Most electrical technicians and engineers are of the opinion that aluminum conductors are inferior to copper conductors. However, due to the constantly increasing price of copper conductors, aluminum conductors are getting a look-in. this has thrown up a debate over which is better and which one of them should be used frequently.
It is important to state that they both have their advantages and disadvantages. Therefore, you must weigh the advantage and disadvantages a specific type offers based on how and where it is to be applied.
Copper has been used in electrical equipment for so many years. It has been used in devices such as electric motor and telegraph.
Advantages of copper
- It conducts heat and electricity better: In terms of conductivity, copper ranks very high. In fact, it is the international standard. Aluminum cannot rival copper in terms of the ability to conduct heat and electrical current. That is not to say that aluminum performs poorly.
- Tensile strength: The tensile strength of copper is very impressive. This makes it possible for it to withstand pulling forces better than aluminum. It can also cope with heavy stress. The tensile strength of aluminum is relatively lower. Hence, it is not suitable for cyclic load applications.
- Cost: Copper conductors are typically more expensive. Also, there is no consistency in its price and cost. The price of copper fluctuates.
- Weight: Copper is heavier and not suitable for low-weight applications. An example of such an application is in over-head voltage cables.
There are times when aluminum supersedes copper. In fact, the use of aluminum didn’t start today. It has been around since the 1900s.
- Less expensive: In terms of cost, you’d pay less for an aluminum conductor than a copper conductor. If your facility runs on a limited budget, an aluminum conductor will suffice. The reason for this is not far-fetched. Aluminum is in abundant supply. It is the third most abundant metal on earth while copper ranks twenty-sixth. Unlike copper, the price of aluminum is not unstable.
- Lighter than copper: Although the conductivity of aluminum cannot be compared to what copper offers, it is way lighter. This is advantageous because the lower weight makes it easier to install. The low weight also has a good influence on labor cost.
- Less conductivity: Aluminium does not have the ability to conduct heat and electricity, as well as copper, does. In fact, it only has 60% of the conductivity of copper.
- Poor reliability: Aluminium conductors need more maintenance than copper conductors. This is due to its oxidizing qualities.