Hook-up and mil-spec products are some of the most popular wiring categories in the electrical industry. From simple appliances to extremely demanding applications, both cabling products are able to replace each other in most non-critical applications. This blog will compare two of our team's most requested cabling products and explain why specific constructions can be used as different types of alternatives.

What is Mil-Spec Wire & Hook-Up Wire?

Mil-spec or military cable is an electrical wiring product that is built in accordance with military specifications. These cables are designed to survive in some of the harshest environments on the planet, while simultaneously being a simple appliance wiring alternatives. The mil-spec cable was created for military applications, which don't require nearly as many long term safety certifications as some other cabling categories. With some of the toughest applications in the world, mil-spec wire has become one of the more important wiring categories that exists today.


Hook-up wire, also known as lead Wire, is one of the most popular wiring categories in the electrical industry. With constructions like PVC insulated wiring and highly resistant PTFE, the hook-up wiring products have constructions for almost any cabling applications that may come up. Hook-up wiring is heavily relied on for general purpose applications involving internal wiring of control, power circuits and simple appliances. With such a large selection of constructions, hook-up wire has become one of the most relied on cabling categories in the electrical industry.



Mil-Spec Applications

Mil-Spec Wire 

Mil-spec wire is a perfect solution for high-frequency computerized applications where extreme temperatures are standard. Perfect for extreme environments, the constructions are used for a variety of different purposes, some of which are airframe cable, safeguarding and protective housing, antennas, point-to-point wiring, bus-bar, ground wire, and bonding moving parts. The mil-spec cables also perform with absolute reliability, when failure could result in catastrophic consequences. 


The military wiring categories are identified by a specific slant "/" and an associated number /"5". There are many different types of destinations for mil-spec wiring that are used for various applications. The M16878, M22759 & M23053 are the most popular categories; they're also the categories with the greatest number of constructions. This category is unique because it doesn't purely serve the military industry; in fact, most military cables are able to be applied to almost any application that doesn't require prerequisite certifications.


M16878 or Mil-W-16878

The m16878 military designated wire, are also used as alternative products for hook-up and appliance wiring. The main difference between these products is the legal certifications. UL and CSA are the legal North American certifications for hook-up wire. The m16878 constructions are in other words, military hook-up wires, as they serve very similar applications, just in different industries. The m16878 cables are able to be used anywhere a CSA, and UL certification isn't required as its main purpose is to act as an internal wiring solution.

The m16878 cables are also well known for using different types of insulation and jacketing materials, most of which are highly resistant. PTFE is one of these popular types of materials as it exhibits resistance to extreme temperatures, ultra-violet radiation, stress, chemicals, and mold growth. The coating of PTFE on mil-spec and hook-up wires also helps with the cable frequency range and increases the already superb flex-life. Lastly, the MIL-W-16878 wire passes the UL VW-1 Flame Test and can remarkably withstand harsh environmental applications. 


Comparing Hook-Up & Mil-Spec Voltage Ratings

Hook-Up Wire Alternative Mil-Spec Hook-Up Voltage Rating Mil-Spec Voltage Rating
CSA REW, UL1431 M16878/3 600V 3000V
CSA TEW, UL1015 M16878/3 600V 3000V
CSA TR64, UL1007 M16878/2 300V 1000V
CSA REW, UL1430 M16878/2 300V 1000V
CSA XLAWM, UL1429 M16878/1 150V 600V
CSA AWM, UL1213 M16878/4 600V Not Specified
CSA AWM, UL1164 M16878/5 300V 1000V

 *Products above are CSA/UL & Mil-Spec Alternatives


M22759 Aerospace Application Example

M22759, Mil-W-22759 & SAE AS22759

The m22759 military wire is similar to its m16878 counterpart in terms of the category organization (the slants "/5"). These products are also typically rated for much more demanding applications. With a variety of different product choices, the m22759 has a number of constructions designed for some of the most important applications within society. Some of these applications include aerospace, power circuits, engine controls, and where high-temperature reliability is required.


With more than 60+ constructions, the m22759 products have a selection of different conductors, insulations, jacketing and shielding types to choose between. Some popular insulations within these different constructions are polyvinylidene fluoride (PVF2), polytetrafluoroethylene (TFE), fluorinated ethylene propylene (FEP) and ethylene-tetrafluoroethylene copolymer (ETFE)On top of these different insulations, there's a number of different types of conductor platings that ultimately determine the temperature ratings. These different conductor platings are Tinned, Silver and Nickle with the highest rating.

M16878 VS M22759

Unlike the m16878 counterpart, the m22759 constructions aren't direct product alternatives. What this means is you're still able to substitute any hook-up wire with any m22759 construction; the only difference is that a "direct alternative" means the products are almost identical with the exception of the certifications. In other words, the m22759 cables are potential substitutes when certifications aren't required, but in special circumstances, the m22759 can be used to replace a hook-up wire, when application environments become too demanding. 


Hook-Up Wire / Lead Wire

Hook-up wire in terms of construction is very similar to many of the mil-spec products, specifically the m16878 or mil-W-16878. The hook-up wiring category is typically relied on for applications involving the internal wiring of appliances or as a lead wire. These cabling products are extremely popular because of the wide variety of different constructions, such as simple building wire, CSA T90 or high-temperature impregnated silicone fiberglass, CSA SEW. The most popular type of hook-up products are the constructions consisting of PVC insulations. This category is one of the most common because of the cost-effectiveness of PVC. With choices in insulation, conductor metals, sizes, and colours, the combinations of hook-up wires at your disposal are endless. Regardless of whether you are using our hook-up wires for appliances, transformers, control panels, motors, HVAC systems, or anything else under the sun, our team guarantees that you will be satisfied with your product!

Different Certifications

Comparing Certifications

We've covered the general descriptions, types of alternatives, typical applications, and now we're going to compare the different certifications. Certifications are typically based on geographical location and the application itself, as many product alternatives are extremely similar in construction but differentiate by approvals. 


UL - Underwriters Laboratory 

UL - Underwriters Laboratory

UL is similar to CSA and covers a broad range of products, not just electrical equipment. Over the years, the organization expanded to 64 different laboratories, as well as testing and certification facilities, which serve various customers in 104 different countries. In the past, UL only focused on electrical and fire safety, but over the years, it has begun regulating hazardous substances, water quality, performance testing, safety, compliance education and environmental sustainability. Lastly, UL is also the most used certification in North America.


CSA Group - Canadian Standards Association

CSA - Canadian Standards Association

CSA, as its name suggests, is a Canadian standard, which means it's only required for goods and services within Canadian borders. This association covers 57 different safety designations, in all different types of industries.

CSA is one of the main two North American certifications for the hook-up wiring category. From simple CSA TEW to the highly resistant CSA SEW. Every hook-up wire is certified for a number of different applications as the certifications are application based rather than product-based. This means you can use TEW for anything unless your application falls under CSA groups application requirements, then your cable would need a specific approval.


QPL - Qualified Product Listing

QPL stands for Qualified Product Listing and is the main type of certification required for military applications. QPL is an electronic list that identifies suppliers whose materials are permitted for use on ODOT projects without further testing or documentation.

QPL Process:

  1. Determining a QPL material
  2. Determining the acceptance requirements for QPL material approval 
  3. Adding material to the QPL 
  4. Required project site documentation and inspection for a QPL material
  5. Documenting Project Acceptance of a QPL material 
  6. Random Testing
  7. Material Removal
  8. QPL dispute resolution process
  9. Reinstatement of materials to the QPL

QPL is a unique type of designation and is one that is not easily gained. The QPL process above highlights how to get products QPL certified, and its not a quick process. From random testing to gaining simple acceptance of materials, the QPL is an extremely important part of dangerous applications in all types of different industries.


The hook-up wire and mil-spec wiring categories have a variety of different cabling products that are used within a number of different electrical industries. These wiring products are very similar, and one of the main differences between them is the types of certifications. Each certification enables cables of similar constructions to be used in completely different applications. From the extremely important aerospace applications to less stringent internal wiring. Overall, all wire and cable are perfect for a specific set of applications and when approvals aren't an issue, each may be used to replace one another as direct product alternatives.

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