10/2 or 10/3 wire for air conditioner

Air conditioners are used in every house to fight the summer and heatwave. However, do you know that hundreds of air conditioner units get temporarily or permanently damaged every year due to the negligence of the users?

It’s because they fail to understand the electrical requirements of their air conditioner and choose the wrong wires which eventually cost them their AC. If you have also purchased an air conditioner from your precious and hard-earned money and want to keep it safe then this article is for you.

We will discuss which wire is safe for your air conditioner and which one is not. Should you use 10/2 or 10/3 wire for an air conditioner? 

Let’s jump in and take a look at all this information that will save your air conditioner from any damage.

10/2 vs 10/3 wire – Which one is best for air conditioner?

So first of all you need to understand what 10/2 & 10/3 wires exactly are. It will help you easily grasp the other concepts and have a clear understanding of how things work. 

What is a 10/2 Wire?

The number 10/2 is divided into two parts. The number 10 refers to the size of the wire in the AWG unit whereas the second number which in this case is 2 refers to the number of conductors in that wire.

Therefore, a 10/2 sized wire means that it has 2 strands of 10 gauge conductors along with a ground wire. Or in other words, a 10/2 wire means that it has a 10 gauge hot wire (insulated as black), a 10 gauge neutral wire (insulated as white) along a 10 gauge ground wire (usually insulated as green or bare).  

What is a 10/3 Wire?

Here we will again apply the same logic as we did in the case of 10/2 wire.

The number 10 on the left refers to the size of the wire whereas the number 3 on the right refers to the number of conductors present in there. Therefore, a 10/3 sized wire means that it has 3 strands of 10 gauge conductors along with a ground wire. Or in more simple words, a 10/3 wire means that it has two 10 gauge hot wires (usually insulated as black & red), a 10 gauge neutral wire (usually insulated as white), and a 10 gauge ground wire (which is insulated as bare or green).

Should i use 10/2 or 10/3 wire for AC?

The fact is that a 10/2 wire is much better for the air conditioners and here is why.

We use a 10/3 wire for something that needs a dual voltage. It means that a specific appliance needs two different types of voltages at the same time to perform two different types of functions. Let’s take a cloth dryer for example; it needs 110v for the motor whereas 220v for the heater. Therefore, a 10/3 wire will be viable for a cloth dryer and similar stuff, etc.

A 10/3 wire has an additional neutral wire which is only needed when the appliance at the destination needs 110v for something. In the case of an air conditioner, we don’t see any reason that it will need 110v for any purpose. Therefore, supplying an air conditioner without a neutral (10/3 wire) is completely fine. It’s because you don’t need a neutral for 220v systems. Rather you can connect it with 10/2 wire having 1 hot, 1 neutral, and 1 ground. The 1 hot and 1 neutral will carry 110v each and complete the 220v.

You can even use the 10/3 wire for your air conditioner unit and simply ignore the neutral by clipping it at the load end and terminating it in the panel. But in the end, it is again just pointless & useless because when you don’t need a neutral for an air conditioner then why use a 10/3 wire at all? 

Simply use a 10/2 wire and save your mind from any unnecessary stress and inconvenience.

Very Important Safety Tip

Always make sure that your 10/2 wire also has a ground wire included because the ground wires have proven to be very effective in protecting your air conditioner from any damage by the power surges. Without a ground wire, your AC unit will be at the mercy of power surges. Whenever a power surge will occur, your AC will have no safety and will eventually get damaged. Therefore, you must have a ground wire.

Still, Confused? – Just Consult a Professional

As you know that most of this information is technical & electrical. Therefore, it is completely okay if you don’t have any technical knowledge and it just went over your head. There is no need to worry about anything.  

We recommend you just hire or consult a professional electrician that will observe your air conditioner unit and tell you that which type of wire it needs. 

Why it is important to use the right wire for AC?

Here you are surely thinking that why can’t we just use any random wire for the air conditioner? Why is it important to use the right wire for AC? Well, here are the solid reasons why you should use the right wire for your AC:

The Electrons Will Move Fast

If you have the right size of wire for the right size of AC, the electrons (electric current) will face less resistance and smoothly flow in the wire, so your AC will work much more efficiently. It will also be economically good for you.

The Wire Won’t Get Hot

If you are using a small-sized wire to support a big air conditioner then it is just not the right thing to do. It’s because you want the wire to do a job that it is not capable of doing. 

For example, suppose you ask a 10-year-old kid to lift a 100kg weight at the gym. Will he be able to do it? No! 

Similarly, a small-sized wire won’t be able to support an air conditioner. The current will face extreme resistance while flowing and eventually the wire will become extremely hot. It can also catch fire and lead to a very big disaster which can end up with serious damage to the air conditioner or even loss of life and property.

The Wire Will Stay Cool

Using the right wire for the air conditioner has a lot of benefits and one of them is excellent safety. The current will face minimum resistance while flowing through the wire, this way the wire will stay cool and safe. It will reduce the risk of any fire, short circuit, or electrocution. Thus, it will save the air conditioner as well as your life and loss of property.


A 10/2 wire is the best choice for an air conditioner as compared to a 10/3 wire. 

A 10/3 wire has 2 hot, 1 ground, and an additional neutral which is not even needed for an air conditioner. Therefore, it is recommended that you must use a 10/2 wire having 1 hot, 1 neutral, and 1 ground which is the perfect choice for an air conditioner.

We also strongly recommend you to read our previous air conditioner extension cord safety guide

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