper wire, it is often considered to be a much more prudent expenditure in the long run. Given that simple tin plating can drastically increase the life of copper, as well as ensure its effectiveness in high humidity areas, it pays for itself with strong performance and a lot less maintenance.