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How Do Cold Temperatures Affect Cable?

Written December 2019 | Bruce Kesler, Director of Sales at Service Wire Company

Extreme cold temperatures can have adverse effects on your wire and cable, causing them to temporarily become brittle and inflexible. In these conditions, some cables will stiffen and even crack if they are installed below recommended temperatures.

This video shows THHN-2 snapping on the jobsite during a cold weather installation. The temperature caused the PVC insulation to stiffen, and the nylon jacket cracked when the cable was pulled. This not only destroyed the cable, but it became a safety risk to all involved—just one example of why selecting the right cable is critical.


Understanding Cold Temperature Ratings

Industry standards allow a variety of cold temperature ratings. This rating reflects the cable’s lowest recommended temperature for installation. Cables made of thermoplastic insulation (THHN-2/THWN-2) may stiffen at temperatures colder than -10°C, while cables made of thermoset insulation (XHHW-2) are temperature rated for -40°C.

Cable Temperature Ratings Celsius Fahrenheit
THHN-2/THWN-2 (thermoplastic) -10°C (14°F)
XHHW-2 (thermoset) -40°C (-40°F)

Thermoset products like XHHW-2 have XLPE (crosslink) insulation instead of PVC. The cold temperature resistant polymer allows the cable to better maintain its flexibility during cold weather installations.


Extreme cold temperatures can cause cables to stiffen, crack, and even break. To avoid cable damage, select a cable with a sufficient cold temperature rating for your application.

Thermoplastic products (THHN-2/THWN-2) may stiffen at temperatures colder than -10°C, while cables made of thermoset insulation (XHHW-2) are temperature rated -40°C.

XHHW-2 uses XLPE insulation instead of PVC. The cold temperature resistant polymer helps the cable maintain its flexibility, especially during cold weather installations that require the cable to be bent frequently.



When working on cold weather installations, consider using Service Wire’s On-Demand Cable Management program. Cable is housed in one of three state-of-the-art facilities until you need it. Cable Management locks in pricing, ensures product availability for the duration of your project, and reels can be delivered on the job site at the time of installation.


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