Electrical EquipmentElectricity 101

Be Safe by Knowing the Wiring Color Codes

If you are working with electricity, you should be familiar with wiring color codes. The wires in the branch circuits of electrical systems are classified based on their size, color and wiring type. The color of the insulation will help you determine the function of the wire. This is integral to staying safe while doing electrical work as using the wrong type of wiring can lead to dangerous circumstances. Read on to learn about the different wiring color codes so you can keep safe while doing electrical work in your home or office.

Learning the Different Wiring Color Codes

wiring colorWhen working with electrical wire, it is important to use caution, no matter what color wire you are dealing with. Any color wire can carry an electrical current at some point so it is essential to be careful in all circumstances. Also, be aware that wiring colors may vary, especially in older homes. That being said, here is a basic guide for wiring color codes that are used today.

Black Wire

These are used for power in all electrical circuits. They are ungrounded and should be considered hot, or live. They are used as the power feed for a switch or outlet and are often utilized in a circuit as a switch leg, serving as the connection that runs from a switch to the electrical load. Black wires should never be used as a ground or neutral wire.

Red Wire

In accordance with NEC approved wiring color codes, red wire is also always used as a hot or live wire. It serves as the secondary wire in a 220-volt circuit which is used in certain types of switch legs and in the interconnection of smoke detectors that are hard wired to the power system. Red wires can be connected to other red wires or to black wires.

Blue and Yellow Wires

These wires can also be used to carry power and as the live wire that is pulled through the conduit. They must not be used as the outlet wiring that powers common electrical devices. Yellow wires can be used as switch legs to fans, structural lights or switched outlets; blues are used as travelers for three or four way switches.

White and Gray

White and gray are neutral wires. These are used to connect a neutral bus bar within an electrical panel. Although they are neutral, they can still carry current, particularly the unbalanced load or electricity that is not being used and is returned to the electrical device.


different wiring color codesWhen thinking about wiring color codes, the green wire indicates the grounding of an electric circuit. They connect the grounding terminal in an outlet box. They run from the outlet box to the ground bus bar in an electric panel. The wires work by providing a path for a circuit’s electric current if the current comes into contact with metal or another conductive material. Because of this, green wires could be carrying a significant electrical current and one should be cautious when working with this color wire.

Familiarizing yourself with wiring color codes is a necessary step to take before attempting any sort of electrical work. Using a wire for the wrong purpose could result in a fatal error. Learn the functions of different colored wires to safely perform electrical work in your home or office.

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