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Electrical Wire Colors - What You Should Know

The colors of electrical wires are not for aesthetic purposes. The reason for home electrical wire colors and 3-phase wire color codes is to help you understand the properties of each wire. It is for your safety and the safety of your appliances and home. If your electrical wires are connected incorrectly, it poses a danger. Because all wires carry an electrical current, they should all be treated with the same caution. 

Electrical Wire Colors Explained

The electrical wire color code is a standard in the United States  that is followed by all qualified electricians. It is used to make installations and repairs easier. If your home’s electrical wiring was installed by one electrical contractor, and repaired by another, both electricians will be able to identify the different wires. Here is a guide to what each color represents.

Neutral Wires - White Wire

The neutral wire carries the circuit back to the original power source. Without this, you cannot have electricity. This gives the electrical current circulation through your electrical system, which allows electricity to be fully and safely utilized.


Hot Wires - White Wires with Tape

When you see white wires covered with red or black tape, it is an indication that they are hot wires. This tape is usually wrapped around the insulation. In this instance, the wire is not being used as a neutral wire, but as a live wire. This will occur when you have a 2-wire cable that needs a second hot wire for a 240-volt circuit. 

Black Wires

Black wires can be used as switch legs, which are the linkages between switches and electrical loads. They transfer electricity to outlets and switches in all types of circuits. Hot wires carry electrical current from your electrical panel or breaker box to its destination. They are considered to be live at all times, which means that an extra measure of care should be taken when handling these hot wires. Red, blue, and yellow wires are often used for very similar use. 

Red Wires

Red wires can also be used in various switch legs. They are secondary live wires in 220-volt circuits. Red wires are most commonly used to connect a home’s power system. They are also used to connect hardwired smoke detectors. This means if one smoke detector alarm goes off, all the other smoke alarms in the circuit go off too. Red wires are also used to install ceiling fans that have a light switch.

Blue and Yellow Wires

Different switches that control the same lighting use blue wires. Blue and yellow wires are hardly used to wire an electrical outlet. They carry power and act as live wires pulled via a conduit. Yellow wires may be used as switch legs to ceiling fans and outlets paired with light switches. Blue wires are commonly used as travelers in three-way or four-way switches, which is why two switches can control one output.

Ground Wires

Green Wires

The purpose of a green wire is to ground an electrical circuit. These wires are joined to a grounding terminal in an outlet strongbox. They run towards the ground bus bar in your main electrical panel. If any live wire comes into contact with metal or any other conductive material, these wires are used as a failsafe. They provide the electrical current with an escape route within the ground. Green wires can only be connected to other green wires. If a fault occurs, the wires may be live and should be treated with caution. Green wires should only be used for this reason. This can be an electrical shock risk. It is essential to note that ground screws can also be painted green. 

Bare Copper Wires

Grounding your home allows electricity to travel back to the ground if there is a problem with your electrical system. Everything in your home should be grounded. Meaning that bare copper wires should be connected to all devices, fixtures, and metal housing on appliances, outlets, and switches. Because electric metal boxes are conductive, they must be grounded too. 

The Importance of Electrical Wire Colors in DFW

Milestone has been serving DFW for many years. We strive to provide the best electrical services to you and your home, as well as educate homeowners about the electrical components in their home. Knowing how an electrical wiring system works can benefit you and your home. An incorrectly wired home can be an electrical shock risk and fire hazard. Contact Milestone for all your electrical wiring installations. If you are worried something was wired or installed incorrectly, we can take a look to give you peace of mind. We are experienced with all electrical wire colors and their purpose. At Milestone, we care about you, your family, and your home.