What size wire for 200 amp service should you buy?
If you’re asking this question, you should definitely call an electrician.
But for your own knowledge, we’ll explain wire sizing and considerations in the guide below.
What Size Wire for 200 Amp Service?
Smart homes and digital connectedness are the future for homeowners. We need electrical panels that can handle the digital future, and many homeowners are upgrading their systems to 200 amp service.
Knowing what size wire for 200 amp service is critical to setting up your electric system to work for years to come.
But how do you choose from the options?
The Quick Answer
Installing a 200 amp service requires a permit and professional experience. While you’ll need a qualified electrician, it’s good to know the basics ahead of time.
For a 200 amp service, you’ll need:
- #2/0 copper wire, or
- #4/0 aluminum or copper-clad aluminum wire
You’ll need to consider a few things when selecting your wiring, including your personal preferences, the voltage drop, and the length of the wire. Don’t worry – we’ll explain each of these in detail below.
What Size Wire Do You Need for 200 Amp Service
The size wire you need for 200 amp service depends on the type of wire you’re getting.
Let’s look at the difference between a copper wire and an aluminum or copper-clad aluminum wire. Then we’ll get into the factors you should consider when choosing your wiring.
Copper wiring is the best in the business. Its high conductivity, heat and corrosion resistance, and flexibility make it ideal for wiring in any situation.
However, copper can be more expensive and more complex to install. Here’s everything you need to know about copper wiring:
- High Conductivity: Copper is a naturally highly conductive metal. Only silver is better at conducting electricity. Because it’s great at conducting electricity, you can use it for much longer distances, and you can use a much smaller gauge than for aluminum.
- Heat and Corrosion Resistant: While copper changes color from oxidation, those changes don’t affect its performance. Copper is corrosion-resistant and will stand the test of time. It’s also a lot more heat-resistant than aluminum. Heat doesn’t cause it to expand or flex nearly as much, so it stays in place.
- Flexible: Since you can use thinner strands of copper wire, it’s much easier to bend and wrap without breaking.
- In for the Distance: Again, since copper is so highly conductive and sturdy, it’s better for length and doesn’t lose its voltage over longer distances.
Again, copper is probably the best material for wiring, but it does have downsides, which we’ll touch on in the next section.
The Short Answer: When using a 200 amp service, you’ll want a #2/0 copper wire.
Aluminum has less conductivity than copper and also responds more quickly to heat and corrosion. To make up for the lack of conductivity, you also need a higher gauge – i.e., a thicker wire.
However, most electricians prefer aluminum for a few reasons. The downsides of copper are that it’s expensive, heavy, and trickier to install. And that’s precisely why electricians often choose to use aluminum.
Here are the main benefits of using aluminum wiring:
- Easier Installation: Aluminum is much lighter than copper – even when you account for the higher gauge needed for proper conductivity. Since it’s so lightweight, aluminum is fast and easy to install. If you want a job done quickly, aluminum is the solution.
- Cheaper: Bottom line, aluminum is more affordable than copper. It works well and doesn’t break the bank.
The Short Answer: For a 200 amp service, you’ll need a #4/0 aluminum wire.
Copper-clad aluminum is your third option, and it provides some of the benefits of both previous options. Let’s compare it to the other two.
- Cheaper but Not Cheapest: Copper-clad aluminum is more affordable than pure copper but more expensive than aluminum.
- More Corrosion Resistant Than Aluminum: Copper-clad aluminum wire protects the aluminum from corrosion. Most aluminum needs an antioxidant coating connecting to the power terminal, but copper-clad aluminum doesn’t need it.
- Good Conductivity: Again, copper-clad aluminum runs somewhat in the middle of the other two regarding conductivity.
The Short Answer: Like with aluminum, you’ll need a #4/0 copper-clad aluminum wire for a 200 amp service.
Other Factors to Consider
Before you make your final decision, you need to consider a few other factors.
- Voltage Drop: The voltage at your circuit breaker should be 120 volts. Voltage drop means how much power is lost as electricity moves along the wire to your devices and appliances. You can improve your voltage drop by increasing the gauge of your wire.
- Distance: Related to the voltage drop, if you need power across distances longer than 50 feet, you’ll probably want a copper wire. A #2/0 copper wire and a #4/0 aluminum wire can maintain less than a 3% voltage drop over 50 feet. To go beyond 50 feet, you’ll likely need a higher gauge copper wire.
- Local Building Codes: Make sure you’re familiar with the electrical codes in your area by checking the National Electrical Code (NEC). You also need to be sure you have all the permits required for this type of work.
AWG size at 200-amps service vs distance to maintain a 3% or less voltage drop are shown in the next table:
|Servica Wire Size at 200A||Maximum Distance|
|Copper 2/0 AWG||50 Feet|
|Copper 3/0 AWG||100 Feet|
|Copper 4/0 AWG||150 Feet|
|Aluminum 4/0 AWG||50 Feet|
|Aluminum 300 kcmil||100 Feet|
Frequently Asked Questions
Explore our answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about what size wire for 200 amp service.
How Much Does it Cost to Install 200 Amp Electrical Service?
Most of us are just looking to upgrade a 100- to 150-amp service. An upgrade to install a 200 amp electrical service costs between $750 and $2,000. The range depends on how much wiring you need, how much of an upgrade, etc. A full reset with a new circuit breaker, though, could cost up to $4,500.
Can I Run a 200 Amp Subpanel off 200 Amp Main?
While you technically can do this, we would recommend looking into a 400A service. Check the power usage overall to make sure the subpanel isn’t drawing most of the power for just one or two applications.
What Size Wire Should I Get for 200 Amp Service?
When upgrading your system to a 200 amp service, you should look for #2/0 copper wiring and #4/0 aluminum or copper-clad aluminum wiring.
Use our guide above to decide which is suitable for you or if you might need any adjustments.
Remember to learn about the regulations and permits in your area, and don’t try this without a professional! Again, we highly suggest getting a bid from an electrician.
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