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Do I need to run electrical wires exiting the breaker box on the exterior wall of the house & traveling across the wall in conduit or can the wires be stapled to the wood siding with steel staples?

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In what country are you located? –  bib Apr 21 at 23:50
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Are you asking about wires (single conductors covered by an insulator), or cables (multiple insulated/uninsulated conductors grouped within a jacket/sleeve)? What type of wire/cable are you asking about? –  Tester101 Apr 22 at 10:44
    
Put it in conduit and do it properly!!! –  Matt Apr 22 at 21:56

2 Answers 2

It depends. As @bib implies in a comment, it depends where you are. It depends what type of wire you are using - it must be exterior rated for both water and sunlight exposure. It may depend what type of structure it's on (many things that are fine in the US on a "residence" are strictly forbidden in "commercial work.") In some cases the residential work should at least consider meeting the higher standard as a minor investment resulting in greater safety. Code is a minimum, it's fine to exceed it. In some cases the conduit approach is actually cheaper than exterior cables*, and it's certainly more damage-resistant.

*Any wire in a conduit that is outside must be rated for wet locations. However, it's not uncommon for 3-4 wet-rated wires to be cheaper than the same number and size of wires grouped as an exterior cable to an extent that will pay for the conduit to put them in.

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They need to be in conduit for 2 reasons. First, exposed wiring needs to be protected from damage and stapling bare wire to the siding would not qualify. Burying it at least 24" would qualify, but any portion above that would still need to have some sort of damage protection (conduit). Second, exterior boxes, receptacles, and entry/exit points need to be weatherproof. Conduit provide a means to weatherproof the ends of the runs, and I doubt any other method would be suitable for a horizontal run.

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Not true, it depends on the type of cable and where in the world you live. –  Walker Apr 22 at 7:59

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