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Electrical 101: Wire Colors

With home improvement, there’s always more to be done! From adjusting lighting fixtures to rewiring and rerouting, you can find plenty of electrical do-it-yourself improvements for your home. However, if you’re going to step into the electrical improvement realm, safety and knowledge are key!

Luckily, Gulf Coast Electric is here to help guide you on your electrical journey! With our electrical safety and wire guide, you’ll be able to upgrade your home with ease. 

Electrical Safety

First up, it’s important to be safe when working with wires. If possible, we recommend getting a professional electrician to perform work around your home because DIY electrical tips aren’t a substitution for professional training. However, if you’re a handyman ready to learn about wiring, there’s a few things you can do to prepare!

  1. Purchase sturdy safety goggles, a fire-resistant face shield and thick rubber electrical gloves, and wear them before starting your project.
  2. Always turn off the circuit breaker on your main panel to cut the power to the circuit you plan to work on.
  3. Unplug the appliance before working on it.
  4. Test the wires with a multimeter to make sure that they aren’t live. 
  5. Do not touch gas or plumbing pipes when working with electrical lines. 

With these bases covered, you’re all set to start on your project!

Electrical Wiring Color Guide

Wires come in a full rainbow of colors, and they all carry electricity. However, that’s really the only similarity they have! The color of a wire shows its purpose and helps to keep your electrical space organized. 

The National Electrical Code (NEC) has a guide for some colors, but not others. Thankfully, electricians have their own language with wires, and we’re going to break it down for you!

Black Wires

These wires are “hot” or live wires. Live wires carry the electrical current from your home’s electrical panel to your appliance or fixture. While the NEC doesn’t require hot wires to be black wires, it’s the most common choice for residential wiring. 

You may see a black wire carrying the current from a light switch to its respective light, and that circuit section is called a switch leg. Traveler wires, although it’s less common, can also be black in color.

Red Wires

Red is another common color for hot wires! Larger appliances, ones that need 240 volts, need two hot wires to receive enough electricity. Typically, they’ll use one black hot wire and one red. 

Just like black wires, red wires can be switch legs. You’re likely to see them in devices that need two switch legs, like a ceiling fan with one switch for the fan and another for the light. 

Green, Bare, or Green and Yellow Striped Wires

Green, bare, or green and yellow striped wires, which are wires without a coating, act as ground wires. They work like a failsafe for the circuit. If the circuit isn’t working properly, these wires channel any unintentional current down into the earth to avoid people being shocked. 

Ideally, these wires should not be carrying electricity. However, they can, so always test them before making any cuts or disconnections.

Gray & White Wires

Gray and white colored wires are grounded conductors, or neutral wires. Where a black wire would carry electricity to the appliance, the neutral wire returns it to the panel. It essentially completes an infinite loop.

The NEC says neutral wires can be white or gray, or have three stripes of white or gray on any color background, minus green. Red, black or any other color tape at the end of a gray or white wire shows that the wire is actually a hot wire. 

Remember: these wires carry a current, so they should always be treated as live wires.

Blue & Yellow Wires

Yellow and blue wires are pretty versatile. They can be used as switch legs in wall pipes, or they can be used as a traveler wire in multi-way switches. Although black or red wires are the more common choice for this, especially in residential electrical circuits.

In industrial or commercial buildings with three-phase power, blue and yellow wires are a common choice. Even though you probably won’t see them often, remember to treat them as if they are a live wire!

Pink, Orange, Brown & Violet Wires

And here we have the rest of the wire rainbow! The main purpose of these extra colors are to provide color options to help keep circuits safe and organized.

Orange wires are the most common out of the bunch because we can use them like a live red wire. You’ll probably see them in a higher voltage circuit or in a fire alarm circuit. Violet and pink wires aren’t as common, but they’re sometimes used as switch legs or travelers. Brown wires are more common in industrial buildings where they’re used as live wires. 

Professional Electrical Wiring Services

Learning the wire rainbow is essential to stay safe when working with electrical circuits, but it’s overwhelming! If you’re looking for premium electrical services for your home, look no further! 

At Gulf Coast Electric, we pride ourselves on our knowledge and skill set. When you’re looking to upgrade your home with new lighting, whole home surge protection or a new outlet, you can trust our trained electricians!

Call today and speak with our friendly staff!

Do You Need An Electrician To Replace Your Light Fixtures?

Some homeowners jump at the chance to renovate and replace items; others are filled with dread at the thought. Many people will take their needs and turn them into a DIY project no matter which side they land on. Painting a room or replacing shower tiles yourself can be a great personal project. However, some things just can’t be DIY’d. The Gulf Coast Electrical team is here to tell you that installing new light fixtures in your Florida home is one of those things.

It is our job to make replacing electrical items in your home, like light fixtures, look effortless, but the reality is that electrical needs in your home will always range in complexity. Without an expert eye, it is easy for things to go south very quickly. Electrical malfunctions can be the leading cause of electrical fires. And electrical fires will turn what could have been an otherwise affordable job into an expensive disaster.

That’s why you should hire an expert electrician to get the job done. Read below to find out why hiring an expert is worth it.

Your Safety Matters

According to the U.S. Fire Administration, electrical malfunctions account for almost 7% of electrical fires. Homeowners can do many things to avoid this, like replacing aged appliances, but taking on a professional electrician to take care of all your wiring needs is a preventive measure.

It’s Not As Simple As It Looks

Wiring in your home is already a complex matter. Installing new light fixtures can become even more complicated when you find yourself needing to add new wires to your already existing connections. Many people don’t expect to deal with different types of cables, switch boxes or rewiring. So, it is always better when left in the hands of a pro.

You May Run Into More Issues

You could start out thinking you are only changing a light fixture and quickly realize more work needs to be done. Navigating damaged wires or even getting to the end of your project and realizing the lights still flicker may leave you frustrated. Experts have an easier time identifying what issues are present and have the equipment to deliver a solution. Save yourself time by finding a professional that is equipped with all you need to get the job done.

Light fixtures may not be the only thing you need an electrician for. Here are some common needs that an electrician can help you with:

  • Replacing wiring
  • Repairing circuit breakers
  • Installing outdoor lighting
  • Installing new outlets

Find An Expert

Unless you have extensive electrical experience, you should always hire a professional to meet your needs. It doesn’t matter whether your fixtures are being reinstalled in the same spot or you want them rewired to somewhere new. This job is better off in the hands of an expert.

Gulf Coast Electric is here to serve all of your electrical needs. Contact us to see what we can do for your Destin home!

Easy DIY Electrical Fixes

Sick of your hallway light never turning on? Miss the days when your doorbell actually worked? Fear not, we have a few DIY hacks you can use to fix your simple electrical problems.

Disclaimer: Electricity is dangerous. Any major electric issues you have should be handled by a licensed professional.

Checking Your Breakers

The easiest thing to do when one of your lights or outlets isn’t working is to check your breaker. If one of your breakers is tripped, it will be in a half-position instead of all the way up. Simply move the switch all the way down, and then all the way back up to fix it.

String Lights

Don’t throw away your favorite holiday lights just yet! The great part about string lights is that they normally come with an extra fuse. If you kept the box they came in, it’s more than likely hiding in there. The tiny, cylindrical fuses can be found underneath a sliding plastic covering at the plug part of the lights. Replace any blown-out fuse with the new one. If you can’t find your extra fuse, you can purchase them here.

Dead Doorbells

Doorbells are a pretty simple electrical fix. Most likely the button is broken. To test this, unscrew your doorbell from the wall, and disconnect the wires (there should be two). Touch the wires together, and if they make your doorbell ringing sound, you know it’s the button and not the wiring that’s bad. You can buy new a new doorbell button here. Connect the wires to the new button, just as they were connected to the old one, and screw it back onto the wall. There you go! Working doorbell in no time.
Electrical work should be done with caution. Use protective gloves when working with wiring, and if you’re not sure what to do, it’s always better to call on an electrician than risk shocking yourself. For any more questions you have, or to schedule a repair, contact us today at Gulf Coast Electric.