How to Identify Different Electrical Wires

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Home repair can be a daunting task for anyone, but high on the list of challenges for maintaining your home is electrical work. Not only can you put yourself at risk of a terrible shock, but a faulty wire can even lead to fire damage. This is why it's essential to have a basic understanding of electrical wiring and how they work.

Hot: A hot wire carries power from the fuse to an outlet or appliance in your home. Depending on the voltage, they'll usually come in colors like red, black, blue, orange, or yellow.

Neutral: A neutral wire is what's known as the "return conductor" of a circuit. They're connected to the electrical transformer in your home, keeping a balance of current between the transformer and the device or outlet that it's connected to. They usually come in colors like silver, white, or black.

Grounded: A ground or grounded wire is connected directly into the earth, forming a stable connection. Its job is to lower the risk of electrical shock, moving any stray electricity safely into the ground. In the event of a short circuit, the ground will cause its fuse to blow so that there won't be a fire. Grounded wires are usually solid green, striped green and yellow, or bare strips of copper.

Now that you know a little more about how the electrical wiring in your home works, you should also keep in mind some safety tips before you start handling a single wire.

1. Always shut off the power to a circuit that you'll be working on. Use a circuit tester to make sure that it's completely switched off.

2. Use rubber boots and gloves to keep yourself insulated from an electric shock.

3. Avoid working near any wet locations or letting any water get near your wiring or other electronics. Be sure that your hands are completely dry before you touch any wires.

4. Put up warning labels around your service panel or circuit, so that no one will think to turn the circuit back on while you're still working. If someone else is working, make sure to ask before deciding whether or not to turn a circuit breaker back on.

Image by jm3 on Flickr

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