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Mc Cable Vs. Ac Cable: What Is The Difference?

Mc Cable Vs. Ac Cable: What Is The Difference?
Mc Cable Vs. Ac Cable

Understanding the distinctions between Armored Cable (AC) and Metal-Clad (MC) cable in electrical cabling is crucial for making well-informed project-related decisions. Both these cable types find utility across diverse applications, yet they possess unique attributes that create a clear distinction.

AC Cable, a cost-effective choice for power and lighting circuits, features an external metallic jacket with a bonding strip traversing its interior length. The outer metallic armor encapsulates individually insulated conductors. A key differentiator here is the amalgamation of the coat with a slender bonding strip utilized for grounding.

In electrical cabling, distinguishing between AC (Armored Cable) and MC (Metal-Clad) wire can be simplified by focusing on their grounding methods. The MC wire employs a standard ground wire, a typical feature in most cabling systems. Conversely, the AC wire utilizes its outer jacket with a thin strip or wire to establish grounding. This is the primary distinction between these two cable types.

It’s also pertinent to note that the conventional differentiation between MC and AC cable usage is transforming due to the emergence of newer interlocked armor ground-type MC cables. The decision between AC and MC cables hinges on specific project prerequisites and financial considerations.

What Are The Main Benefits Of Cable Armor?

Cable armor is a crucial component of many electrical systems, offering a host of advantages to users. Let’s break down the main benefits:

1. Robust Protection: Armored cables are designed to withstand harsh conditions and physical damage. These cables can take a beating due to environmental factors or accidental impacts during installation.

2. Long-Term Investment: Armored cables last longer than non-armored ones due to their sturdy construction. This durability makes them a cost-effective solution in the long run, reducing the need for frequent replacements.

3. Reduced Interference: One of the standout features of armored cables is their ability to prevent electromagnetic interference, ensuring the data’s reliability.

4. Wide Application: Armored cables come in various types and sizes, making them suitable for multiple applications, from residential wiring to industrial installations.

5. Enhanced Safety: Certain types of armored cables, like MC cables, include a dedicated grounding wire, adding an extra layer of safety to your electrical systems.

Now, the question is: Would armored cables fit your specific needs? Or are you looking for a more budget-friendly option? Remember, choosing the right line depends on balancing quality and cost-effectiveness based on your unique requirements. 

What Is The Application Difference Between Mc Cable And Ac Cable?

MC cables are designed for a wide range of applications. They are commonly used in healthcare facilities, industrial applications, data centers, and commercial construction. MC cables are also used for commercial buildings’ exterior and interior electrical wiring, including HVAC systems, lighting systems, and fire alarms.

The Armored cables are used for various applications, including machinery wiring, control systems, heating and lighting systems, and power distribution. AC cables are also perfect for dry or damp locations, such as tunnels, subways, and other sites. They can also be used in residential electrical wiring for air conditioning systems, kitchen appliances, and other household electrical devices.

Can Ac Cable And Mc Cable Be Used Outdoors?

AC (Armored Cable) and MC (Metal-Clad) cables can be outdoors. However, there are specific conditions and ratings to consider for each type of cable.

MC cable can be used outdoors and in wet conditions if the conductors are rated accordingly. It can also be directly buried if the cable is rated for such use. However, it’s essential to check the cladding, insulation on the wires within the cladding, and other factors.

On the other hand, while AC cables can technically be used indoors and outdoors, they are not suitable for wet locations. Therefore, if you’re considering using AC cable outdoors, ensure your installation avoids such conditions.

Remember, whether you choose AC or MC cable for outdoor use, ensure that your wiring solutions comply with local and national codes.

Where is MC cable not allowed?

Metal-clad (MC) cable is a versatile wiring solution. Still, specific scenarios and environments exist where its use is prohibited or recommended according to the National Electrical Code (NEC).

1. Outside of Buildings: As per NEC sections 225.10, 396.10, and 396.12, specific conditions must be met when installing MC cables outside buildings. It’s essential to ensure that the cable complies with these regulations.

2. Areas Prone to Physical Damage: MC cable should not be used in locations where it will be subjected to significant physical damage. This includes areas with high traffic or heavy machinery that could damage the cable.

3. Corrosive Environments: MC cable is not suitable for use in areas with corrosive fumes. These could degrade the protective metal sheath over time, compromising the cable’s integrity and safety.

4. Inappropriate Support: While the MC cable can be installed on the underside of the joists, it must be supported at each post. If this isn’t feasible, another cable type might be more suitable.


Therefore, while MC cable is beneficial in many contexts, these limitations should be considered during the planning stages of your electrical project. Always ensure that your wiring solutions comply with local and national codes.

Where can I not use AC-type cables?

Armored Cable (AC) is a reliable and cost-effective solution for many wiring scenarios. However, its use is neither suitable nor permitted in some situations according to the National Electrical Code (NEC).

1. Hazardous Locations: AC cable is not recommended for use in areas classified as hazardous. These are locations where fire or explosion hazards may exist due to flammable gases, vapors, or dust.

2. Extreme Environments: AC cable is not designed for extreme temperatures or highly corrosive environments. If your project involves such conditions, other lines could be more suitable.

3. Exposed to Physical Damage: AC cable might not be the best choice if the cable is likely to suffer from physical damage. While it does have a protective armor, there are limits to the abuse it can withstand.

4. Wet Locations: Unless the AC cable is specifically designed for wet locations, it should not be used in places exposed to moisture or liquids.

5. Direct Burial: AC cable is typically not approved for direct burial underground unless specified by the manufacturer.


Given these considerations, it’s crucial to evaluate the conditions of your particular project before choosing AC cable. Are there any specific conditions or challenges you’re dealing with?

Which Cable Should You Choose?

So, when it comes to deciding between MC and AC cables, consider the following factors:

  • Safety Requirements: If your project requires a high level of safety, MC cable with its dedicated grounding wire might be the better choice.
  • Budget Constraints: If you’re working within a tight budget, AC cable could be the more affordable option.
  • Application: MC cable’s robust structure offers added durability for heavy-duty commercial or industrial applications.

Remember, balancing quality, safety, and cost-effectiveness is essential based on your unique project requirements. Which of these options seems to align best with your needs?

#Questions & Answer

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is the difference between armored cable and MC cable?

A: Armored cable, AC cable, and MC cable are two types of wiring used in electrical installations. The main difference between them is the type of jacket they have. Armored cable has a flexible metal sheathing that provides extra protection. In contrast, MC cable has a metal-clad jacket comprising a layer of aluminum interlocking armor and a PVC coating.

Q: Can AC cable and MC cable be used interchangeably?

A: No, AC and MC cables have different construction and are used for other applications. AC cable is typically used in dry locations with no moisture risk, while MC cable can be used in dry and wet areas.

Q: What is the difference between AC and nonmetallic-sheathed cables (NM cables)?

A: The main difference between AC cable and NM cable is the presence of metal in the jacket. AC cable has a flexible metal armor, while NM cable has a nonmetallic sheath made of PVC. NM cable is used primarily for residential wiring, while AC cable is commonly used in commercial and industrial settings.

Q: Is MC cable more durable than AC cable?

A: Both AC and MC cables are designed to be durable and protect the electrical wiring. However, MC cable is generally considered more resistant to physical damage due to its metal-clad jacket.

Q: Can AC cable and MC cable be used in conduit?

A: Yes, AC and MC cables can be installed in conduit. However, when installing MC cable in conduit, following the manufacturer’s instructions and ensuring that the line is sized appropriately is essential.

Q: What is the difference between AC cable and BX cable?

A: AC cable and BX cable are two different names for the same type of wiring. BX cable is an older term still commonly used, while AC cable is the more modern and widely recognized. Both refer to a kind of armored cable with a flexible metal sheathing.

Q: Is there a difference in the AC and MC cable installation process?

A: The installation process for AC cable and MC cable is similar. Both types of cable are typically installed using connectors designed for armored cable. However, when installing MC cable, it is important to properly secure the metal-clad jacket and ensure it is properly bonded and grounded.

Q: Can AC and MC cables be used in the same installation?

A: AC cable and MC cable can be used together in the same installation as long as they are used for their intended purposes and comply with the relevant electrical codes and regulations.

Q: Do I need a licensed electrician to install AC or MC cables?

A: Hiring a licensed electrician for electrical installation work is always recommended. They have the knowledge and experience to ensure that the wiring is installed safely and up to code.


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