14/2 vs 14/3 Gauge Cables: What’s the Difference?

When looking for cables, many of you might have noticed two variants of 14 gauge wires. It comes either in 14/2 or 14/3.

So, which one to pick in 14/2 vs 14/3?

The 14/2 contains 3 wires, whereas, the 14/3 has 4 wires. The 14/3 comes useful for splitting the loads and controlling light fixtures from separate locations. The 14/2 is used for simple power distribution for power outlets and lighting fixtures.

Not enough information to go on with? Don’t worry, we got more! Check out this comprehensive article distinguishing both 14 gauge cable types. 

Let’s go-

14/2 vs 14/3: Key Comparisons

According to American Wire Gauge, the ‘14’ in a 14 gauge wire indicates the conductor size. The smaller the number is, the wider the cable diameter gets. The 14/2 and 14/3 are used as terms for the number of conductors for wiring methods. 

Wires inside the cable are made of coppers, but they are coated in different colored insulation. This is done to mark the wires that conduct electrical charges.

Electrical cables usually face voltage drop when covering a certain amount of distance. 14 gauge cables can run for 50 feet for a 120-volt circuit without major voltage drop. But one needs to be careful about matching the cable size to circuit amperage.

Before jumping onto any detailed differentiation, let’s take a quick glance at some important differences. 

Here are the key differences between both cable types-

Number of Conductors23
Number of wires34
Suitable volt circuit120 volts240 volts
PriceCheaperMore expensive


As you can see, both cables don’t differ much from each other. However, we will discuss the comparisons in detail.

14/2 vs 14/3: Detailed Comparison

We have a vague idea about the key differences between both cables. Despite having very few distinguishable characteristics, we have settled upon two major points.

Let’s dive deeper into it for detailed information and better understanding.

Number of Conductors and Wires

We know from earlier that 14/2 and 14/3 have 2 and 3 conductors respectively. The 14/2 contains 3 separate wires. A black, a white, and one bare ground wire. On the other hand, the 14/3 has one extra red wire. The ground wire is usually a bare copper wire.

Conductors in the cable usually refer to the current-carrying wires except for the ground wire. 

Suitable Volt Circuit

Two-conductor cables like 14/2 are mostly used for simple switch circuits with 120 volts. You can also opt for using 14/2 for 240-volt circuits with no neutrals required.

Likewise, 14/3 are used on 240-volt circuits, with the help of a neutral which is 120 volts. This helps to establish a three-way light switch circuit.

For a 120-volt circuit, you can load about 1800 watts onto a 14 gauge cable. This number can rise up to  3600 watts for a 240-volt circuit.

These two important points set apart the two cable types. The 14/3 is slightly expensive compared to the 14/2. It’s because 14/3 contains 33% more copper and requires more time and effort to organize.

Uses of 14/2 Wire vs 14/3 Wire

Many argue about the best wire for air conditioners between 10/2 vs 10/3 wires. Similarly, the 14/2 and 14/3 have their separate usages and advantages.

You can use 14/2 cables for light outlets on 15 amp circuits. The 14/2 is preferred in almost all home wiring. Generally, the two-conductor cable is used for powering low amperage light fixtures. 

Using 14/2 cable on 20 amp is not only dangerous but also considered illegal. You should be careful with choosing the correct gauge wire based on your circuit amperage. The maximum amperage for a 14/2 cable is 15amps. 

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There’re a lot of varieties when it comes to cables. They have separate compatibility for different amperage circuits. You should carefully choose your wire for 15amp and 20 amp breakers. If you have 20 amp circuit breakers, go for 12 gauge cables instead.

A 14/2 copper wired 15 amp circuit can support up to 12 outlets.

The 14/3 cable, on the other hand, can be used for a three-way switch. Moreover, you can use it to make split receptacles. It’s a plug with electrically isolated top and bottom sections. The red and black wire powers the two separated sections.

Your 14/3 typical cable wiring has a wide range of applications, With a three-way switch, you can supply two separate power lines to a common area.

14/3 cables are mostly used in kitchens where a lot of electronic appliances are used. Ensure that the cables have either rubber or foam pipe insulated wires.


Is it okay to use 14 gauge wire on 15 amp circuits?

You can wire a 15-amp circuit using a 14 gauge wire. However, you can’t use 14 gauge wire on a 20 amp circuit as it can overheat. Wiring a 15 amp circuit with 14 gauge wire has less chance of overheating.

Can I wire a ceiling fan with 14/2 wire?

If you are just using a fan, 14/2 wires should be fine. Ceiling fans usually don’t use up much electricity, so a 14/2 can do the job. But we recommend using a 14 3 in case you are looking to use wall switches. This will allow you to separately control the light and the fan.

Is it possible to connect 14 gauge wires with 12 gauge wires?

It’s actually possible to connect two separate gauges of wires.  You can connect 12 and 14 gauge wires using a 15 amp breaker on the circuit. However, this is not something we recommend as it runs the risk of overloading.

Parting Words

We now have a clear understanding of the separate 14 gauge cable variants in 14/2 vs 14/3. Choose the cable that best fits your electronic appliances.

Hope this article cleared up some of the confusion regarding the uses of both cable types. Let us know if you have any more questions in the comments. 

Have a great day!