How Electroluminescent (EL) Wire Works

By: Joanna Burgess

EL Wire Safety, Efficiency and Cost

Electroluminescent wire is becoming a popular decoration or accent on clothing -- but is it safe to have an electrical source so close to your skin? No matter where or how you use EL wire, take precautions with high voltage, and use a fuse with your inverter to prevent short circuits. Additionally, avoid over-bending the wire, as this is a common cause of such shorts. Battery packs with inverters are usually the power source for those who want to glow on the go. If you're wearing EL wire in clothing or costumes and don't fancy getting a small shock, you should also be sure the area where the wire connects to the inverter is well insulated. Though EL wire never gets hot, when electricity's involved, safety is always a concern.

How does EL wire compare with other lighting in terms of efficiency and cost? Given its common uses, it's one of the most efficient forms of lighting on the market. It burns very little energy, glows cool to the touch and costs relatively little. If you're a savvy shopper, you can often find good deals on pricing. Some retailers sell EL kits -- which can be a great value -- while others sell EL wire by the foot. In addition to being affordable, EL wire is also durable. Unlike neon or fluorescent light, EL has no filament that can break. Though some consumers prefer longer-lasting, custom-made neon signs, EL wire costs less, breaks less and allows your own creativity to shine. You can safely bend, loop and wrap it to create any design you want, much as you can do with rope lights. While rope lights may cost less than EL wire, rope lights generate heat. Also, many common brands of rope light do not allow users to cut the string of lights to their desired length. What's more, EL wire costs up to 500 times less to operate than neon or rope lights, and you can use EL wire over and over again[source: LiveWire] .


Although EL wire has great staying power, its color will eventually fade from sun exposure. Keeping your EL wire outdoors in direct sunlight will cut the life span to one to two years. When kept indoors or with limited outdoor exposure, your EL wire's color will last as long as three years. The voltage being applied to your EL wire also affects its lifespan. Although a more powerful inverter delivers higher voltage to your EL wire and makes it brighter, the higher voltage causes the EL wire to lose its luminosity, or brightness, sooner. Much as ordinary incandescent light bulbs burn out more quickly when too much voltage is applied, so does EL wire. In order to get the most for your money, you should follow the guidelines given by your EL wire's manufacturer [source: Solution Industries].

Read on to learn some creative uses for EL wire.