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Old 08-25-2006
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What wire you should be using depends on the load and the distance run. "Ampacity" tables, as Calder calls them, are pretty widely available and will tell you what kind of load will work over what distance. Don't forget that the wiring should be designed for the HEAVIEST LOAD on a circuit, while the breakers should be sized for the LOWEST LOAD on a circuit. The reason for this should be pretty obvious. You want the breakers to trip well before the wire heats up significantly.

If you have several loads on a circuit, and one is significantly lower than the others, say an LED light versus regular incandescents, it should probably have an in-line fuse near the fixture, because if you gear the breaker for the LED light fixture, you'll probably trip it every time you turn on an incandescent fixture. Likewise, if you have three incandescent light fixtures on a single circuit, the breaker should be geared to trip if one of them shorts, not if all three short, otherwise you could be risking a serious fire from one shorting out and the breaker not tripping. Calder has a pretty good discussion of this in his book.
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