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ATI’s All-Out Guide to Electrical Wiring Color Codes

ATI’s All-Out Guide to Electrical Wiring Color Codes

Why are electrical wires and cables all colored differently? If you’re an electrical veteran or even an apprentice, you probably know the answer to this question and might even think it’s obvious. But if you’re an amateur that doesn’t have much experience in the electrical industry, this is probably all brand new to you and that’s okay.

Lets be honest, you’ve seen some sort of electrical cables before, whether they were in your home electrical panel, on a wire reel while driving past a construction site, on the ground at a concert, or at any other event type situation. But again, why are they all different colors? Well, the main reason is for safety.

These colors represent the voltage that those particular wires are carrying throughout the electrical circuit. It’s a standardization that tradesmen follow to better understand what type of circuit they’re working on. This makes the world a safer place for the electrician as well as the future technician that will be doing maintenance or repairs. However, while safety is the main purpose of the colored wires, you should always use a voltage multimeter to determine exactly how many volts are running through a circuit. Never assume.

The color of the jacket on electrical wires and cables (or camlocks connectors for temporary power) will vary based on the number of volts running through a circuit. The significance of these wire colors will also vary depending on where you are located in the world. For example, the United States, Canada, and European countries all use different colors codes to identify their electrical cables.

Our experts are going to divulge further on this subject and explain what each wire color means. Our hope is to educate individuals who are interested in learning about this subject in order to provide a safer workplace for those of us who handle electrical wires on a daily basis. This article should also help those who are browsing the ATI website and need assistance choosing the correct color codes to match your voltage requirements.

U.S. Electrical Wiring Color Configurations

United States Electrical Contractors and Electricians are required to follow National Electric Code Standards (NEC) for everything and anything pertaining to the installation of electrical devices. This includes color codes for electrical wires in branch circuits – a part of the electrical system that originates at the main service panel and feeds electricity through a structure. For example, this is relating to wires that are fed from utility lines into the meter socket and first means of disconnect throughout the entire electrical load such as lighting, outlets, and appliances.

120/208/240 Volt AC Wire Color Codes in the USA

These are the most common voltage configurations throughout the majority of the United States.

120/240V is a single-phase electrical configuration which includes (2) hots, a neutral, and ground. This is most commonly used in standard residential buildings including single family homes and apartment buildings. (Black, Red, White, Green)

120/208V is a three-phase electrical configuration which includes (3) hots, a neutral, and a ground. This is most commonly used in large commercial buildings, offices, and other tenant build-outs. (Black, Red, Blue, White, Green)

  • Line 1 – Black
  • Line 2 – Red
  • Line 3 – Blue
  • Neutral – White
  • Ground – Green or Bare Wire

This is a common voltage configuration that ATI uses on our portable power cables including our banded sets and other entertainment or stage-cable based products.

277/480 Volt AC Wire Color Codes in the USA

This higher voltage is typically used to provide power to large industrial motors, equipment, and LED lighting in commercial and industrial settings.

277/480V is a three-phase electrical configuration which includes (3) hots, a neutral, and a ground.

  • Line 1 – Brown
  • Line 2 – Orange or Purple
  • Line 3 – Yellow
  • Neutral – Gray
  • Ground – Green or Bare Wire
DC Voltage Wire Color Codes in the USA

DC voltage is most commonly used in battery powered devices and uses a direct current flow of energy so the current will always flow in the same direction, as opposed to AC current. You might remember seeing this type of electrical system underneath the hood of your car.

  • Positive – Red
  • Negative – Black
  • Ground – White

Canadian Electrical Wiring Color Configurations

Electricians in Canada are required to follow standards set by the Canadian Electrical Code (CEC) Rather than the U.S. standard of the National Electric Code. These systems are similar to the color configurations that we use in the United States – with a small twist. They use a 347/600 voltage configuration which swaps the black and red colors. You can find an example by switching the voltage drop downs on our Generator Docking Station page.

  • Line 1 – Red
  • Line 2 – Black
  • Line 3 – Blue
  • Neutral – White
  • Ground – Green

European (IEC) Electrical Wiring Color Configurations

The European electrical color codes are a bit different than what we’re typically used to here in the USA. However, this is a standard that practically the rest of the world follows. These standards were set by the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) for branch circuits. Again, this involves wires fed from utility lines into the main electrical panel to over-current devices such as circuit breakers and out throughout the electrical system to power the load.

  • Line 1 – Brown
  • Line 2 – Black
  • Line 3 – Grey
  • Neutral – Blue
  • Ground – Green with a Yellow Stripe

You may have seen these this type of configuration previously on some of ATI’s products, as we are an international business with multiple locations here in the United States that often ship our products overseas. See our single-phase generator cables and camlock panel below incorporating 120V single-phase IEC colors.

Questions on ATI Voltage Color Configurations

If you have any questions at all after reading our blog, please don’t hesitate to contact our portable power experts and we’ll be happy to further explain any information relating to electrical color codes for wires and cables. We often see requests for custom color codes for circumstances such as military requirements and we are happy to accommodate you and supply you with the exact solution you’re looking for. So please, give us a call at (800)-597-9311 or email our portable power group for a quick response at We hope you’ve enjoyed this article and we can’t wait to connect with you through power!

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