Copper vs Aluminum Photovoltaic (PV) Wire: Which Is Best?

When planning a solar panel installation for your home or business, you might be wondering whether to choose copper photovoltaic (PV) wire or aluminum PV wire. Solar panels must be connected to each other via PV wire. You can use either a series or parallel wiring configuration. Regardless, all of the solar panels in your installation require wiring.

PV wire is a type of durable, weather-resistant wire that’s designed for use in solar panel installations. There’s copper PV wire, and there’s aluminum PV wire. While you can use either of them in your solar panel installation, copper and aluminum PV wire aren’t the same.

What Is Copper PV Wire?

Copper PV wire is characterized by the use of a copper conductor. All types of wire have a conductor. The conductor is the central, braided core through which electricity travels. Copper PV wire features a copper conductor. It still features an insulative jacket, but the inner core of copper PV wire is made of copper.

What Is Aluminum PV Wire?

Aluminum PV wire is characterized by the use of an aluminum conductor. To the unsuspecting eye, it looks the same as copper PV wire. If you strip away the jacket, though, you’ll notice it has a different core. Copper PV wire has a copper core — the conductor — whereas aluminum PV wire has an aluminum core.

Benefits of Copper PV Wire

Copper PV wire offers superior conductivity. Both copper and aluminum are electrically conductive metals, but the former metal comes out on top. Copper is about 40% more conductive than aluminum. Copper PV wire retains this same level of electrical conductivity, thus allowing it to transfer more electricity.

Copper PV wire is better protected against thermal expansion than aluminum PV wire. When used outdoors, PV wire will be exposed to fluctuating temperatures. These temperature changes can result in it expanding or contracting. Copper PV wire, however, is better protected against thermal expansion.

Benefits of Aluminum PV Wire

Some homeowners and even professional solar technicians prefer aluminum PV wire because of its lightweight properties. It weighs less than copper PV wire, which makes it easier to install. You’ll have an easier time hauling around aluminum PV wire when installing your solar panels.

Aluminum PV wire typically costs less than copper PV wire as well. Metal prices regularly change from day to day. But aluminum almost always costs less than copper. The end result is lower prices for aluminum products, such as aluminum PV wire.

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