Wire Color Codes: Utilizing Wire Color Code Chart Standards

Utilizing Wire Color Code Chart Standards

Following well-established wire color codes is essential. These commercial electrical color codes exist to ensure employees working with and around dangerous electrical equipment can work safely, effectively, and stay compliant with the National Electric Code (NEC).

In most commercial facilities, electricity will come in at one point through the building and then be distributed to just about every corner by a series of electrical conductors, switches, wires, and cables. While electricity is used constantly throughout the day without much thought, it has the potential to cause many issues and even impede work altogether if managed incorrectly. That said, if the electrical system is not wired or labeled properly with color coding, it can result in injuries, deaths, fires, and many other problems.

Electricity is an essential component for virtually every step within manufacturing. Not to mention every home, school, distribution center, and anywhere else that can be thought of. Our communities run off electricity—but with great power comes great safety obligations to maintain the wires properly!

The Different Types of Wire Color Codes

There are a number of different wire color code standards in place, so it is important to understand which color code to follow depending on the unique wire situation. The color coding standards used will vary based on the country where the electrical wiring is being done, the type of electricity used, and several other factors such as voltage, cables, connectors, switches, and circuits.

Learning about the different color coding options that may be used in each electrically based situation is essential for workplace safety.

Wire Color Code Chart Standards DC Power Colors

Wire Marking Colors for DC Power

Direct current power, or DC power, runs in a straight line through the electrical cable. While a more consistent form of voltage electrical delivery, DC power cannot travel the same long distances as AC electrical power. DC electrical power is used in battery, solar cells, and fuel cells, as a few examples. It can also be made from AC power with the help of a rectifier.

When wiring for DC electrical power, there are typically going to be either two or three insulated wires. The electrical color code is as follows:

  • The positive wire current must be red.
  • The negative wire current must be black.
  • The ground wire, if present, must be white or grey.
Wire Color Code Chart Standards AC 120 Power Colors

Wire Colors for AC Power

Alternating current, or AC power can be found in any electrical power outlet installed in most standard homes and businesses in the United States. This type of power circuit is unique in that the flow of charge can periodically change direction.

The current of AC electrical power moves in a sinusoidal AC wave. This wave-like motion causes AC electrical power to be able to move further than DC power, which is the advantage of ferrying power to consumers from one site.

AC power comes in many different types based on how many volts the wires will be carrying. It is important to note that with this type of electrical wiring, there are multiple phases in place, each of which will get its own color wire to make it clear what it is for the electrician working on it.

For wires that will be 120, 208 or 240 volts, the following electrical wiring color standards are used.

  • Phase 1 wiring should be black.
  • Phase 2 wiring should be red.
  • Phase 3 wiring should be blue.
  • Neutral wiring should be white.
  • Ground wiring can be green or green with a yellow stripe.

In some uncommon wire situations, one phase will have a higher voltage than the others. These are known as high-leg electrical connections. While rare, these wire switchces can be identified by looking for a wire that is marked with orange, which will be the higher voltage wire.

Wire Color Code Chart Standards AC 480 Power Colors

High-Voltage Wiring Color Code

These high-voltage electrical connections are quite common in many manufacturing and other industrial areas. Due to the serious potential for deadly electrocution or other issues, getting these color codes on the wires right is essential. 277/480

These are the electrical wire color coding standards that are used in the United States. In Europe, India, and other countries, there are different wiring color code standards in place. This also stands true for electrical machines made overseas for use in America. These will be wired according to US color standards. However, taking the time to confirm this before using the electrical machinery or appliance is always a smart safety step.

Wire Color Coding Standards Around the World

The following table provides a comparison of the wire color code standards used in some of the most common countries:

CountryPhase 1Phase 2Phase 3NeutralGround
United StatesBlackRedBlueWhiteGreen or Green/Yellow Stripe
CanadaBlackRedBlueWhiteGreen or Green/Yellow Stripe
United KingdomBrownBlackRedBlueGreen/Yellow Stripe
European UnionBrownBlackGreyBlueGreen/Yellow Stripe
AustraliaBrownBlackRedBlueGreen/Yellow Stripe
ChinaBrownBlackRedBlueYellow/Green Stripe





Safety Benefits of Using Wire Color Codes

Color codes for wires are important for safety for a number of reasons. First, color standards help to prevent electricians from accidentally touching live wires. When electricians know which wires are carrying electricity and which wires are safe to touch, they can work more safely and efficiently. Proper color coding makes a big difference for an electrician trying to identify a wire.

Second, color codes can help to make it easier to troubleshoot electrical problems. When electricians can quickly identify which wires are involved in a particular circuit, they can more quickly track down the source of the electrical problem and fix it.

The Color Coding Essentials of Data and Information Wiring

Another important aspect of electrical safety to keep in mind revolves around any data wiring within the commercial facility. Cables and wires that are used to transmit data for computer systems are often thought to be harmless since they are carrying information rather than electrical current.

Some types of networking wire cables will have enough electricity flowing through them to cause a safety hazard at the commercial site. Certain devices, such as phones, will just need the 'power over Ethernet' which means they get the electricity that is needed from the network wire cable they are connected to. If someone cuts through the wire insulation to expose the bare wire known as the conductor, or the wires become frayed, they can present a risk of electrical shock or fire.

Wire information cables are typically colored based on the needs and standards of the facility rather than the electrical standards due to the lower voltages. However, applying color labels or warning signs near these types of wire cables can serve as a good reminder of the potential risk of electrical shock.

Labeling Electrical Wiring & Cable Conduits

The wire color codes used only apply to the wires that are carrying electricity. In many cases, a bundle of these colored wires will be grouped and sealed within a black or grey cable sheath. This colored wire sheath helps to protect people from accidental exposure and makes it much easier to run the electrical wiring where it needs to go, especially for higher voltage situations.

When this is the case, it is important to take the time to properly label the wires and electrical conduits to warn people of potential electrical dangers. By using an industrial label printer, it is easy to identify every set of wires with information about how much electricity is present, where the wiring is coming from, and where it is going.

Placing warning signs anywhere that someone might interact with electrical wires, especially high-voltage wires, is another good practice to improve overall safety. These signs with wire information will serve as an excellent reminder to those in the area that there are dangerous wires present.

Workplace Organization Guide: Learn simple strategies for long-term success with color codes

When your workplace is cluttered, wire color processes aren’t as efficient as they could be. This free Quick Guide to an Organized Workplace covers simple tools and strategies you can use to keep workbenches, storage areas, work cells, and other locations organized and looking professional.

Get Free Workplace Organization Guide

Effective Training Options for Recognizing Wiring Color Codes

Electrician wearing PPE working safely with electrical cables

Those who work directly with electrical wiring daily, such as electricians, will need to be initially trained on what each of the wiring color codes mean. However, once each electrician is performing their job regularly, it will become second nature.

Those who don't work directly with electrical wiring regularly also need to receive this type of color code training, and in many ways, it is even more important. Without proper guidance, training, and documentation, they could put themselves or the entire facility at risk if they need to interact with electrical wiring in any way, whether it be wire installation or basic circuit breaker servicing.

Anyone who will have any exposure to electrical wires should have at least a basic understanding of the wire labeling system with colors.

Perhaps more important than even direct training will be ensuring everyone knows where to reference the electrical color codes. Facilities should have some sort of reference the material, which could be a poster, a book, a computer system, etc. with the wire color codes. However the information is conveyed, the information needs to be easily accessible.

Applying Updated Color Standards to Existing Cable Wiring

If there are wires in a facility that were put in place prior to the color standards that are now used, it is important to take steps to address this safety concern. One option is to remove and replace all the wires in the facility. Older electrical wiring may have other safety related issues, so this can be a good solution in those situations.

If that is not possible, applying wire color labels every few feet is another way to convey the necessary information that would otherwise be indicated by the color of the cable. This can be a good, affordable solution for bringing older power wires up to a better safety standard.

Additional Wire Color Code facts:

Free E-Book

Wire Marking

Learn how to manage wires and cables to improve electrical safety.


Free E-Book

5S Guide

Learn how simple organizational strategy can transform your business.

Other FREE Resources:

Helpful Resources