Insulated Wire, What’s Protecting Your Cable?

Kelly Benjamin
August 8, 2015

Insulated Wire, What’s Protecting Your Cable?

There are varieties of wires and cables as well as wire and cable insulations. Insulated wire or cable consists of a non-conductive material or some other kind of material that is resistant to an electric current. It surrounds and protects the wire and cable inside.

Dielectric is what is often referred to in radio frequency cables. Cable and wire insulation prevents the insulated wire’s current from coming into contact with other conductors. It preserves the wire material against environmental threats and resists electrical leakage. There are three major categories of wire insulation, each with a variety of styles within. These include plastic, fluoropolymers, and rubber.


Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)This is a fairly inexpensive and easy-to-use material. This type of wire insulation can be used in diverse applications. The temperature range is -55°C to 105°C and it is flame, moisture, and abrasion-resistant. PVC insulated wire holds up against gasoline, ozone, acids, and solvents and is safe for medical and food-related purposes as it is odorless, tasteless, and non-toxic.
Semi-Rigid PVC (SR-PVC)A form of PVC cable insulation, this is mainly used as primary insulation and is very abrasion resistant. Semi-rigid PVC is resistant to heat, water, acid, and alkali, as well as being flame-retardant.
Plenum Polyvinyl Chloride (Plenum PVC)Plenum PVC, yet another polyvinyl chloride wire insulation material, is great for use in building spaces behind dropped ceilings or raised floors, which are left open to allow for air circulation.
Polyethylene (PE) This wire insulation compound is used most on coaxial and low capacitance cables. It carries exemplary electric qualities, although it is flammable. Many times, this cable insulation is used in certain applications because it is affordable and can reduce the dielectric constant, making it an attractive option for cables requiring high-speed transmission. Polyethylene can also be cross-linked to produce high resistance to cracking, cut-through, soldering, and solvents. PE can be used in temperatures ranging anywhere from -65°C to 80°C. All densities of Polyethylene are stiff, hard, and inflexible. At Performance Wire and Cable, HMWPE is population insulation for our products.
Polypropylene (PP)Very similar to polyethylene, polypropylene has a wider temperature range of 30°C to 80°C. This wire insulation is used primarily within thin walls.
Polyurethane (PUR) From extremely low to very high temperatures, polyurethane is known for its extreme toughness, flexibility, and flex life. Because of the excellent ratings for chemical, water, and abrasion resistance, this material works well in retractile cord applications and can be a good option for salt-spray and low-temperature military purposes.
Chlorinated Polyethylene (CPE)Commonly found in power and control cables as well as industrial power plant applications, CPE cable insulation displays very good heat, oil, and weather resistance. More times than not, CPE serves as a lower cost and more environmentally friendly alternative to chlorosulfonated polyethylene.
NylonNylon, very flexible wire insulation, is usually extruded over softer insulation compounds. It serves as a tough insulation, exhibiting strong abrasion, cut-through, and chemical resistance.

    PVC pipe


    PFAAlthough more expensive than other insulations, PFA has temperature ratings ranging from 250°C to 65°C. PFA insulated wire is a great electrically efficient option due to its low dissipation factor.
    Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) PTFE, resistant to water, oil, chemicals, and heat that can be used in a wide range of temperatures, -73°C to 204°C.
    Fluorinated Ethylene Propylene (FEP) Commonly used in plenum cable and military applications, this material is widely used due to its processing characteristics and variety of applications.
    ETFE Tefzel and ECTFE HALAR Stronger and more flexible than PFA or FEP these resources can become thermoset through irradiation. Foaming ECTFE HALAR and ETFE improves data transmission and reduces weight.
    Polyvinylidene Fluoride (PVDF) PVDF is also commonly called KYNAR and is used in a wide range of industries due to its low cost. It is flexible, lightweight, and thermally stable, as well as chemical, heat, weather, abrasion, and fire resistant.
    Thermoplastic Elastomers (TPE)Thermoplastic elastomers consist of a mix of polymers, typically a plastic and a rubber. TPE, usually used in automotive and household appliances, can be molded, extruded, and reused, similar to a plastic, while maintaining the flexibility and stretch of rubber.



    Insulation for cables


    Thermoplastic Rubber (TPR)In many applications, TPR is used to replace true thermoset rubber. It has improved colorability, higher processing speeds, and a wider usable temperature range. It also displays excellent heat, weather, and age resistance without curing. TPR is not cut-through resistant but can be used in applications where other properties of rubber are preferred.
    Neoprene (Polychloroprene)This wire/cable insulation material is a synthetic thermoset rubber that exhibits supreme abrasion, cut-through, oil, and solvent resistance. Neoprene is also known for its usability, long service life and wide ranges of temperatures. It is remarkably flame retardant and self-extinguishing.
    Styrene Butadiene Rubber (SBR)Similar to Neoprene, it has a wide temperature range of -55°C to 90°C. SBR is primarily used to insulate Mil-C-55668 cables.
    SiliconeSilicone is heat resistant, flame retardant and can be used in temperatures up to 180°C. It is also extremely flexible and good in many electrical applications where wire/cable insulation is needed.
    FiberglassFiberglass can be used in extreme temperatures up to 482°C. This wire/cable insulation material is moisture and chemical resistant. Its common applications are heat-treating, glass and ceramic kilns, foundries, and extensive applications in aluminum processing.
    Ethylene Propylene Rubber (EPR)EPR is typically used in temperatures ranging from -50°C to 160°C.  Some of its well-known properties are thermal and electrical. It is commonly used in high-voltage cables. EPR is also heat, oxidation, weather, water, acid, alcohol, and alkali resistant.
    Rubber Due to the variety of formulas that can be used to create rubber insulation, temperature ranges vary as well. Some good characteristics of rubber insulation include low-temperature flexibility, water and alcohol resistance, electrical properties, and excellent abrasion resistance.
    Chlorosulfonated Polyethylene (CSPE)CSPE, sometimes referred to as Hypalon, is resistant to chemicals and UV rays. It works well as a low-voltage insulation and performs at a wide range of temperatures. This insulation material can be found in appliance wire, lead wire, coil leads, transformer leads, and motor lead wire.
    Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer (EPDM)Stands up to temperatures of 55°C to 150°C while still being flexible at these temperatures. Has an excellent electrical property as well as heat, ozone, weather, and abrasion resistance.

    As you can see from above, there are a variety of wire/cable insulation materials. Make sure you contact one of our wire/cable specialists here at Performance Wire and Cable to ensure your wire and cables have the proper insulation for the installation you are performing.