Know Your Wiring: Color Coded Meanings

August 1, 2016 7:38 am Published by Leave your thoughts

You’ve probably heard that each colored wire in your home or in a circuit breaker panel has a specific function and purpose. Take a moment to learn what each one does, to aid in your understanding of how your electrical system should be configured, as well as to help ensure your safety in your home or business.

Whether you are in need of circuit breaker repair in North Scottsdale, AZ, or simply want to learn more about your home and its systems, these are valuable details to know.

What does each colored wire do?

  • Black: Black wires provide power in all circuits. You should associate the black wire in any circuit with being hot or live. You may often see them used in circuits as a switch leg (the connection going from the switch to the electrical load). Black wires should not be used as the power feed for an outlet or switch.
  • Red: A red wire designates the secondary live wires in a 220-volt circuit. A red wire can be attached to a black wire or another red wire. These are used in certain switch legs and in the interconnection between smoke detectors.
  • White and gray: White and gray are neutral wires. White wires tend to be used more often than gray wires. White and gray wires may only be connected to other white and gray wires. They can carry current, especially the unbalanced load. (The unbalanced load is the electricity that is not in use and that is returned to the electrical service.)

    As neutral wires, they are attached to the neutral bus bar inside an electrical panel. (A bus bar is made from metal that is designed to be conductive and attract the electric current so that it can be externally distributed to feeders.)

  • Blue and yellow: While blue and yellow wires carry power, they are not used to wire the outlets for common devices that you typically plug into the electrical outlets of your home or business. Instead, they are used for the live wire that moves through conduit. Yellow wires will be used primarily as switch legs to switched outlets, structural lights and fans. Blue wires are often present when a three-way or four-way switch is in use.
  • Green: A green wire designates an electric circuit’s grounding and can only be attached to other green wires. Green wires may carry heavy current and should be treated with extreme care. Green wires allow the electric current of a circuit to touch ground if a live wire comes into contact with metal or another conductive material.

Keep in mind that although each wire color is designated for a specific purpose, amateur electricians or DIY contractors may not always use the correct wiring. If a professional electrician has not installed the wiring for your circuit breaker, do not assume that each colored wire is being used for its intended purpose.

To that end, always have an accredited electrician inspect wires. If your wires need to be replaced or installed, this professional can also perform this service. For circuit breaker repair in North Scottsdale, AZ, contact the expert team at Eavenson Electric to find out more about our services or to schedule an appointment.

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