“You’ve probably noticed anytime you have spotted electrical wire coming out of a fixture that the wires are different colors. You may even realize that each color means something specific to the box or fixture it is wired to. There is a standard color scheme, and while it is not the same for each country, the standard in the United States serves throughout the country so you can depend on understanding one color coded standard to explain what each color stands for, regardless of the fixture. In this article, we’ll examine what the different color wires mean so you will be able to recognize them at a glance the first time you spot them in an appliance or receptacle. Also, it is important that you also follow this code so that someone who may come behind you won’t get injured thinking a hot wire is a neutral one.
Black wires are recognized as being hot wires. You may see them behind a switch or in an electrical outlet. While other colors are sometimes used as neutral wires, black never is so if you see a black wire, rest assured it is a hot wire. Red, blue, and yellow wires are also hot wires.
When two hot wires are used in one appliance, such as a clothes dryer, red may act as the second hot wire. Red hot wires may also be used in ceiling fan installations, for example, as switch legs. Blue and yellow wires are also used for switch legs in fixtures such as fans or lights. Basically, when you see black, red, blue, and yellow wires, you will know they are hot.
While white wires are generally used for the neutral wire, sometimes people do use them for a second hot wire and it is ok to do this as long as you mark the wire, which is typically done using black electrical tape wrapped around the white wire. This tells the next person that the white wire is hot.
It is important to always follow the standard when it comes to using the proper color of wire because you never know who may come behind you years down the road and they need to be able to look at the color of wire they are working with and know instantly whether it is hot or not. Never take shortcuts if you are out of one kind of wire and use the wrong color. For example, you’ll notice that bare copper wires and green wires are only used for grounding so be sure to follow the recognized color code so that you and everyone else will stay safe.