Q:

What is the color of a live wire?

A:

Quick Answer

The color of a single live wire in the United States is black, and the color of a second hot wire is red. All U.S. electricians and building contractors are bound by the National Electrical Code, or NEC, which is published by the National Fire Protection Association. Color codes can also vary based on country and region.

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Full Answer

The U.S. alternating current, or AC, power circuit wiring color codes according to local practice are:

  • 208 VAC 3-phase live wires are color coded as black for L1, red for L2 and blue for L3
  • 480 VAC 3-phase live wires are color coded as brown for L1, orange for L2 and yellow for L3

The U.S. direct current, or DC, power circuit recommended wiring color codes are:

  • the first live wire in a 2-wire ungrounded DC power system, or L+, is black, and the second live wire, or L-, is red
  • in a 2-wire grounded DC power system, a positive of a negative grounded circuit, or L+, is red and a negative of a positive grounded circuit, or L-, is black, while a negative of a negative grounded circuit, or N, and positive of a positive grounded circuit, or N, are both white
  • in a 3-wire DC power system, positive, or L+, is red, negative, or L-, is black and mid-wire, or N, is white

According to the NEC, all AC and DC protective ground, or PG, wires are color coded as green, bare or green with yellow stripes. The AC neutral power conductor, or N, color codes are either white or gray.

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