What Is the Difference Between Power Cables and Control Cables

Aircraft often feature a large number of cable assemblies, those of which serve a variety of systems and applications. A stark majority of aircraft cable assemblies fall into one of two categories, those of which are power cables and control cables. As both have similar appearances yet play very different roles, it can be very beneficial to have a basic understanding of each and what they do.

Power cables are commonly found in a plethora of settings, and they are designed for transferring energy between a power source and equipment that requires energy. Power cables are situated in overhead and underground energy transmission settings, and they may either operate with alternating (AC) or direct (DC) current. While AC cables are most commonly found in domestic, 50 Hz systems, DC cables are commonly used for DC transmission systems. To achieve the optimal conductive properties necessary for efficiency power transfer, power cable components are generally constructed from aluminum or copper. Depending on one’s needs, common power cable options include service entrance cables, MV-105 cables, UF-B wires, RHH cables, THHN cables, and various others.

While power cables are concerned with energy transfer, control cables are utilized for automation through the transfer of control, measurement, and regulation signals. Control cables are often flexible, and they may be found in automation systems and applications related to transportation, building, construction, mining, and more. As power cables are often multi-conductor cables, they will often have a copper conductor to achieve superior conductivity.

Power cables are often compared to signal cables due to their similar role in transporting signals through a conductive cable assembly. Despite this, signal cables transmit data and require shielding against interference, whereas control signals perform different tasks without the need for shielding. Power cables should also not be confused with instrumentation cables as well, as the two words are often used interchangeably. When shopping for various control cables, the most common types are CY, YY, and SY variations.

While sharing some similarities, power and control cables feature a number of differences. For instance, they utilize different voltages as power cables feature voltage levels that are 1 Kv and above, while control cables operate in the range of 300 to 75 V. Additionally, power cables need ample sheathing for resisting corrosion, high temperatures, and other conditions that may be detrimental to performance. Even within the same environment, power cables will generally always have thicker insulation as compared to control cables. As a final major difference, power cables are often black or white, while control cables exhibit more complex color coding to make identification easier.

With the various differences between the two cable types, it is important that one takes the time to consider their particular needs before making a purchasing decision. Additionally, finding a reputable and reliable distributor for your sourcing needs can make the procural of spare and replacement parts much easier when servicing assemblies. Luckily for you, ASAP 3Sixty is always ready to assist you with competitive pricing and rapid lead-times on all the parts you are interested in.

Owned and operated by ASAP Semiconductor, we present customers to an unrivaled inventory containing over 2 billion listed items that are ready for purchase at any time. As you explore, feel free to take advantage of our RFQ services to quickly and easily request customized quotes for your comparisons. Upon receiving completed forms, a dedicated account manager will reach out to you within 15 minutes to provide a solution based on your needs. Get in contact with one of our team members today and see how ASAP 3Sixty can save you time and money while helping you procure even the most hard-to-find components.


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October 19, 2021

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