What Is a Zip-Cord?

Mary McMahon

A zip-cord is a length of wire with two or more separately insulated conductors weakly bound together so they can be easily pulled apart by a technician. This is also known as bonded wire, lamp cord, or speaker wire, and it is very common in the wiring of home appliances and similar supplies. Electrical stores typically sell a variety of types of zip-cord rated for different applications, and can order special products by request from customers. Manufacturers can produce custom products for industrial clients.

Electricians check wiring during installation and repair to make sure there are no problems.
Electricians check wiring during installation and repair to make sure there are no problems.

The most basic zip-cord design includes two wires wrapped separately in insulation, with a small bridge of insulating material between them. A technician can easily pull the wires apart while retaining the insulation, or they can be left together if that would better suit a wiring project. Products with more wires are also available, and may be color coded for convenience so technicians can be confident that they are choosing the right wire.

One advantage of using zip-cord for wiring is that it keeps wiring tidy and organized. With a project like wiring speakers where having numerous loose wires could make a mess, the technician can leave the wiring bound together as it exits the amplifier or other device, and split it when it becomes necessary to do so for the wiring to separately reach the speakers. Zip cord can also be used with other projects where loose wires and cables are a concern.

It is possible to pull the wires completely apart to create two separate strands, if necessary. Leaving zip-cord intact, on the other hand, will keep the conductors yoked to each other so they will be less likely to tangle and make a mess. There is no direct contact between the conductors, although an electrician could create a tap or similar feature if it is necessary to join them. This allows for a high degree of project flexibility, as an electrician can decide on the most appropriate application of the zip-cord.

As with other electrical wiring, it is important to keep zip-cord in good condition. Electricians check wiring during installation and repair to make sure there are no problems like areas of stripped insulation that leave the wires exposed. It is advisable to avoid setting heavy weights on the wire, especially if they have sharp edges, as might be the case with the edge of a speaker cabinet or desk. The weight could eventually grind through the insulation and potentially the wire itself, which might create a hazardous condition.

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