Upon inspecting outlets or light switch boxes, you will find that it consists of wires, each with a specific color designed for a particular purpose, all put together for the electrical system to function.
A voltage of 12 volts is considered safe. The electrical load of 120v, 220v, and 320v have become the most widespread in industry and agriculture and everyday life: the first two for lighting and household appliances, the third- for three-phase electric motors of machines and mechanisms. This voltage is economically advantageous but very dangerous for humans.
Cables, wires, all electrical wiring, which is used for electrical work in the house or apartment in the electric panel, during the installation of electrical devices, is always color coded. The electrical wire of the distribution of an alternating and direct current of any branch of a chain necessarily has color coding.
The specific colors in the electrician are not chosen randomly. Colored wiring is necessary for safe electrical work to avoid short circuits and electric shock. Previously, the color of the conductors were only black or white, which caused great inconvenience to electricians. When the conductors were disconnected, power had to be supplied to the conductors, after which zero and phase were determined by means of controls. The use of coloring relieved them of all the struggles because everything became very clear.
Color coding is almost always applied along the entire length of the conductor. It helps to set the destination of each conductor to a specific group to facilitate their switching.
Color coded cables are provided for the safety and protection of anyone that will be working with them. Therefore, attaining this knowledge on electrical wire colors is essential, regardless if you will be calling professionals.
In the USA, the color coding of electrical wiring differs from the rest of the world. The National Electrical Code labeling applies here.
Electrical shock is one of the most severe types of injuries. The human body is 80% made up of water. And it conducts current well. Damage from electric current is determined by the strength of the current and the duration of its exposure. The less resistance the human body has, the higher the current. The resistance is reduced by the following factors:
- high voltage electrical system
- skin moisture
- the long duration of electrical panel exposure
- reduced partial oxygen pressure in the air: in poorly ventilated rooms, a person becomes significantly more vulnerable
- increased carbon dioxide content in the air
- high air temperature
- carelessness, mental unpreparedness for a possible electric shock
The central nervous system suffers the most from the action of electric current. Because of its damage, breathing and heart activity could be impaired.
Safety is a crucial factor when it comes to any electrical system as it is a highly potential fire hazard, especially when not attended to promptly. Here are a few reminders to keep in mind when dealing with any type of home repair electrical problems:
- If anything odd occurs with the electricity in your home, such as shutdown, a quick inspection with your own neighbors can assist you with the problem. If they are experiencing the same thing, you should contact the utility company in charge of your designated area to find the solution to your problem.
- If the issue is something apparent such as a loose wire hanging from an electric pole, stay away from it, and contact your utility company. Furthermore, under no circumstances should it be touched, especially if you are unqualified to deal with the matter at hand.
- It is best to assume that all wires separate from domestic appliances as dangerous.
- Never touch or work with electrical tools or wires submerged in water or with your hands wet.
- In the event, you decide to work on minor electrical repairs on your own, such as replacing a fuse, keep the power off to avoid getting harm’s way.
- If you do not have any experience with working with any electrical appliances, wires, or tools, it is best to leave it in the hands of experts such as HandyKith.
Types of Wires and Electric Line Colors
While there are different wires that carry different circuit voltages, such as ones that are extremely dangerous once touched, and others that have a low-voltage current that you do not risk getting a shock, it is best to treat all of them as a threat if in case the opportunity arises wherein you would have to deal with them.
Nonmetallic (NM) cable wires are the most common type of home electrical wire colors found in most homes today. It is wrapped within a protective plastic sheath and consists of one or more hot wires, a neutral wire, and a ground wire.
Individual wires may be installed in a rigid or flexible metal or plastic tube that is known as a conduit. This serves as an alternative, which is more commonly used if the wiring will be displayed outside the walls, ceilings, or floors.
NM Cables are also known as “Romex” due to that specific brand. These are specifically designed for dry, interior locations and have a flat, pipe-like shape that runs through the walls and floor cavities in your home, rendering it invisible. These are often found in outlets and light fixtures. Here are its standard sizes and amp ratings:
- 14-gauge: 15-amp circuits
- 12-gauge: 20-amp circuits
- 10-gauge: 30-amp circuits
- 8-gauge: 40-amp circuits
- 6-gauge: 55-amp circuits
NM cables also come with a color-coded sheathing in order to differentiate its wire gauge. These can be house wiring colors identified as follows:
- 14-gauge conductors: White
- 12-gauge conductors: Yellow
- 10-gauge conductors: Orange
- 6- and 8-gauge wire: Black
If in case you see a Gray sheathing, it is important to note that this color is not used for NM cables as this specific color code is assigned to UF cables or underground cables that are used for wet and ground locations.
Furthermore, a few communities are not sanctioned to use NM cables and use AC, otherwise known as armored cables, instead. This type of wiring was typically used in the early 1900s and is designed with a flexible and metallic sheath. Due to this, further protection is provided for the inner conductors.
Hot or live wires are continuous current-carrying wires that feed the initial power to a circuit. They are highly dangerous to touch, especially when it is still connected to a power source that feeds it. Therefore, live wire colors mean they should never be moved or touched.
Neutral Wiring Colors
While the hot wire is the start of a circuit, the neutral wire finishes the circuit, thus completing the circulation of your electrical system. Basically, it acts as the opposite of a hot wire and returns the circuit back to the source of power. Moreover, it prevents any faulty or excess currents that may reside in your outlet. Despite the fact that they are not constantly carrying an electrical current, the same caution when handling a hot wire should be applied.
Ground Wiring Colors
Ground wires exist for your protection as it defends against unstable electrical currents. Ground wires do not carry an electrical current, but if any accidents take place, such as a short circuit, it sends the flow toward the ground. However, this is more of a prerequisite by the NEC for newer houses and not usually found in older homes. To see if a ground wire color is present in your home, check to see if your outlet has three prongs.
Electrical Wire Color Codes
NM electrical cables with 120-volts and 240-volts come with an outer plastic sheathing that binds electrical color coded wires on the inside. Inscribed on the outer part are markings which specify the number and size of the wires within the jacket, whereas its color indicates its recommended use.
Black Wires: Hot
Black electrical wire is a common wire color in a standard household indicating the insulation is for hot wire color code.
Red Wires: Hot Electrical Wire Color Code
Red wires are also used to indicate a second hot wire in the installation of 240-volts. Red wires are also common wire colors applied in circumstances where hardwired smoke detectors need to be interconnected so that all the alarms simultaneously go off. While you can link two red wires together, there is also the option of connecting it to a black wire. Professionals are more suited to handle and advise regarding situations like these.
White With Red and Black Wires: Hot
You may find a white wire color code that is looped and marked with red or black tape. This also means red electrical wire colors are considered hot and are not used as a neutral wire. It may be seen in circumstances where you have a second hot wire on a 240-volt appliance in a two-wire cable.
Bare Copper Wires: Ground
Bare copper wires are frequently used for grounding. In general, all electrical devices must be grounded as it provides a safe route for an electrical current to pass through. Even switches and fixtures must have a path for the electricity to go back to the ground. Possibly the only thing that might not need to be grounded is plastic boxes as these are nonconductive.
Green Wire: Ground Electrical Wire Color Code
Green electrical wires are solely used for the purposes of grounding. Ground screws may also be painted green.
Neutral Wire Color or Gray Wires
White or gray wires usually indicate that it is neutral. Furthermore, this does not mean they are entirely safe. Be cautious as any electrical tape that has been wrapped around it would indicate otherwise, as it means that it is acting as a hot wire instead. Furthermore, there is a possibility that the tape may come off over time. Remember that neutral wires carry power back to a breaker box, so it still has the potential to get you injured or shocked.
Blue Electrical Wire and Yellow Wires
Blue and yellow electrical wires are rare to see but can sometimes be used within an electrical conduit as hot wires. This is usually encountered by travelers for three or four-way switches.
Electrical wire colors are not ones that are easily trifled with. Even if it is vital to have the knowledge of wire color meaning in order to know what exactly you are dealing with, for the safety of yourself and those around you, it is always best to go for professional electrical services. HandyKith is a leading professional that can assist you with all your household wiring needs at any time, so you know you are being handled with only the best. Stop asking, “Can I connect red wire to black wire?”, -call HandyKith professionals!