Wiring – More Than Just Pretty Colors

September 29, 2021

Colorful Wiring

While you may think that the colorful electrical wiring in your home is just the artistic expression of a creative electrician, you may be interested to know that the various colors have significant meaning. Color coding wiring within the electrical system identifies its’ purpose in relation to the electrical system. It also helps in tracing a circuit or trouble shooting electrical problems that may arise later. Knowing the characteristics and purpose of an existing wire run, based on the color of the wire, makes working with electricity logical and much safer for the electrician by reducing the risk of accidental shock.

Hot Wires

Hot wires carry the electrical power from the electrical service panel to the intended destination such as a light fixture or electrical outlet. Typically these wires are black or red, although sometimes blue or yellow wires are also needed in commercial electrical systems.

Neutral Conductors

Neutral Conductors carry the electrical power back to the electrical service panel completing the electrical circuit. These wires must always be white.

Ground Wires

Ground wires provide a safe pathway for the electrical current to reach the ground in the event of a fault. The ground wire is most often bare copper, although green wire is also used.

In addition to wire color, consideration must be given to the gauge of the wire based on the maximum electrical load it is intended to carry. The purpose of the wiring is another important factor that determines the correct wire choice. Outdoor versus indoor, under-ground versus exposed, temporary versus permanent are just a few of the many factors to be considered in a safe installation.

A professional electrician understands the importance of following the universal wire color code and installation rules. Sadly we frequently find amateur installations using incorrect wiring. This is a big red flag for the experienced electrician and suggests that the installer was untrained in electrical and therefore the possibility of more electrical errors and dangerous safety issues may exist.

The color of electrical wiring is only one of hundreds (if not thousands) of important details needed to complete a safe, Code compliant, electrical installation. This is why it takes 4 years of apprenticeship training, including 6000 hours of supervised site work site in addition to 40 weeks of class time, assignments and exams before a license is granted to an electrician to install those colorful wires.

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