Bundling wires together is a common way to reduce tangles and clutter and generally make your wiring a little more organized.
It’s a common practice on both the small scale (like organizing the wiring at your desk) to large (like bundling wires that run through the walls of your home or office building).
But have you ever stopped and wondered if it’s actually safe to bundle wires like that? Should so many wires really be forced so close together all the time? Could it be a fire hazard?
Well read on and find out, because these are exactly the kinds of questions we’re looking to answer today!
Here’s Whether You Can Run Electrical Wires Together:
Bundling is a common cable management tactic that involves running many electrical and/or signal wires together in a bunch. This practice can be done relatively safely, but can also pose a risk of overheating as so many wires, all giving off heat, are forced into a small space.
Does it Matter if Two Electric Wires Touch Each Other?
If you were to directly touch two metal wires together that aren’t supposed to be touching, that would indeed be very bad!
But remember that wires are insulated, so when you “touch” them together, you’re only touching the insulation material (usually some kind of plastic or rubber product) together, and not the wire itself.
Electrical wires are insulated to prevent current from “jumping” out of the wire and into any other conductive material (like another wire).
All materials have a certain degree of resistance to electrical current. Materials with high resistance are called “insulators” and materials with low resistance are called “conductors.”
Electrical wires are usually made out of copper or another metal with low resistance, which makes excellent conductors. Insulation is made from materials with very high resistance.
This combination helps to ensure that the electrical current runs easily through the copper wire and stays inside that wire because the insulation acts as a sort of “wall” that it cannot pass easily.
So there’s little risk of current jumping from one wire to another when they’re all insulated, even if the insulation is touching.
That all being said, even copper is not a perfect conductor and does have a small amount of resistance, which is why a small amount of electricity is lost in transit and converted to heat.
Now, while current jumping may not be a problem in well-insulated wires, overheating can be a very real concern, which we’ll discuss more below!
Can You Run Multiple Electric Wires in a Bundle?
Yes, you certainly can! But there are a lot of things you can do that you maybe shouldn’t be doing, so the real question you should be asking is: “is it safe to bundle wires?”
And the answer to that question is a bit more complicated and can be best summed up as: “it depends.”
As long as all your wires are well insulated, they’re probably not going to interfere with each other in terms of current jumping or interference, but they could generate enough heat to be a concern.
In most cases, it will probably be okay, but we’ll take a closer look at overheating concerns in the last section.
How Many Electric Wires Can You Put Through One Hole?
We’d love to give you a simple, easy explanation on this one, but the truth is that it’s far more complicated than that.
We can’t give you a specific number of wires that’s okay, because wires are not all created equally; different wires carry different amounts of current and may have a greater or lesser risk of overheating.
When wiring the walls of your home, it’s, therefore, best to defer to expert opinion; ask the professionals wiring your home what they think is best, and be sure to bring up any safety concerns you may have.
However, if we’re talking about cable management for something like a computer desk, entertainment system, and so on, the scale is much smaller and more likely to be handled by a non-expert individual.
In this case, the best advice we can give is to do three things: Use common sense, check on the wiring set up frequently until you’re sure it’s not causing problems, and defer to an expert if you’re unsure.
- Common sense means not doing something like bundling a bunch of thick power cables together. Bundling a mouse, keyboard, and monitor cable is probably fine, as an example, but you shouldn’t be bundling several beefy power supply cables.
- Once you’ve set up a cable management solution, check on it frequently for the next few days, feel the cables for overheating, and if they feel too hot, rethink your cable management.
- And finally, if you’re stumped or just unsure how safe your wiring solution is, consult an expert if you can.
We must also remind you that we are not experts ourselves, so please do not take anything in this article as professional advice!
Can Electrical Wires Cross Each Other?
The answer to this question is the same as “does it matter if wires touch each other:” not really, as long as they’re properly insulated.
So again, if the actual metal wires crossed, that would be a problem. But wires don’t come bare, they come surrounded by rubbery or plastic-y insulation of some kind.
In some cases, the insulation might not be thick enough and it is theoretically possible for crossed signal wires to interfere with each other, but this is relatively uncommon and best handled on a case-by-case basis.
For most everyday purposes, as long as your wires are well insulated, this is usually fine.
Can You Tape or Zip Tie Electrical Wires Together?
You certainly can! But the real question is: is it a good idea to tape or zip tie wires together?
If you’re going to do either, zip ties are probably safer than tape, though even tape might be fine, depending on exactly what we’re talking about and how much tape is used.
Ultimately, we can’t give you a truly definitive answer here because there are a lot of variables at play, and especially on a larger scale, you’re going to want an expert opinion.
This is because tape and zip ties are effectively adding just that much more heat insulation to a bundle of already-insulated wires.
So there’s a chance that all the heat of these wires bunched close together, combined with another material (tape or zip tie) helping to keep the heat in could get hot enough to be a fire hazard.
All that being said, it’s probably fine on a small scale like managing cables for your computer, game system, etc, but get an expert opinion before using tape or zip ties on major household or industrial wiring solutions.
Read this blog about can you run speaker wires together?
Can Wires Get Hot When Bundled Together?
Absolutely, yes! And the more wires in the bundle, the hotter it will get.
Because there’s no such thing as a perfect conductor, copper or even gold wires (gold is an even better conductor than copper, but even it isn’t perfect) do still have some small amount of resistance.
When a material resists the flow of an electrical current, some of that current is lost and converted to heat. This is why all wires, even small ones, generate at least a little heat.
When these wires are alone and open to the air, this is not a problem as the small amount of heat easily dissipates. But when you add a bunch of heat-producing wires together in a close space, it adds up.
Unfortunately, we can’t tell you for sure just how many wires are too many when it comes to preventing overheating.
As always, use common sense and caution with small-scale solutions like home entertainment cable management, and ask an expert when it comes to anything bigger than that.