When handling electrical wire, it’s imperative to understand and differentiate the corresponding color codes. Knowing the electrical color code is paramount for your safety and the correct configuration of an electrical system. Making the wrong connections can prove to be dangerous or even fatal. It’s not a hard system to learn and the information is handy to keep close by whenever you’re working on an electric wire. I am going to give you the Inner Wire Color Breakdown:
Note: each of the wires serves a different function and the color code of the wires will tell you what that is. Be aware, however, that sometimes exceptions do exist.
- Black wires are used for power in all circuits. They are known as “hot cables” and are often used as switch legs – the connection that runs from the switch to the electrical load. The most important thing to remember is that the black wire is the hot electric wire. It’s the wire that is live and carrying the current. You should never, under any circumstances, try to use a black wire as a neutral or a ground wire.
- White indicates a neutral wire. A neutral wire connects to the neutral bus bar within an electric panel. The white electric wire is always going to be neutral when working with 110 volts. It’s possible that gray can be used as an alternative, but in the vast majority of instances, the wire you see will be white. You can only connect white and gray to other white and gray wires.
- The green electric wire is the ground wire. A green wire can connect only to another green wire and should never connect to any other color wire. The purpose of the green wire is to provide a path to ground for a circuit’s electric current if a live wire within the circuit happens to touch metal or some other conductive material. Failure to properly ground an electrical connection can result in the device shorting out and causing a fire. For some applications, a bare copper wire may be present in place of a green wire.
- Red electrical wire indicates the secondary live wires in a 220V circuit. They are also used for the hot wire in 100V installations and in switch legs. You can connect a red wire to another red wire or to a black wire.
- Yellow and blue electrical wires are also used to carry power and are used for the live wire pulled through the conduit. You will use yellow or blue mainly as switch legs to fans, structural lights and switched outlets, such as a three-way or four-way switch.
Keep in mind that all electrical wires, regardless of their function, could carry an electrical current. It is very important to treat all wires with equal precaution. Also, highly rated electricians note that older homes built before the 1940s might use different color codes if the wiring has never been upgraded.