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How to tell electrical wires apart?

Can we start by saying that in Australia it is illegal to carry out any work on the electrical systems in your home unless you are a licensed electrician or electrical contractor. This is to ensure safety standards are met and to protect residents, as well as anyone who works on or in your building, now and in the future.

Which electrical wire is which?

Electrical wiring typically has a coloured insulated covering to help your electrician tell them apart. This is not only to comply with the Australian Wiring Standards but the different colours are also used to identify what the wire is used for, eg positive, negative, and ground.

In a single-phase electrical system, the majority of the time, only three wires are needed in order to wire up your homes electrical system or an electrical device. Those three are the:

  • Positive - brown (used to be red)
  • Neutral - blue (used to be black)
  • Earth - green and yellow stripe

Typically you will see three wires being used in power points, electrical plugs, and electrical leads. Older homes and electrical systems could contain wires with the older colouring, ie red for positive and black for neutral. Four electrical wires are commonly found in ceiling fans and some hardwired appliances.

Electrical appliances manufactured outside Australia can also vary with the colouring of the electrical wiring which is why it’s important to get all appliance repairs carried out by a professional appliance repair technician.

More helpful electrical info - When should I call an electrician?

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