Conductor Color Codes

Conductor Color Codes

Since SOOW cord is a type of multiconductor cable with two or more conductors, there are insulation color standards used to indicate the intended connection and function for each conductor.

According to the NEC, the only required colors are white or gray for neutral conductors and green (or just bare copper) for equipment grounding conductors. There are no codes governing the use of other colors for conductors, but there are industry standards virtually all electricians follow for the sake of simplicity and safety when working with wiring (e.g. black and red insulation indicate “hot” wires).

Connection Types and Color Designations

The purpose for having standardized colors is to indicate the intended connections for each conductor so that anyone working around electrical wiring can know what each conductor is connected to. Keep in mind that we are assuming we have a 3-phase power supply.

Hot, neutral, and ground are the three most common types of connections for conductors.

Hot (Phase or Line Conductors)

"Hot" refers to wires that connect to the voltage supply source (typically a step-down transformer). The term “phase conductor” reflects the fact that virtually all long-distance electric power around the world is transmitted via high voltage AC, though high voltage DC transmission has been making gains in recent years.

The most common colors used to indicate hot wires are black and red, but other colors are also used to indicate hots (e.g. blue, yellow, and orange). Typically, you will only see different colors for hot wires in cables with 5 or more conductors. Please refer to the color code chart below to see what other colors we use for the line conductors in our SOOW cord.

The photo shows SOOW cord with 3 conductors. Black insulation indicates a hot wire, white indicates a neutral, and green indicates the equipment ground.

SOOW Cord Conductor Colors

Neutral (Circuit Ground)

The neutral wire serves different functions in different conditions. An important distinction to keep in mind is that the neutral can carry current under normal operating conditions (e.g. unbalanced loads), while the equipment ground never carries current unless there is a fault in the equipment.

The neutral wire:

1) Prevents load voltages from drastically changing (i.e. maintains load voltage stability) by carrying the difference in current between unbalanced loads back to the transformer.

If your loads are balanced, it is possible to leave out the neutral wire, though it depends on what equipment you are powering. For example, a 3-phase motor draws a balanced load on each phase, so it would not require a neutral.

2) Acts as a “hot” conductor in two-wire circuits.

Your common household outlets are wired for 120V line-to-neutral loads with the neutral and hot wire carrying the same amount of current. Appliances, such as stoves and dryers, that require the full 240V line-to-line use different outlets.

The neutral wire either has either a white or gray insulation (NEC 200.6). Our SOOW cord will have white insulation for the neutral.

Ground (Earth or Equipment ground)

The purpose of equipment-grounding wire is strictly for safety. The ground wire connects the metal frame or other exposed metal surfaces in a piece of equipment to the ground wire receptacle (e.g. the D-hole in residential outlets) that is connected to a grounding electrode (e.g. a metal rod driven into the earth can be the grounding electrode).

Earthing or equipment-grounding wire is required for safety purposes. It only carries current under fault conditions when there is a loose connection and a conductor is touching a metal part of the equipment. If this happens, the metal casing of the equipment will have a positive voltage relative to ground, and touching any exposed metal part will result in electric shock.

Conductors serving such purposes must be readily identifiable, and NEC article 250.119 addresses the identification of equipment grounding conductors. Ground wires will either be bare (no insulation), have green insulation, or have green-colored tape at all the points where the wire is accessible according to NEC 250.119(B). The SOOW cord we carry has a green insulated conductor that is ONLY to be used for equipment-grounding connections.

There is an exception in 250.119 for power-limited Class 2 or 3 cables or communications cables with circuits operating at less than 50 volts and connected to utilization equipment (i.e. equipment that uses electricity) that does not require grounding according to NEC 250.112(1). In these cases ONLY, a conductor with insulation that is green or green with one or more yellow stripes may be used for something other than equipment grounding.

Color Code Charts

Our SOOW cord follows ICEA/NEMA Method 1, Table E-1, for cables with four conductors or more. Charts detailing ICEA/NEMA color codes for Methods 1 and 3 are shown below, along with industry standard Color Code Charts 1 through 4.

PLEASE NOTE: These color codes apply only in North America. For example, while the U.S. uses blue to indicate hot wires, in European countries light blue wires indicate neutral conductors.

Method 1

Colored insulation with contrasting ink tracers as required. Six different insulation colors and four different colored ink tracers are used to provide positive identification through 21 conductors. The same identification sequence may repeated for cables containing more than 21 conductors.

ICEA Method 1, Table E-1

Background or
Base Color
1st Tracer
2nd Tracer
1 Black - -
2 White - -
3 Red - -
4 Green - -
5 Orange - -
6 Blue - -
7 White Black -
8 Red Black -
9 Green Black -
10 Orange Black -
11 Blue Black -
12 Black White -
13 Red White -
14 Green White -
15 Blue White -
16 Black Red -
17 White Red -
18 Orange Red -
19 Blue Red -
Background or
Base Color
1st Tracer
2nd Tracer
20 Red Green -
21 Orange Green -
22 Black White Red
23 White Black Red
24 Red Black White
25 Green Black White
26 Orange Black White
27 Blue Black White
28 Black Red Green
29 White Red Green
30 Red Black Green
31 Green Black Orange
32 Orange Black Green
33 Blue White Orange
34 Black White Orange
35 White Red Orange
36 Orange White Blue
37 White Red Blue

Method 3

ICEA Method 3

ICEA Method 1, Table E-2

Base Color Spiral Stripe
1 Black -
2 Red -
3 Blue -
4 Orange -
5 Yellow -
6 Brown -
7 Red Black
8 Blue Black
9 Orange Black
10 Yellow Black
11 Brown Black
12 Black Red
13 Blue Red
14 Orange Red
15 Yellow Red
16 Brown Red
17 Black Blue
18 Red Blue
Base Color Spiral Stripe
19 Orange Blue
20 Yellow Blue
21 Brown Blue
22 Black Orange
23 Red Orange
24 Blue Orange
25 Yellow Orange
26 Brown Orange
27 Black Yellow
28 Red Yellow
29 Blue Yellow
30 Orange Yellow
31 Brown Yellow
32 Black Brown
33 Red Brown
34 Blue Brown
35 Orange Brown
36 Yellow Brown

Method 3

ICEA Method 3

1 1 - Black
2 2 - White
3 3 - Red
4 4 - Green
5 5 - Orange
6 6 - Blue
7 7 - White - Black
8 8 - Red - Black
9 9 - Green - Black
10 10 - Orange - Black
11 11 - Blue - Black
12 12 - Black - White
13 13 - Red - White
14 14 - Green - White
15 15 - Blue - White
16 16 - Black - Red
17 17 - White - Red
18 18 - Orange - Red
19 19 - Blue - Red
20 20 - Red - Green
21 21 - Orange - Green

Chart 1

1 Black
2 Red
3 White
4 Light Green
5 Light Brown
6 Light Blue
7 Orange
8 Yellow
9 Violet
10 Gray
11 Pink
12 Tan

Chart 2

Color Pair
1 Black with Red 14 Green with White
2 Black with White 15 Green with Blue
3 Black with Light Green 16 Green with Yellow
4 Black with Blue 17 Green with Brown
5 Black with Yellow 18 Green with Orange
6 Black with Brown 19 White with Blue
7 Black with Orange 20 White with Yellow
8 Red with White 21 White with Brown
9 Red with Light Green 22 White with Orange
10 Red with Blue 23 Blue with Yellow
11 Red with Yellow 24 Blue with Brown
12 Red with Brown 25 Blue with Orange
13 Red with Orange

Chart 3

2 Black, Red
4 Black, Red, Light Blue, Light Brown
6 Black, Red, Light Blue, Light Brown, Orange, Yellow
8 Black, Red, Light Blue, Light Brown, Orange, Yellow, Purple, Gray

Chart 4

Color Combniation Pair
Color Combination
1 White/Blue Stripe
14 Black/Brown Stripe
Brown/Black Stripe
2 White/Orange Stripe
15 Black/Gray Stripe
Gray/Black Stripe
3 White/Green Stripe
16 Yellow/Blue Stripe
Blue/Yellow Stripe
4 White/Brown Stripe
17 Yellow/Orange Stripe
Orange/Yellow Stripe
5 White/Gray Stripe
Gray/White Stripe
18 Yellow/Green Stripe
Green/Yellow Stripe
6 Red/Blue Stripe
Blue/Red Stripe
19 Yellow/Brown Stripe
Brown/Yellow Stripe
7 Red/Orange Stripe
Orange/Red Stripe
20 Yellow/Gray Stripe
Gray/Yellow Stripe
8 Red/Green Stripe
Green/Red Stripe
21 Purple/Blue Stripe
Blue/Purple Stripe
9 Red/Brown Stripe
Brown/Red Stripe
22 Purple/Orange Stripe
Orange/Purple Stripe
10 Red/Gray Stripe
Gray/Red Stripe
23 Purple/Green Stripe
Green/Purple Stripe
11 Black/Blue Stripe
Blue/Black Stripe
24 Purple/Brown Stripe
Brown/Purple Stripe
12 Black/Orange Stripe
Orange/Black Stripe
25 Purple/Gray Stripe
Gray/Purple Stripe
13 Black/Green Stripe
Green/Black Stripe